Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Mother Nature Doesn’t Menstruate – At Least She Doesn’t Say So

January 10th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Tampax ad featuring tennis star Serena Williams.This advert for Tampax appears in the February 2010 issue of Marie Claire, and probably other ladymags as well. It shows tennis star Serena Williams posing in a victory stance with clenched fist in the foreground, while security guards cart off Mother Nature, who is bearing a red-wrapped gift for Serena. The legend printed across the picture reads, “Serena shuts out Mother Nature’s monthly gift”.

As I said previously, I have some ambivalence about these ads. In today’s period-hating cultural climate, it takes some courage for a celebrity to appear in advertisement for a menstrual product. And it’s great to see acknowledgement that an athlete can win contests at any phase of her menstrual cycle (even the Boston Marathon).

But look closely at this ad, and read the copy. What’s missing?

That’s right – there’s no mention of blood or menstruation. The word period, itself a euphemism, isn’t even used. Only the flowery, secretive euphemism “Mother Nature’s monthly gift” represents menses.

And Mother Nature is reduced from the clever, wise-cracking Aunt Flo portrayed here to a kooky sitcom aunt reminiscent of Gladys Kravitz. Who wants to receive her gift?

8 responses to “Mother Nature Doesn’t Menstruate – At Least She Doesn’t Say So”

  1. nakedthoughts says:

    and the analogy is skewed. they are carting away aunt flo. She is being dragged off and away from Serena. tampax doesn’t eliminate your period, it only ensures your undies don’t get blood and tissue on them.

  2. Jadea says:

    Tampax ensures your undies don’t get blood and tissue on them? That’s a new one 😛

    Advertisements come on I normally rant at most of them, particularly relating to sanitary products, but I’ve never quite known how to react to these adverts, there obviously offensive, but in a subtle way that makes it hard to pin-point – damn Tampax are good at doing that.

  3. Laura Wershler says:

    My confusion comes from the tagline: “Serena SHUTS OUT, mother nature’s monthly gift”. I expected it to be an ad for a menstrual suppression/cycle-stopping contraceptive drug. Is it just me or is the menstruation discourse getting really messy?

  4. If by ‘messy’ you mean more complex, then yes.

    The language of this ad suggests that Tampax sees its biggest competition for the femcare dollar in cycle-stopping drugs, rather than in other brands of tampons. So they’ve got to send the message that Tampax makes a period as easy as not having one.

  5. Laura Wershler says:

    Liz, you are so clever. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall when these ad companies are coming up with ideas?

    In his piece on marketing the unpleasant, Terry O’Reilly talked about “product benefits.” He told the story of how ads for Viagara evolved from an embarrassed man sitting in his doctor’s office afraid to ask about his erectile dysfunction to ads that “promise sex.” Writing ads for ED drugs is now fun because the product benefit you are selling is sex, as compared to writing ads for feminine hygiene products – that’s just “awkward.” The interesting thing is that the product benefits for menstrual products seem to be all over the map: Kotex: “quiet pad wrappers-remarkably rustle-free”, Always: “have a happy period”, Tampax:”stop leaks better”. Then there are the more positive ads that suggest you don’t have to hide your period or that you’re carrying/using tampons,etc. There is the one with the male teacher asking the girl clutching something in her hand if she has enough for everyone in the class, to which she replies something like “for the girls, maybe”; and the Tampax Pearl ads where resourceful women use their tampons to plug the hole in a row boat and the peephole to the women’s washroom in a rowdy music club. It seems the ad execs can’t quite figure out what “product benefit” will resonate most with their audience. Is using Serena for this Tampax Pearl ad an opportunistic grab onto her tennis skirt-tail to capitalize on the notoriety she garnered from her court meltdown at the US open last September? Maybe we need to do some brainstorming about what the product benefits for menstrual products could or should be.

  6. […] until today that when I stumbled upon this quote that I decided to also link to another blog which highlights the way in which North Americans still perceive menstruation or at least (to […]

  7. […] celebrities who appeared in femcare advertising after she was famous. (Others include tennis star Serena Williams and gymnast Cathy Rigby and Mary Lou Retton.) Cheryl Tiegs, Susan Dey, and Cybill Shepherd all […]

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