Last Saturday night I was in our â€œlocal pubâ€?. To be more exact I was inside the middle cubicle of the womenâ€™s bathroom. On the back wall, directly above the cistern was a notice that read:
Please dispose of feminine hygiene products in the blue bins provided
This was not the first time I had seen this particular notice, nor was it the first time I had seen notices bearing messages of a similar nature. On this occasion, however, I actually took time not just to read the notice but to think about. I was overcome by a sense of disappointment and to some extent outrage.
I have nothing against notices that urge people to keep public spaces in order, in fact, I am all for them, especially in public toilets. What I am against is the compulsory sanitisation not just of womenâ€™s bodies and our emissions but even the language used to describe/discuss our bodies and emissions.
The term â€œfeminine hygiene productsâ€? is apparently supposed to refer to tampons and pads (sanitary towels) but the writers of such notices, for reasons only known to them choose to use ambiguous euphemisms. It would undoubtedly seem absurd to them if I turned up every Saturday night with my weekâ€™s supply of empty shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and body lotion bottles, yet these are all â€œfeminine hygiene products.â€?
It fills me with despair that even in a room that is exclusively for the use of women, we can not mention those things that affect us; those things that go to the core of our womanhood.
It is no wonder then, that when the discussion of our â€œfeminine hygiene productsâ€? is taken outside of those women only spaces and brought to a wider audience the euphemisms, metaphors and representations go from the ambiguous to the ridiculous. There are two such instances that come to mind, both relate to televised advertisement of pads and tampons.
The first advertising method is often if not always used by various manufacturers of pads to prove how absorbent their product is. It is usually a split screen showing product A (the inferior, less absorbent pad) on one side and product B (the advertisers new and improved product) on the other. A blue liquid is poured onto each product and then a voice instructs us to watch how the blue liquid seeps and spreads all over inferior product A yet in the in case of product B the liquid is contained in the middle of the pad. The overall aim being to prove that product B is far better. The underlying aim however, is to sell us a product without actually having to delve into the so-called yucky-ness of the matter. At least thatâ€™s what I think the underlying aim is, because I can not imagine why else they would chose to use a blue liquid when we are all â€œsupposedâ€? to know that the real use of the product is to soak up blood, which I am certain is always red.
I am sure the people who came up with the â€œblue liquidâ€? idea would say that decency and television licensing standards dictate they use blue as opposed to red. This to me however is bullshit especially when one thinks of the countless times blood and gore are depicted on television.
Everybody knows that we do not emit blue fluid from our body. Any woman who went to change her pad and saw blue stains would possibly die of shock. Likewise any man who cut himself playing football or doing other such manly things only to see blue fluid ooze out would possibly die of shock. It is unnatural; yet what is natural can not be spoken, can not be shown on television. Heaven forbid that the world should know that women bleed red blood! I find this disturbing.
On the other end of the scale are those advertisements, usually for tampons, that show women who are supposedly â€œon their periodâ€? doing all sorts of vigorous activities such as sky-diving and rollerblading. Apparently the power of the product being advertised is so great that not only does it soak up our blood in a discreet manner; it also transforms us into the bionic-woman!
Perhaps these particular adverts are done to empower women? Perhaps they are done to show us and the world that bleeding once a month is not so bad. This is all well and good but I know I never said it was a bad thing! Of course there are some women who experience pain and discomfort but, and I only speak for myself, I would never say I hate my menstrual cycle. It is natural and it shows that my body is working as it should be.
There is so much more I could say on the topic but I leave it at this; a while back a condom manufacturer ran a televised advertising campaign. It started off with a close up of one person dressed in all white in a funny white hat, the camera zoomed out and you saw a few more people all in white. The camera then zoomed so far out that there were a million people all running around. The last scene was taken from such a wide angle that the millions of people no longer looked like people. Instead they looked like tiny white specks all huddled together running around. It was at this point that you realised that collectively they were a (rather accurate) visual representation of seminal fluid filling up a condom. There was not a blue fluid in sight.