Category Archives: menses in the media

Why, thank you.

I’ve just had a very cool review from Olga Wolstenholme’s sex positive blog! Woohoo and thank you! 

Incidentally – it was quite heartening to read about Olga’s positive responses when she wrote about her diva cup (she refers to this in the post). One bad comment (also mentioned)  really can spoil the whole bunch at first, but I find visceral responses like that point up a lot of shame behind the knee-jerk reaction of a nasty remark. Which means there’s all the more reason to put period positive stuff out there – those taboos clearly need breaking. I quite like her (mostly in jest) disclaimer: ”As long as you’re not being ignorant or oppressive, you can go right ahead and think blood is gross.” 

A very good point. Nice one, Olga.

Hate ‘moisture’? You’ll love these.

So Johnson & Johnson’s Canadian division’s just launched a new Stayfree campaign that I found out about when a Toronto reporter contacted me for an article she was writing. The campain is a series of viral youtube videos that simulate a date with one of three archetypal ‘Mr. Rights’, segue into a product testing situation, and conclude with an offer of a coupon for a free pack of pads.

Now, you can’t argue with free stuff, and the viral nature of the campaign is a good hook to try and get women who have brand loyalty but who might be persuaded to swap, but I think it’s the pads market going for tampon users. A virtual date with attractive thirty-something guys with careers, skills and hobbies? That’s the top half of the 18-34 demographic and I’m pretty sure I remember reading we’re mostly tampon users, though a lot of people have swapped to reusable menstrual cups, so I think on that front these ads aren’t going to work. They’ve already got a couple of things working against them, and only the free stuff in their favour.

Then there’s the length of those ads – two-and-a-half minutes of talking nonstop and the woman’s just nodding? I ramble on about menstruation, but I do let people get a word in edgeways.

Taking the ads as a whole, the ‘I’m on a horse’ Old Spice ad surreal shift to product testing mid date is funny, and the fact that it is so much of a cliché is in keeping with the new ‘tongue in cheek’ ad style, but the message is all wrong. It’s interesting that comedy femcare ads are happening now (this is the third big comedy campaign after Mother Nature and the role reversal Kotex ones, and the nth viral…). I may have no show left to do soon because I’ve parodied femcare ads for the past five years and now they’re parodying themselves. Maybe they’ve been reading my zine. Still though, I wish they’d stop making the same old mistakes. Periods don’t need to be invisible, they don’t need to be negative, and they don’t stand alone – they’re part of a whole biological process and not a creepy ‘other’ that women ‘suffer from’. They’re too inconsistent to be properly funny. If they’re going to go to all that effort, they’d do better to leave out the negative messages. But I’m making sweeping generalisations. Let’s break it down. Here’s where they go wrong on their dates:

Brad The Chef:

They’ve missed a trick with the tomato sauce spilling on the chef’s shirt. It figures that the first time ever there’s a red stain in a femcare ad it’s on a dude.

Then he says “I like thinness, don’t you?” Ok so body image obsessed then…  Fail. 

Ryan The Toymaker:

Stereotype of the do-gooder, check. Good effort. But then he says, “I hate moisture.” (Like it’s evil.)  “Don’t you just hate moisture?” And then the camera…nods?

Dismissive euphemism for blood aside, if they both hate moisture, that is going to be one…chaste relationship.

Moisture? Liquid? They may have tried to appear ‘brave’ or ‘savvy’ by sticking a dude in the ad, but Stayfree doesn’t have the ovaries to use red liquid or say blood? In 2010? Either would be fine. Their version of the visual and the vocab makes menstruation disappear…in an ad for maxipads.

Finally, the killer for Ryan is when he says, “It’s not fair that you should have to experience this every month. It’s just not fair.”

I’m assuming that’s part of the parody – the middle distance stare, the reverent whisper – but the pitying tone means we’ve just been equated with homeless cats (one of the cats is named ‘Spazz’ – in England, that term is really offensive…) and disadvantaged children in our ‘inability’ to cope with menstruation. We are disadvantaged. Poor us.

Doctor Trev:

Ok, feminine hygiene ad deconstruction aside, Trevor doesn’t know how to vacuum. Either that or I don’t. All I know is, if I were doing it that way, I’d wanna be doing it better, so the whole ‘here’s a man who can hoover’ thing doesn’t work.   Again another stain, but this time it’s pit stains, and we’re allowed to see real pit stains. Why isn’t that blue liquid?

It’s hilarious by the way that there is a red logo on the back of his pants – I thought he had a stain on them for a minute.

Then he says, “Wow, just look at all that messy liquid. I tell ya, if I could go through this experience every month instead of you, I would.”

