Back in the day when I was idling around New York, I was struck, among many other things, by the amount of sexist ads on the subway. We are all familiar with misogyny in advertising; the Mountain Dew goat beating up a woman in a bar, the endless objectification of women’s bodies for beer, car, and hamburger commercials. Ads targeted at heterosexual men will naturally play on sex appeal to make their hormones block their brain. Yet the most sexist ads I noticed in New York did not play on the sex appeal of the female body. Nor were they targeted at men. They were ads developed to make women feel as unsexy as possible.
‘Overcome your bikini fears’: breast augmentation. Make-up parading itself as empowering. It’s normal for advertising to play on people’s insecurities to make them buy shit they don’t need; the issue here is that an entire gender is not only targeted, but insulted. The worst ads of all are the menophobic ones, which are inherently gynophobic. The most insulting ad campaign was run by Thinx, which calls women’s periods smelly and gross:
Sadly, it’s actually pretty common for tampon companies to be grossed out by the anatomy of demographic they are providing a service for. That scented tampons are even on the market, despite the fact they affect the vagina’s pH balance and cause infections, is a sign they’re not caring for women’s hygiene, but have a problem with natural vaginas. What’s striking about the Thinx ad is how it mixes the backwardness of its slogans with top-notch hip graphic design.
It would not be legit for an ad to call a certain demographic ‘gross’ in this day and age. When that demographic is female, however, it’s fair game. There is a fundamental difference between playing on insecurities and bordering on hate speech. There is the counter-argument ‘well, I actually think it’s gross and want products to take away the smell’. The products can exist fair and square, but the issue is that advertising instills the idea that one’s body is gross, which is certainly not a natural one –can’t think of any other circumstances. ‘Ewww. My hands. This. Is. So. Dis.Gus.Ting’.
(((it’s all very Foucaultian of course: the discourse categorizing menstruation as gross may feel natural to some, but was in fact historically constructed– the repression of menstruation is historically tied to making it an object of scientific, commercial, or social discourses– menstruation is thus located within similar power relations as is sexuality in general)))
For this reason, periods aren’t neutral. If they’re shamed by society, they need to be celebrated in turn. So I share my period pride in a menophobic world.
I ended up liking the blood design so much I also made some imaginary fashion items. Think it would make a really nice scarf!
This is elegance. Blood is elegance.
And last but not least, my dream outfit!