Proctor and Gamble has just launched a new internet campaign in Singapore for their menstrual pads. The flash-heavy website tells why girls are Happy It’s Here :
Happy, confident, and loving life. You know what you want and where you want to go next. You feel wonderful about being a girl!
This is not a new product, but a new campaign for the pads known as “Always” in the U.S. Guess what they’re called in Asian markets.
Wait for it.
That’s right. P&G’s ad promotion “to instill a positive attitude in young Singaporean women about their menstrual periods, seeking to dispel some of the squeamishness toward the subject that persists in much of Asia” is for a product called Whisper, with all the connotations of menstrual silence that carries.
In fairness to P&G, the name change from the U.S. product pre-dates the new internet campaign by ten years. And I wanted to give them a break after reading this quote in the Wall Street Journal article about the new campaign:
“We see our role as being over and beyond just selling the products,” says Sujay Wasan, associate marketing director for P&G’s feminine-care division in Asia. “Periods are not a necessary evil, or a curse, or a problem to be solved. It’s an absolutely natural part of being a woman, and it needs to be appreciated and celebrated,” he said.
But then I finally figured out how to turn off the site’s annoying music (yeah, I’m not really their target audience) and started poking around. I saw the links for “about your period” and “28-day cycle” and assumed P&G was serious about trying to do a little menstrual education here. So I clicked on the 28-day cycle link from the menu, and pretended today was the first day of my cycle so that I could check it out. I read, “Day 1: During your period you may feel thinner. That’s because your body may burn carbs better. Tip: Show off your figure at the gym, beach or by the pool!”
Now, on the one hand, I’m glad to see some recognition that bleeding isn’t the only thing happening during menstruation and acknowledgment that the menstrual cycle is not a bodily process isolated in the uterus and vagina. But advice to young women to practice being a sex object really grates my cheese. And it only continues: on Day 2, I’m told that since I’m burning up those carbs and feeling so thin, I should put on some hip-hugging jeans. Day 5, I’m told that I’m unlikely to feel jealous, so I should let my boyfriend have a guy’s night out. Heterosexist, much?
It goes on and on, with descriptions of the cycle in terms of emotional experience rather than physiological processes, and even though there’s a caveat at the beginning of the calendar that every girl is different, it offers mighty presumptive advice for dealing with these emotional changes. Happy It’s Here assumes that all girls are heterosexual and aspire to be paragons of femininity, as defined by the beauty product industry and other handmaidens of the patriarchy (yes, I’m using the p-word).
It also overemphasizes emotional element of the menstrual cycle, at the expense of knowledge about the physiology and anatomy of menstruation.The only mention of hormones comes on Day 15: “Estrogen is low and that nasty progesterone kicks in. Brace yourself for mood swings, irritability and bloating.” Oh, that nasty progesterone! If only it weren’t essential for fertility, a functional uterus, and bone health.