Menstruation shame: This is why we are all so afraid of seeing period blood on TV

Why is there a stigma attached to 'being on your period?' Is it simply an issue of privacy, or is the broadcasting of any bodily fluids a step too far for some? 

Would we buy Pampers if they advertised nappies with a great dirty poo smeared across their pristine white softness? Is showing period blood any different?

While we are all clamouring to focus on the feminist aspect of bleeding, maybe we've forgotten that not everything needs to be politicised.

"Periods are normal. Showing them should be too."


Having your period might be an empowering signal that represents femininity but when it comes to advertising, any 'realness' with products are often filtered out.

Related: The shame around periods has to end

Vacuum cleaners remove inoffensive looking granules off the carpet, rather than the reality of nail clippings or bits of mouldy rice. They pour water on babies nappies rather than actual urine. Families eat roast dinners around the table happily rather than bicker across the pizza boxes.


We live in a world where in order to sell things, a myth has to exist. And perhaps periods are no different.

In Australia this week, an TV advertisement for Libra sanitary pads drew hundreds of complaints. The ad itself showed a woman's legs in the shower with blood running down them. Another showed a woman in stained underwear and a teenage girl holding a pad. The tagline asked 'Why is it considered unacceptable to show period blood?' and 'Periods are normal. Showing them should be too.'

And it is right.


Why are we hiding the fact that women gush clumpy, clotty, sticky warm blood every month? We call it a curse, we roll our eyes, we reach for the hot water bottle, we dread getting it on holidays. Why should it be a celebration of our gender? It is a major inconvenience rather than a badge of honour.

In the case of the Libra complains, the advertising watchdog found in the advertisement's favour stating that 'The panel considered that the depiction of blood in the context of an advertisement for feminine hygiene products is not against prevailing community standards on health".

"Period blood isn't exactly a beautiful thing"

Bad taste?

Complaints included those who felt it was in bad taste or embarrassing for women when it was such a private matter. Other's felt it was inappropriate for children to be exposed to the reality of blood running down a women's leg in the shower.

In an ideal world without any nuance or grey areas, the depiction of period blood shouldn't make us wince or be offended or embarrassed. And however much we should embrace what makes us different, human, female...period blood isn't exactly a beautiful thing.

There is a difference between telling us what shouldn't offend us, and the reality that we are not going to be waving around our dirty pads in pride. Maybe this prudishness is conditioned, or maybe some things should just remain private.


When it comes to advertising, we can't expect to see the 'wards and all' of daily life.


And maybe that's the problem. Maybe we should be fighting for unfiltered versions of the products we are being sold; Celebrities who have to use the cheap hair dye they are glossily tossing in our faces, crappy plastic toys that let us know they will most likely break after three days, wine advertisers who portray the drunken negatives that emerge from the sophisticated Merlot posing in a glass. In vino veritas.

I like the world where ads show blood running down your legs. It is relatable, honest and real. Are we ready for everything else that come with such an unfiltered landscape? Periods should not be taboo, but neither is it something I celebrate every month. Does that make me a bad feminist?

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Read more: Ireland's period poverty problem

Read more: The sight of blood in your pants can be terrifying


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