Why do we need to see period blood on TV? Why can’t we just carry on using that weird blue liquid to protect viewers from feeling super grossed out and uncomfortable? Why do we even need to talk about periods in the first place? So many questions, so many issues. Let’s get stuck in.
So, our first TV ad has launched. YAY! Watch it here now and catch it on Sky TV too!
Obviously all of us here at WUKA are super excited. This is huge for us, a massive step towards being able to reach more people who bleed, to show them how to have a safe and sustainable period. The thing is though, we show a bit of period blood in our ad. Gasp. But not just period blood… there’s some clots in there too. Double gasp!
What’s the problem? We see blood and guts on TV and in movies all the time, don’t we? Actions, thrillers, they all have some kind of gore to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Have you ever noticed though, how we very rarely see characters on the screen using the bathroom? We’re not talking the classic steamy shower scene; we’re talking normal bathroom habits that we ALL have. Doing a wee, having a poo, managing your period. Almost half of the global population has a period, yet we never show it on TV!
Historically, even mentioning periods on TV has been fleeting and unpredictable. Period products were only allowed to be advertised for the first time in 1972, and until 1985 you weren’t allowed to even say the word period. According to this report, the first ever mention of it was by Courtney Cox in an ad for Tampax. Back then we had tampons being dipped into strange blue liquid, or having it poured over pads because there was no way that society wanted to see an accurate depiction of a period. Blue liquid was about as much as we were allowed to handle!
But over recent years there’s been a bit of a kick-back to this, with more and more people demanding the ‘powers that be’ stop hiding menstruation behind a cloud of mystery and/ or disgust. Slowly but surely, ads have started to show red coloured blood and we’re not quite so shy about making it look more realistic either. And yes, there has been backlash.
An ad that aired in Australia received hundreds of complaints over it’s campaign to normalise menstruation, challenging views that it was unacceptable to show period blood on TV. According to this report, among the complaints were cries of the red blood being ‘inappropriate’, ‘humiliating for women’ and ‘graphic’, with some going as far as to say that the ad was forcing parents to have unnecessary discussions with their children, and that showing girls bleeding was ‘wrong’. Is it any wonder that 8 out of 10 Australian women will go to great lengths to hide their period, through shame and embarrassment?
But we asked a focus group what they liked about our ad, and the overwhelming response we had was they liked the blood. The liked the “reality of blood in the shower,” and “the honesty of the ad”overall. They referred to the fact that we used red period blood, and clots too.
One review even reads:
“Actual periods!!! No weird blue liquid being poured onto pads- clots and blood in the shower, on the tampon and red liquid used to pour on the pants HALLELUJAH! “
At the end of the day, we bleed. Our ad shows that. Deal with it.
But why do we need to see period blood on TV? Because if we don’t see it on TV, we don’t get to truly normalise the conversation. We pass on feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment to our children, who will pass those same feelings on to theirs. We don’t challenge the stigmas that surround periods. And yes, those stigmas still exist, and too many young girls just aren’t receiving the full and well-rounded menstrual education they deserve.
In fact, a staggering 44% of survey respondents told Betty for Schools that they didn’t know what was happening when they got their first period. Only 57% said they’d been told about periods at school, and more than half said they were just too embarrassed to tell anyone they’d even started.
The truth is, lots of people will still want to turn away from our period clots on the big screen. They won’t want to witness what is one of life’s most normal biological events. They won’t want to see the realities of what it’s like to have a period. Bodily fluids are ‘supposed to be private’, a ‘matter of personal hygiene’ and something we deal with by ourselves, without the need for anyone else to even know we’re on our period. In fact, we prefer to shy away from even saying the word ‘period’ or ‘menstruation’. We use euphemisms such as ‘Aunt Flow’, ‘Time of the Month’ or even ‘Women’s Problems’. And if we can’t even say the word period, what chance do we have of teaching our children that it’s ok to bleed? Oh, and that period blood is red, and not blue?!
We need to see period blood on TV. We need to talk about periods, to educate our children (and ourselves) on what exactly happens during the menstrual cycle, what the effects can be on the body and mind, and what steps we can take to support each other. We need to realise that periods do not make us dirty. Period blood is not offensive. Menstruation is natural and nothing be ashamed of.
It’s not just a woman’s issue, it’s everyone’s issue. And until we start to normalise the blood, until we stop turning away from it all, we will never break down the taboos that are holding us back.
Period blood has always been depicted as a blue liquid on TV so as not to offend viewers. Historically, periods and menstruation has been seen as a taboo topic, a private matter for women to deal with behind closed doors. Showing red liquid has been deemed as offensive by some, with many preferring not to show period blood in a true light.
Luckily views are changing now, and new ads (like our own!) are now showing period blood as red.
We need to have the courage to challenge the views that periods are dirty and that period blood is offensive. We need to show the realities of what it’s like to have a period, so that the conversations around menstruation can be normalised. There is no shame in bleeding. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. If we can handle seeing red blood and some clots on TV, perhaps we can also handle speaking openly and honestly about periods with our children too.
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