… Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’m seeing more and more ads that are promoting this idea that our bodies are some foreign or outdated entities that can and should be forced into submission by product A or product B. I’ll agree that we’re more than just our bodies, but I won’t agree that our bodies are sneaking around with hidden agendas that need to be found out and dismantled.
I feel like there’s a disturbing trend in society right now to “medicalize” things that are probably normal, but that might be inconvenient (e.g. there has to be at least one kid out there with an ADHD diagnosis who just needs to cut back on Froot Loops). And I’m probably biased, but it seems like many of the silliest messages from advertisers are specifically targeting women’s insecurities.
Because it’s ridiculous to think that you could wear white, flirt with a boy, or generally have fun while you’re on your period.
First off, I don’t care in the slightest whether women choose to use these products or not. I don’t really have a problem with the products themselves. But I sort of resent the fact that some men might be seeing these ads and thinking, “Wow, glad I’m not part of the inferior sex!” or that preadolescent girls might be internalizing these messages and lamenting, “Oh no, I’m doomed to a future of womanhood!” That’s not cool.
So let me point out the stuff that’s been irking me in particular lately:
1. “Your body can tell you’re pregnant before you can.” This is the totally serious insight provided by the brunette (brunette because she’s smart, natch) at the beginning of a commercial for the First Response ® Early Result Pregnancy Test. She looks you deep in the eyes and serenely delivers the news that A) you and your body are two totally different things, and B) your body is withholding information that you’d probably like to know. The ad looks something like this:
(No, this isn’t the real ad and no, Sarah Michelle Gellar is not the spokesperson.)
First Response doesn’t use the fact that your body simply is or is not pregnant, but instead chooses to make you feel like you are in the dark about things your body can “tell” that you can’t. In my opinion, women would have been better served if the commercial had skipped the rhetoric and just explained, y’know, how pregnancy tests work: The tests detect levels of the hormone hCG in urine. hCG, human chorionic gonadotropin, essentially circulates in a pregnant woman’s body to promote the production of progesterone, which helps the uterus keep a good blood supply going to the fetus. But I guess none of that is really…catchy.
2. “Who says you have to have twelve periods a year?!” Funny enough, the answer to this question could potentially be really deep…something about evolution and/or God and/or the phases of the moon. But the way it’s posed by the voice-over in the ad, with cheekiness and sass, implies to me that it’s The Man or some other elusive oppressor of women who dishes out the monthlies just to see us suffer. What’s a girl to do? Rebel! By purchasing: Seasonique ®! It’s hard not to want to join these tough, young, fight-the-power types of ladies who chant “Who says?! … Who says?! … Who says?!” over and over and over. Before you know it, you’re squinting accusingly at your television screen thinking “Yeah! Who says?!” even if there isn’t actually anyone on the other side of this frustration. If you haven’t seen the TV spot, check out this print ad:
I’ve highlighted the line that really galls me, but in case you missed it, it reads: “There’s no medical need to have a monthly period on the Pill.” Does this sound slightly ridiculous to anyone else? I’m having a hard time finding a sufficiently parallel analogy to bring out the ridiculousness of it, but it strikes me the same way as if someone said “There’s no medical need to have brown eyes/ten fingers/earwax….” To me, there’s no “medical need” for most of the features that we possess as human beings, but that shouldn’t be the front-line argument against having these things when the choice is available to get rid of them.
Again, I have absolutely no issue with any woman who chooses to take hormones to prevent contraception, but I don’t think it’s quite right for some company to insinuate that menstruation is some vestigial biological nuisance that I should consider medicating myself against.
3. The “Outsmart Mother Nature” campaign, by Tampax. Until recently, I had been contentedly envisioning Mother Nature to be some serene, caring older woman, who sometimes gets depressed about the state of the environment.
But now Tampax Pearl tampons has put out this extensive ad campaign with a series of commercials to convince me that Mother Nature is actually this broad:
Watch the ad here:
Yeah, Mother Nature sucks…wait, no! Darn you, Tampax!! You’ve taken a mental image of Mother Nature, who was benign at worst and really really comforting at best, and turned her into this vengeful character. “Take that, Mother Nature!”? I shudder to think what Father Sky is up to these days.
Alright, so, use whatever products you want — really, it’s not the products themselves that I’m rolling my eyes at here. It’s this idea that there’s someone to fight when nature proceeds as normal. Your body isn’t withholding anything, it’s just you who might not know what’s going on at the molecular level for a while. And there’s no evildoer behind the scenes, orchestrating your menstruation to maximize your misery. I don’t think it’s always the best thing to have books with titles like Take Control of Your Period, because it implies that your period is “out of control,” which might not be a healthy mindset. Besides — don’t we have enough real enemies to worry about, without fabricating imaginary ones?
Just my two cents.
Cole LA (2009). New discoveries on the biology and detection of human chorionic gonadotropin. Reproductive biology and endocrinology : RB&E, 7 PMID: 19171054
Goldzieher JW, & Rudel HW (1974). How the oral contraceptives came to be developed. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 230 (3), 421-5 PMID: 4606623