No, it really isn’t blue

Jezebel reports a truly historic moment in advertising: an ad for Always pads has depicted a pad stained with red, rather than the ubiquitous blue.

And okay, the depiction still looks nothing like blood (it’s just a red dot) and the ad doesn’t actually acknowledge that it’s supposed to be blood (nor does it, of course, mention blood in any way). But hey, the dot’s not blue. That’s progress.

Maybe someday we’ll get ads that explicitly acknowledge that women buy menstrual products for (cover your delicate ears, boys!) menstrual blood. I’m sure some would find that disturbing, but it can’t be any weirder than the blue liquid that’s the current advertising standard. If I ever started leaking blue fluid, my first thought would not be “hey, at least I’m wearing a fantastic brand of tampon!”

19 thoughts on “No, it really isn’t blue

  1. Would it also be considered progress if toilet paper ads started showing brown stains on the commercials?

  2. Thanks for posting this. I wrote my dissertation on something very close to this, an it’s nice to see the subject elsewhere!

  3. I’m with Alex — why is accuracy a good thing when it comes to depicting excrement? (Seems a bit gross.)

  4. Alex, that might well be progress, especially if you think (as a lot of people do) that it would be a good thing all around if we were less squeamish/ashamed of our bodies and what comes out of them. But these cases seem disanalogous for two main reasons (the second the most significant):

    (i) Toilet paper ads aren’t (to my knowledge) in the habit of showing stains of any kind. The weird thing about the ads for menstrual products is the disingenuousness of the blue liquid. It’s acknowledging that these products are meant to capture fluid, but refusing to acknowledge that the fluid they’re meant to capture is blood.

    (ii) We’re not, as a culture, particularly squeamish about blood (contra our attitude to excrement). There are lots of commercials — for bandaids, for neosporin, etc — that feature blood. Few people care, few people think it’s gross. But somehow the idea of showing *menstrual* blood offends (and, indeed, is though analogous to showing excrement). That’s a strange — and somewhat unsettling — attitude.

  5. When I hear words like rape, sexual harassment, see women who have been abused by men, and starving kids, I also feel creepy and wish such things were sanitized. Can we pass a bill on such things?

  6. “and, indeed, is though analogous to showing excrement”

    If you were referring to my post, I meant, by excrement, any bodily waste matter.

    I can’t picture any adverts that portray blood, but it seems plausible that there’s a difference in squeamishness about where it comes from. Similarly for sweat: armpit sweat seems generally ok in adverts, groin sweat not so much. But I’m not seeing why it’s a bad thing to find certain things gross, and other things not.

  7. Of course it’s fine to find some things gross and other things not. Personally, I find kittens decidedly un-gross and the mold that grows under my bathroom sink incredibly gross. The issue is whether there’s a problem with treating menstrual blood in particular as gross. And my worry is that our attitude toward menstrual blood betrays a worrying sense of shame over women’s bodies and how they function (not unlike our bizarre, reprehensible squeamishness toward public breastfeeding).

    Most people have no problem with blood. Likewise for the uterus. And most people I know (some gay male friends aside) are fans of the vagina. But somehow blood (innocuous) that travels from the uterus (where we grow babies!) out through the vagina (yay!) is beyond the pale and must never, ever be mentioned in polite society. Something doesn’t add up.

    I think context matters a lot here. Historically (and presently, in some societies), women have been made to feel ashamed of menstruation and forced to hide it. They have been told it is a sign of their “curse”. They have been made to leave their beds/homes/villages during their periods because they are somehow “unclean”. As far as I know, similar measures have never been applied to people because they poo (since, hard truth, everybody poos). So a growing acceptance and openness about menstruation can and should be seen as progress, even if we could care less about a growing openness toward poo.

  8. I am fond of the whole notion of cyborgs.

    Woman cyborgs bleed blue. We also have super human strength…

    and,

    magicalersatz, you are awesome.

  9. I strongly agree with magicalersatz and her well stated points about both gender-discriminatory double standards and less negative attitudes towards human bodies. Although we might not want to emphasize extremes or dichotomies, I find many reasons to favor versions of matriarchy, especially given our/human history of patriarchy. Let us celebrate women. Let us celebrate our bodies. Let us surpass outdated social taboos supported by premises that arguably are themselves both outdated, false, and morally objectionable. I take one part of the spirit of this post to be one of many small but important steps in that direction.

  10. The key difference between uterine blood and blood in Neosporin adds is that uterine blood is bodily refuse and we instinctively find bodily refuse gross. I think the difference between vaginal blood and blood in other adds is closer (though not identical) to the difference between how we feel about teeth when they are healthily embedded in a person’s gums and how we feel about teeth when they are removed. The very same tooth that looks fine (even nice) when it is in someone’s mouth will look gross when it is being held in someone’s hand, because in that case it has become bodily waste.

    I have no idea why someone would think that not wanting to see vaginal blood every time one turns on the TV is somehow indicative of troubling attitudes toward women.

  11. gadlnl- how is a tooth, once removed, any more bodily refuse than any sort of blood no longer within the body? Why is that, and menstrual blood, bodily waste but not the blood in a Neosporin commercial?

  12. teeth look cool when held in your hand. your 8 your old self agrees.
    re: claims about what we find instinctively gross, as we say on the internets, citation needed. i think that the key difference between menstrual blood and blood in the neosporin ad is that menstrual blood comes out of a woman, and we find women instinctively gross.

  13. sk: “we find women instinctively gross”
    As we say on the internets, citation needed. I guess its because everyone finds women gross that porn is multibillion dollar industry. But, oh I forgot, that’s bad too because it “objectifies” women.

    Let me see if I’m following this correctly:
    Positive portrayal of anything having to do with female bodies = bad (objectification)
    Negative portrayal of anything having to do with female bodies (including bodily WASTE) = bad (who knows why)

  14. jlc, it appears that bibliography for your dissertation might be of use here, folks could also take a look at The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction by Emily Martin.

  15. One thought for those who are particularly grossed out by menstruation. Maybe they could get a hotel room or find somewhere else less expensive to sequester themselves whenever they think there might be a menstruating woman around. They could also adjust the colour on their TVs so that the red dot on those commercials doesn’t actually look red.

    This seems more efficient than asking many woman to continue to accept that their basic biology, the aspect of their bodies that is so closely tied to their sex and gender, and their identities as women and mothers, is disgusting, and asking them to take the time and energy to protect others from knowing that they menstruate.

  16. d00d, it was a joke.
    re: who knows why, try jlc’s biblio. hoosier philosophy ftw!

  17. I agree with what a lot of people are saying – no one was ever treated as “shameful” because they pooped. There’s no movement that will benefit from commercials showing brown stains on toilet paper. A lot of people (not just men, I’ll get to that) are squeamish when it comes to periods. There’s a couple of old ladies who work at the campus store at my college, and always look so embarrassed for me when I buy tampons. They will lean in and quietly ask me if I would like them to double bag it or put it in a paper bag – I’m assuming to prevent people from seeing through the plastic and knowing that I’m carrying – GASP – tampons! And they look super-shocked when I say that, actually, I don’t need a bag, my dorm is right across the street and I can just carry it in my hand. I highly doubt they would act that way were I buying band-aids for a bleeding cut on my foot.

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