By Melissa A. Frank
Recently I saw a commercial for a feminine hygiene product called SOFY BeFresh. I was shocked by this advertisement, which employs a great number of misrepresentations and stereotypes of women on their menstrual cycle. It begins with a woman getting ready to leave for the day, when suddenly another woman meets her at the door. The visitor is dressed the same, and looks similar to the first woman. Suddenly the confident and capable woman is gone, and the rest of the commercial portrays the visitor as a raging and hormonal ball of frenzy. She throws temper tantrums, complains about everything, threatens a pizza delivery man, and seems to be quite incapable of living. But, at the end a ray of hope! The first confident woman gets new sanitary pads and leaves the raging hormonal woman behind to go out with her friends. Yay?
Sounds like something from the mid-20th century right? Actually, it was released in mid-August. There are so many complications for women that this ad represents.
First, fat shaming is the act of dehumanizing for being overweight. While the advertisement does not show specific words of shame, it is definitely indicating that weight gain during your period is one of the negatives to having a menstrual cycle.
Second, the advertisement certainly implies that women are incapable of making a decision or being a reasonable person while on their menstrual cycles. Did you know that it has been argued that women should not be allowed to vote or attend college because they were incapable of making decisions due to their hormones? I would love to say that these ideas are long gone, but this is not the case. In 2001 Senator Kay O’Connor said, “Men should take care of women, and if men were taking care of women (today) we wouldn’t have to vote.”
Lastly, of course the advertisement promotes the idea that a woman cannot leave the house because of her period.
Horrified, I decided to share the video on Facebook and have a conversation about the horrors of advertising with my friends. I received the following comments from some of the members of Facebook: “My girlfriend and I found it pretty funny and somewhat accurate, which is what I’m sure the makers of this ad were going for,” “You are being too oversensitive, and taking the ad too literally,” “The only thing that I believe to be shameful is the new trend in feminism where a girl starts bleeding and refuses to clean themselves up. This makes me want to vomit,” and finally, “Do you plan on dying your hair purple and telling every man you see to ‘check his privilege.’”
The real problem isn’t that this advertising company tried finding a “funny” way to show the struggles of women during their menstrual cycle. The problem is that there are stigmas surrounding normal everyday things in a woman’s life.
“The problem is stigmas surrounding normal everyday things in a woman’s life” Tweet This Quote!
Menstrual cycles are seen as dirty and unclean. Consider the millions of women worldwide that are not even allowed to socialize with their friends and family for not producing the magical pregnancy. There are girls around the world that are forced to quit school once they start having a menstrual cycle. And there are women and girls forbidden from religious practices because they are believed to be unclean. Ponder the fact that, in reality, a period is just blood! It is not some scary post-apocalyptic fluid filled with the dead hopes and dreams of the human race.
The magnitude of this stigma is something that women in this country, and around the world, deal with every day. Certainly, I am not going to allow advertising companies to make these stigmas even worse with their appalling representation of the very people that they are trying to sell things to. I will take offense, and I will share their dishonor with everyone that I know. Someday I may dye my hair purple, as my Facebook friend asked, but not because of my views on feminism. And I may indeed have to tell someone to take a look at their privilege. It will certainly not be every man I see, because I am a sensible person capable of realizing that issues like sexism are not linked to an entire gender. These complications are instead related to the societal dilemmas caused by those that think stereotypes are comical and worthy of a laugh instead of worrying about the long term effect of them.
Take a look for yourself and tell me what you think.
Melissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State. Originally planning on completing an Associate in Arts degree, she discovered that her hunger for learning would not be satisfied with a two year degree. She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate. She is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center, and she is passionate about equality for every person. Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, and spending time with her partner and two children.
Photograph taken from the commercial.