Facebook has banned an ad for women’s period undies. It’s 2020 and on the social media platform where Facebook Live has captured severe and shocking violence, has let conspiracy theories run rampant and where I personally have had memes posted of me being shot in the head – all have gone unchecked– yet they have decided that this particular brand of leak-proof undies violate the rules. The video, which is called ‘The New Way to Period’ shows women in their menstrual cycle, it shows pain and discomfort. It shows a diverse range of women. It even shows lesbians snuggled in bed. The standards police can tolerate this, but what they can’t tolerate is the demystifying of a very natural and downright ordinary part of being a woman: Bleeding from your vagina.
According to Facebook this ad, which delivers a normalising narrative, has violated its guidelines regarding shocking, sensational, disrespectful and excessively violent content. So basically, when we as women tell the real story of who we are, we are seen as shocking and inappropriate. Our biological function is excessively violent. We are banned. Our realness relegated to the perimeters of our social feeds. Please keep it pretty girls. More Kardashian styled bubble bums! More pouty lips! More selfies! Less bleeding out the vagina please.
The ad for an alternative to tampons and sanitary pads not only shows red liquid being absorbed by the undies, it shows stained sheets, bathroom bins filled with used sanitary items, and a woman washing blood from her undies in the shower. Obscene! Don’t they know that the standard public testing should be done with blue liquid! Good girls bleed blue. It’s much less offensive.
For an ad, it was relatively refreshin – reflecting a push towards more open conversations about menstruation, and representing it in a more normalised way. It is tiresome in a permissive society where pornography lurks near every keystroke that realistic depictions of women are still deemed shocking and offensive. There is still a significant stigma so we don’t talk about periods in public. You don’t ring your boss and say ‘I’m not coming in, I’ve just started bleeding.’ We say ‘I think I’m coming down with something’. We don’t want to upset men with the reality that vaginas aren’t made of rainbows and fairydust.
As a comedian one disparaging question I have always been asked when people, I’ll call them men, discover what I do is this: ‘you’re not one of those women who does period jokes are you?’ What it tells me is that there is a perception that if women talk about their experience of womanhood, it’s not seen by men as universal. Men’s bodies are universal – ours, occupying 51 per cent of the population are apparently still deviant. Deviant enough to be banned on Facebook. It’s a sad indictment of how far we still have to go that some men are grossed out and uncomfortable when women normalise their bodies. They need the fairytales of peach blossoms and blue liquid. They need to grow up.
Female comedians who do jokes about periods are also perceived as wrong; like they’re hitting an easy mark to get laughs. Men don’t like it. Not because they’re grossed out, but because it’s not their experience. If men got periods every dude on the comedy circuit would have a 5 minute bit about his bleeding penis.
Women use up to 18,000 tampons or pads in their lifetime. From a cost and environmental point of view, that’s offensive. Anything that can lighten our climate impacting vagina print is a good thing in my opinion. And anything that tells women their biology is natural is pretty good too. Release the Free Bleeders!