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In Honor of Periods, Pad Commercials, and Menstrual Cramps

Why suppressing our cycles isn’t always the answer.
In Honor of Periods, Pad Commercials, and Menstrual Cramps
Image: doortoriver / Flickr

Recent ads from Verizon and Always Sanitary Pads pack a powerful message to pre-teen girls on what it is like to be dismissed as "like a girl." In contrast, the latest video from menstruation marketer HelloFlo, which provides monthly "special delivery" packages for a girl's "hoo-ha," comes with a snarky kid narrator and her gleefully revengeful mother.

The advertised discrete brown box arrives every month from HelloFlo to take care of all those messy adolescent menstrual needs, plus candy to console cramps and monthly crabbiness. Meant to be a satirical and humorous take on modern mother/daughter communication, many moms found the HelloFlo clip to fall flat and farcical, with one NPR commentator dubbing it meanstration.

As a family physician (and mother of a daughter), I am dismayed by this type of marketing and what it says about mothers, daughters, and our view of menstruation. Sure, we love to laugh at absurdity; it makes us cringe and squirm at an uncomfortable underlying reality. But the message here is actually one of humiliation, not sensitivity to an early adolescent who so feels enough pressure to be grown-up that she'll fake it and lie.

The early desperation for our first period is a trope that goes back long before Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I was a very skinny 14-year before my period started and definitely felt that pressure of being left behind, with my little "Kotex starter package" gathering ...

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