The internet has had a lot of feelings about Libra’s latest campaign, #bloodnormal. The two-part campaign is the first of its kind to show blood – not weird blue liquid – on Australian National TV. And, while it would be naive to think that this prime-time campaign wasn’t looking for a reaction, after reading some of the responses online, I was genuinely concerned by how triggered people were by the 30-second clip. But, more importantly, their fixation on ‘seeing blood’ proved that they had entirely missed the point.
Caitlin Patterson, executive manager of Asaleo Care’s retail business unit explained “Periods are a normal part of life, but largely ignored by mainstream media. They simply don’t feature in the representation of female characters that we see every day. We believe that like any other taboo, the more people see it, the more normal the subject becomes. We want to lead the way with a campaign that positively tackles the issue, showing periods in action in everyday life truthfully and honestly – because we really care about the wellbeing of Australian women and girls.”
If the reaction to this ad wasn’t enough evidence that period stigma and shame is still alive and kicking, recent research conducted by Libra also uncovered some shocking statistics. Three in four Australian women said they felt there was a stigma attached to having a period (rating it more taboo than drugs, sex, STIs and mental health problems), with an additional eight in 10 women saying they would go to “great lengths” to hide their periods. Additionally, 70 percent of young Australian girls would rather fail a subject at school, than have their peers find out they are on their period.
This is about more than just blood.
It’s from this research that I’ve realised my period experience is not the new Australia normal. Maybe I’m just lucky to be surrounded by people who don’t find periods – or period blood for that matter – an earth-shatteringly confronting topic. Unfortunately, though, I think it’s more likely to be my position of privilege.
Unlike many, I can still attend work or school while on my period or access sick leave or flexible work, without being deemed “dirty”, or “shameful” or “unfit”. I, unlike many (including many Australian women and girls experiencing homelessness or poverty), have access to adequate sanitation and feminine hygiene products that enable me to continue with my daily life while my uterus goes through its entirely normal monthly process. So, if there’s anything period-related that Australian’s should be shocked about, it’s not blood on TV.
Yes, periods can be uncomfortable, challenging, annoying and sometimes even scary, but they are normal, and women should be able to deal with all of the associated challenges without having to carry the additional weight of worry and shame on their shoulders. The more we work to normalise periods, the more empowered women will feel to accept their bodies and the things that they do. Yes, it’s just one piece of the puzzle, but the flow-on effect that comes with this type of normalisation has the power to positively impact all aspects of women’s lives – and therefore, society.
This is about more than just blood.
I can understand that there are people who would rather not see period blood while eating dinner on the couch, but that’s entirely the point. In order to normalise a topic that has been shrouded by stigma, you have to create room for change with a bit of discomfort. It’s also worth noting, that the reason many find these images so fundamentally shocking, is down to the simple fact that depictions like this have been so lacking in representation in mainstream media. Of course, anything that we experience for the first time will evoke a sense of shock, or stand out for its difference. And that’s the bloody point.