He thinks he’s saying he’ll menstruate. He’ll be a hero and take one for the team. What? He and Stayfree don’t seem to be aware that they’re signing him up for a whole lot more than that.  He can offer to swap reproductive organs if he wants, but he may end up in it for the whole nine yards and the whole nine months, should anyone be able to take him up on that. One of main problems with femcare advertising is they literally bank on us thinking blood’s gross. But menstruation is just one small part of a much bigger reproductive process. Is he offering to get pregnant and  give birth for me? Cool. It’d be nice if he were jealous and was like pining for the chance to menstruate, but he’s painting it as though he’s the saviour who can rescue us from misery.

Many women have periods that are not that bad. You just don’t hear about it because it doesn’t sell anything. No extra heavy flow pads, no super absorbent tampons and no contraceptive pills or painkillers if it’s all going fine.

Bottom line, a guy being down with periods is great, and to find that out on a first date with him is even better, but the ‘I know best’ attitude, parody or not, when combined with the blood’s ‘gross’ and ‘can’t be mentioned’ and ‘it’s such a burden to you’ is whack, and not what I’m looking for.

And finally, I tried to get in touch with the Commercial Production Association of Toronto, to ask what the statistical chances were of it being a guy behind the camera. They weren’t answering.

Jammy for some…

Really?

Outrage?

Not in my book.

Who’da thought Emmerdale would get a second place award?

I love set dressers with a sense of humour. Props to the props peeps.

Can’t say I’m surprised the Daily Fail’s tapping into the wrong zeitgeist. That kinda stuff seems to keep ’em happy over there.

However, if you’d like to explore menstrual euphemisms through the medium of colouring in, feel free to download How Do You Feel (page 1) About Your Friend (page 2) – the zine I made for the workshops we did last tour.

And…I don’t know. Watch Emmerdale, I guess? Maybe just to keep an eye on the background, for more prop-tastic goofing off.

Chella

Every Day is International Women’s Day

Especially when you’ve partied all weekend and slept through the real one. Does it count that I partied in a foreign country? (The savvy readers among you will remember that I live  in a foreign country, so don’t answer that one too quickly.)

Anyway, here’s a great little piece from the Onion that popped up on our facebooks yesterday.

Girl Welcomed to Womanhood With Four-Page Pamphlet

from The Onion

Cheers to all the new facebook fans and new readers from over on Belle’s blog – you may notice that I don’t take a whole lot seriously.

But, in all seriousness, US readers should check out Elissa Stein and her book Flow on The View today. It is about time she got some more recognition!

Those of you who appreciate baking-related humour may love (or loathe, but they say that’s the same emotion, right?) this Cakewrecks feature. I’m giving that a not-menstrual-but-should be.

And finally, if you’re making yourself a stain for our Stains TM campaign, please send in a pic. We’ll post a few on here!

Happy day-after-international-women’s-day, particularly to all the awesome international women I know.

-Chella

All I Want for Christmas: A twelve-day-long short story!

Hey guys – check this out if you dig old school kids’ books – I wrote it as part of my ‘putting periods back into pop culture’ series. It’s kind of a Judy Blume/Beverly Cleary/Paula Danziger/Lois Lowry homage, and it’s set in the 80s because this story didn’t happen to me, but it could have.

Please forward this link to anyone you think might be interested in reading it or showing it to their school-age kids, and check back here each day for the next part of the story.

All I Want for Christmas

Jodie’s more interested in the next snow day than she is about getting ready for middle school.   So when she writes ‘getting my period’ on her Christmas list, all heck breaks loose in her fifth grade classroom.  She’s growing up, she’s not sure she’s gonna like it, but she’s certainly willing to talk about it, no matter what.

Follow Jodie’s adventures over the next twelve days in “All I Want for Christmas”, a short story by Chella Quint.  Kids and adults alike will enjoy this quirky homage to YA fiction of yore. Check back here for each of twelve daily instalments.

Hope you guys like it.

Oh yeah – we’ll be reading extracts from Adventures in Menstruating #5 at Bluestockings Radical Books at 7pm on Tuesday, December 29th at the at the Women’s/Trans’ Poetry Jam and Open Mike.

Bluestockings is located at 172 Allen St., New York, NY 10012.

-Chella

Going with the Flow.

Welcome to my hundredth post! Not a lot for some, but plenty for me, and more to come. This review is primarily for people who already know our zine and our comedy, but welcome, Flow fans! Please check out the rest of the site for more period-related shenanigans.

Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation
By Elissa Stein and Susan Kim
St. Martin’s Press 2009

As we’ve seen on many occasions, stuff about menstruation can cause people to have quite a visceral reaction. Believe it or not, this happened to me with Flow, but it wasn’t in the style of the Bledbook scandal; it was envy. I wished I’d written this book.

It actually feels like it should be a zine. It’s very 50s kitsch, with a collage-reminiscent cover and retro font. A quick flick through reveals a heavily image-laden layout with vintage ads as a theme. It takes a very pro-feminist stance on periods. There are even some Etsy-style craft finds toward the back. But there’s one major difference – it’s huge, it’s hardcover, and it goes for $29.99.

The production values are outstanding – it’s stitched and bound, its cover is satiny smooth with a glossy, embossed feel to the images, and the flyleaf and endpapers are a vivid red. There is no pussyfooting around here – this book is about blood. Every page is illustrated and laid out magazine-style with subheadings, call-outs, and a red dot motif that is pleasing and consistent. It’s very designy, and I wasn’t at all surprised to find out that co-author Elissa Stein’s background is actually in graphic design.

It was really exciting holding a heavy, shiny book on the history of periods that was put out by a mainstream publisher. St. Martin’s Press was kind enough to send me a review copy. For the first day I had it, I just stroked the cover and flicked through it, admiring what professional publishing could do. I don’t mean to come over all publisher porn, but it seems pretty lush having the backing to print the old ads in high resolution and pay for all the rights to the images. This is not an average-looking book by any means – the money was well spent and the result is gorgeous. In the Flow universe, periods are glamorous.

Enough about style and on to substance – the tone of the book is very American, and, particularly, very New York. It’s jokey, with healthy levels of crude and rude. There is, though, a sensitive and thorough chapter about medical issues, and a quite frank one about how periods and religion (usually) don’t mix. Flow also includes an overview of menstruation in recorded history, a handy timeline, and the science bit.  I was quite surprised to read that Pliny the Elder thought menstruating women killed bees. That Pliny. What a loon. (Worries about current lack of bees worldwide…nah…) Most readers will find out stuff that’s quite shocking and definitely interesting. With stand-alone chapters and lots of facts, this would make a good bathroom or coffee table book that people can dip in and out of.

I have to admit I felt some déjà vu when reading the chapters about the history of feminine hygiene advertising, and my regular readers will as well. Spookily, it seems that when you give the same ads to New York Jews with high bullshit detectors and an eye for interpreting visual symbolism and subtext, their responses will be pretty similar. In fact, when Elissa Stein (who wrote that section) read my zines she and her family loved them. Elissa and I have exchanged several emails since the book came out, and it’s refreshing to have found another pro-period writer who’s on the same page as I am. I’d love to collaborate with her some time and I’m happy to call her a bloodsister.

If Flow had a manifesto based on a summary of the opinions expressed in the book, it would be largely pro-period-sex, anti-menstrual suppression, anti-femcare industry, anti-big pharmaceuticals, pro-masturbation, pro-sex worker…ideologically, it ticks all my box-related boxes. It even manages to be non-heterosexist in its language, showing that Elissa Stein and Susan Kim are straight but not narrow. Interestingly, they’re anti-euphemism, whereas I’ve said before on the blog that I’m ready to reclaim euphemisms and coin ‘newphemisms’ the way you’d give your best friend a nickname, rather than using them to keep periods hush-hush. Flow’s writers also support radical responses to menstruation, but ask why talking about menstruation is still a radical act. Their book helps bring period talk into the mainstream, without compromising beliefs and opinions that many would also consider radical.

Flow is a good primer. It sums up the whole shebang, it’s easy to read, looks good, and will catch the attention of people who’ve never really thought about these issues before. It arms armchair activists with rebuttals for less period-positive friends and relatives and helps deal with that other kind of visceral response. If you already have no qualms about the topic, you’ll find Flow (and its extensive bibliography) a refreshing jumping-off point for art, discussions, research and essays.

About the price tag – don’t let that put you off if you’re used to buying or trading zines. Wait for a sale or request it from your local library. But remember that it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of all those disposables…

This is one ‘feminine hygiene product’ you definitely won’t be throwing away.

Chella Quint

Go Re: Cycling Go!

Mad props to Liz, Chris et al at Re: Cycling for the zillion* props and shoutouts at Women’s E-News!

And I’m still stroking the cover of Flow and repeatedly flicking through it to look at the awesome kitschy pictures and shiny red pages, and will have a review up before long.

And I’ve taught myself how to animate (ish), recorded a comic essay for Femme Fatale on Leeds Student Radio this Saturday, written more of  a short story and done some work on the next issue of Adventures in Menstruating.

But…blog. Yes. Back now.

xChella

*a real number