Guest Post by Therese Shechter
Have you seen this video Camp Gyno making the rounds of social media today much to the delight of anyone who is sick of the shaming and secrecy and perceived ickyness of talking about our periods? It’s a totally exuberant and delightful story of tween/teen girls and periods and camp and tampons that includes the phrase “red badge of courage” (which will now replace “crimson tide” as my favorite menstruation euphemism).
People are clearly loving it, with headlines like “An Amazing Breakthrough In Tampon Advertising” and comments like:
“Maybe now men can start to accept that periods are normal and not freak out if a girl does something as scandalous as carry a tampon IN HER HAND… and not her purse”
“It’s nice to see people are finally breaking down the walls and making menstruation a normal thing and not something to be ashamed of.”
I. LOVE. IT.
Surprisingly (not surprisingly) there are also a significant handful of commenters who are wondering why tweens are using tampons because, you know, VIRGINITY! Um, because some people find them more comfortable, you can swim in them, you don’t feel like you’re wearing a wet diaper, and tampon use has nothing to do with virginity because hymens have nothing to do with virginity. Virginity is my business, BUT I DIGRESS from what’s really confusing me…
The video is for a new company called Hello Flo which creates “a customized solution” to “deliver the right products at the right time” for your period. Unfortunately, they sell the service with lines that read to me like the same old shaming we’ve been hearing since ladies got sent to huts at the edge of the village:
“I didn’t want to trek through my office with a practically see-through plastic bag with tampons.”
“We do it with care and appreciation for the sensitivity of this purchase.”
“All your tampons and feminine supplies delivered right to your door in a discreet box.”
You know, like back when your druggist wrapped your sanitary pad purchases in brown paper so you wouldn’t be embarrassed taking it home from the store. Also, how does a tampon delivery service help that office worker with the practically see-through plastic bag? What she clearly needs is a Vinnie’s Tampon Case!
So what’s this disconnect between the exuberant little girl and all that embarrassment over taking-tampons-to-the-ladies-room stuff? It reminds me of companies using feminist language to draw consumers into non-feminist products. Like back when the “Dove Real Beauty” campaign first rolled out those billboards about loving your body… to sell anti-cellulite creme, which Jenn Pozner wrote about for Bitch Magazine.
So, what’s up, Hello Flo? Your video rocks! Its message is a hit! Why go and muddle the issue with that contrary copy? Here’s my proposal: Your follow up video should be a woman in an office taking her tampons out of that plastic bag and tossing them exuberantly at her menstruating workmates. No more plastic bags. We’re carrying them in our teeth! Office Gyno!
Update: The Hairpin just did an interview with the creators of the video. Commenter ChevyVan, with whom I’ve been talking, put it well: “They want as many customers as possible. The ones that think the video is awesome, and the ones who want discreet packaging, and they’re betting on most people not paying attention to the contradictory messages those 2 approaches are sending. And again, it’s the sales pitch out both sides of the mouth that’s the icky part to people like you and me.”
Therese Shechter just completed the new documentary “How to Lose Your Virginity”; go to virginitymovie.com for more info on sales and screenings.
Cross-posted from “How to Lose Your Virginity” blog.