Bloody Commercials

U by Kotex is swapping out the unsettling blue liquids for an honest red.  

Jayde Atchison // Staff Writer  

Sitting in class, I get a sign that it is time to leave the room and deal with my business. I reach into my backpack and grab the right supplies, hiding them in my sleeve. I dash out the door and make my way down the hall, hoping no one suspects what’s going on. Am I on my way to a suspicious drug deal in the middle of my history lecture? No. It is something much more taboo: I’m discreetly carrying my tampon to the bathroom because I have been gifted a lifetime subscription to Period Monthly.  

Across most mediums, period advertisements bombard us with images of pads being tested with blue liquids and women skipping around having a jolly time. Any person with a uterus can confirm that our monthly bleeding is certainly not blue nor is it particularly enjoyable. Thankfully, there are less ads showing white women spinning around fields in a hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music kind of way. People are shown powering through their day-to-day life, crushing a workout or thriving in their passions. This is a much more accurate portrayal of what we are capable of, because “anything you can do, I can do bleeding.” 

U by Kotex came out with an Instagram video on Jan. 22 that shows two pads absorbing a realistic blood-red liquid to showcase the superior absorption power of the Kotex brand. They are not the first brand to start using red instead of blue in marketing materials. Bodyform, a UK sanitary napkin brand, used a picture of a red-stained pad, as well as a video of a woman in the shower with blood running down her legs, all the way back in 2017. Prior to this, Always, another sanitary napkin company, used a visual of a cartoon pad that looked like a maze with a red circle in mid 2011.  

The Kotex ad is the most recent ad to attempt a break in the typically taboo topic of the female condition. Historically, period products have been shown with the infamous blue liquid because it was associated with cleaning supplies (think toilet bowl cleaner and Windex). Blue liquid then became the staple colour among all brands, because showing red liquid could make people feel uneasy. What makes me uneasy is how I have been conditioned to feel the need to hide this uncontrollable phenomenon. I did not ask to experience grueling cramps, mood swings, hormonal acne or an unpredictable amount of blood exiting my vagina once a month. If people with uteruses are required to repeatedly be wary of which underwear they use each month, everyone else can handle seeing red liquid poured onto a pad in a 10-30 second advertisement.  

There is an unwritten law that we should be secretive about periods, period products and anything else uterus-related. I believe that a great way to normalize periods should begin in elementary school when the sex education lesson unit comes around. When I was in elementary school, I was corralled into a classroom three doors down from where the boys were gathered. I learned about the magic of “becoming a woman” and the wonderful changes my body would soon go through. To this day, I still don’t know what the boys discussed in their session (back in 2003 I imagined it was Yu Gi Oh cards and Razor Scooters).  

If we had those discussions together, maybe the two groups wouldn’t feel so unprepared for what the other gender was going through. If the sex and body talk happened in one room, future boyfriends might be more sympathetic and knowledgeable about periods. For the folks that are already experiencing body dysmorphia at that age, they can have insight to what goes on with their gender identity without outing themselves before they’re ready.   

Hopefully, U by Kotex has ignited a flame under other period product companies and we will be seeing more honest advertisements in the future. For a lot of people, periods occur whether we like it or not, and we don’t want to feel like we are committing a crime each time we go to the washroom. We’d also like to not have to pay for the best products each month (or invest in reusable products), but that is another issue all together.  

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