Menstruation: The Representation of Menstruation

Serena Williams, one of the most strong and prominent young female role models for athletic women today is shown as using her tennis prowess to slam nature in the face in one recent advertisement. Williams femininity and her athleticism are clearly interconnected: Williams wears eye-catching outfits and is one of the most accomplished tennis stars of her generation. But according to Kotex, this female athlete cannot work worth with Mother Nature and still be successful.

Sanitary napkin advertisements are very public, and often embarrassing to watch (even for male and female friends watching television together, eyes often head to the floor when they come on). Although it is painfully obvious what the ads are about, and what products they are promoting, the advertisements stress the secrecy and discretion of the product, especially their odor-reducing potential and the smallness of the packaging. In one ad, showing a girl on a skateboard: “Here we have an odd juxtaposition of a woman in camouflage who appears to have an affinity for extreme sports, and yet her primary concern is to “stay clean” while menstruating” (Menstruation Lecture, p. 17).

Today, sanitary advertisements have become more flirtatious and even humorous, such as a Tampax advertisement that proves the absorbency of the product by showing its potential to plug a leak in a rowboat. Even the green movement has been used to sell recyclable pads, and companies have tried to gain ethical points from consumers by asking for donations to help young girls in Africa have appropriate sanitary products so they can go to school while they are menstruating.

Advertisements have changed with the time but the themes of happiness combined with secrecy, and empowerment that can only be conveyed by buying the product linger. Corporations have changed their message to be more marketable in the 21st century, yet they still use cultural discomfort as a subconscious method to promote their product, even under the veneer of empowerment.

Works Cited

Chrisler, Joan C. & Paula Caplan. “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde: How PMS

Became a Cultural Phenomenon and a Psychiatric Disorder.” Annual Review of Sex

Research (2002): 274-306.

Lee, Janet. “A Kotex and a Smile: Mothers and Daughters at Menarche. Journal of Family

Issues 29.10 (October 2008): 1325-47.

Merskin, Debra. “Adolescence, Advertising, and Ideology of Menstruation.” Sex Roles 40.11/12

(June 1999): 941-57.

“Get Real.” Kotex Serena Williams advertisement. June 26, 2010.

“Sarafem.” You Tube. June 26, 2010.

“Very Personally Yours.” Kotex. Kimberly Clark. 1948.

June 26, 2010.

“Yasmin.” You Tube. June 26, 2010.

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