Australian ad-industry regulators tell viewers bloody menstrual ads are fine

Article by Theresa Braine /
New York Daily News /
September 18, 2019 /
Click here to view original /

Sanitary-pad television ads depicting actual menstruation prompted a record number of complaints, but Australian industry regulators told those offended to just go with the flow.

Not only that but they praised the campaign for its work to destigmatize menstruation.

The advertisements on Australian prime-time television last month showed a hand pouring red liquid onto a pad as a voice-over intones, “with an ultra-absorbent core”; a woman rising at the dinner table to ask if anyone has a pad; a man taking a package of pads off a store shelf and bringing them to the cash register; a woman in a red swimsuit lounging in a pool on a pad-shaped float; a woman’s legs with blood running down them in the shower, and a young woman wearing white lingerie with red-and-pink tinted flowers at the bottom.

There’s also a scene of red liquid splashing across a black background, and a shot of a teenager walking into a bathroom holding a pad.

“Periods are normal,” the ad’s wrap-up phrase reads. “Showing them should be too.”

The campaign, Blood Normal, is the brain child of Asaleo Care, which makes the Libra brand sanitary products that were advertised during “The Bachelor,” “Gogglebox” and “Survivor,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald. The goal is to normalize menstruation and start chipping away at the stigma.

Girls and women worldwide are stigmatized, under-educated and even prosecuted for their monthly cycles, as Teen Vogue outlined last year.

Viewer objections lodged with Ad Standards ranged from people who were grossed out by the bloody images and inferences, to those who said it was a private matter and shouldn’t be shown on TV, to irate parents who felt forced to explain periods to their too-young children before any of them were ready. In all, 600 complaints were received, and all were dismissed.

“Unnecessary description of blood inappropriate, as both sexes know the process for female menstruation,” wrote one complainant quoted anonymously in a report issued by the board earlier this month announcing its ruling. “Way too descriptive, visual and disturbing for a sacred process. It is vulgar and personal.”

“I feel it’s inappropriate, as it wasn’t advertising the product, it was making a shock statement,” said another dissatisfied non-customer. “Bodily secretions shouldn’t be shown on TV ads. I wouldn’t expect a toilet paper advertisement to show feces on toilet paper, or an advertisement showing nasal secretions for tissues.”

But the innovation of the campaign — Blood Normal won a Glass Lion for Change Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last year, according to Adweek — fell within acceptable standards and trumped the discomfort felt by those watching the commercials, the regulators ruled.

The centuries-old, “absolutely ridiculous” notion that periods are disgusting is the very thing that needs to be destigmatized, Dr. Elizabeth Farrell, medical director of women’s health-care service Jean Hailes, told ABC Australia.

Dr. Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer in gender studies at the University of Melbourne, noted to ABC that there is no shortage of blood depicted on television. Why, she said, would menstrual blood be stigmatized when blood from a knife wound isn’t?