A woman bleeds when she’s on her period. Yep. Never thought I’d write that sentence for Campaign. Wow, it feels quite liberating to state the obvious. One more time. Women bleed on their periods. Once you put it out there it really doesn’t sound that bad does it? Seems weird that we’ve pussy footed around it for so long.
Bodyform’s new ad talks about blood. The real life red stuff. Finally! I didn’t even realize this was something I’d been waiting for until I saw it. Suddenly blue water seemed like the most shameful liquid in the world. I watched as bleeding women kicked ass and it made me feel brilliant (and a tad jealous I hadn’t written it).
Last year Kiran Gandi ran the London Marathon whilst on her period. She didn’t wear a tampon and instead bled freely. She did it to break the stigma of periods (and, yer know because she was on her actual period and didn’t want to put something inside her as she attempted to run over 26 miles). She did it to let women around the world, especially those without access to tampons and towels, know that they should not be ashamed of their period blood.
Even writing this, I’m having to make sure that I don’t use words like "feminine products" and "menstrual cycle". This is what society has done to me. It’s tampons, towels, periods and blood, goddamn it.
Both Kiran and Bodyform are letting women know that periods don’t have to stop us from doing anything. Kiran ran a marathon while bleeding; that is awesome work. For too long society and their blue water have made us feel like periods are something to hide. Yet it’s a subject that needs outing; they affect our bodies. There must be loads of female athletes whose chance for a gold medal falls on the heaviest day of their cycle. Jessica Ennis-Hill bleeds. Serena Williams bleeds. Steph Houghton bleeds. Bodyform isn’t just removing the stigma. They’re also putting energy into getting women exercising when they’re on their periods. Considering it’s 20% of the month it’s pretty important.
Ads for tampons and sanitary towels have always tried to tell us we can do anything while on our periods. We can shimmy to our seat in the cinema past people sitting down with our great big periods at head height (anyone else remember that ad?). We can wear white, we can roller blade, we can wear white while roller blading. We can do all of that, but we can’t mention blood or bleeding. Really it was like they were telling us "whatever you do, don’t ever let anyone know you’re on your period".
I loved Always’ "#LikeAGirl", but it was still about weakness. The Bodyform film is all about strength. There will be blood, yes. We will still be awesome, yes.
Alex Holder is a partner and co-executive creative director of Anomaly London.