Some members of the public might be surprised to see tampon strings featured on the side of London buses from today, in a first for advertising in the UK as part of a new campaign to show periods are natural.
Launched to promote sustainable period product range Dame, the bus billboard concept aims to challenge our tendency to shy away from the subject of periods.
“This isn’t about Dame. This is about something much bigger than Dame,” says the company’s co-founder Celia Pool. “For too long periods have been hidden away, avoided in conversation or whispered about in coded language."
The ad features an image of veterinary nurse, law student and beauty blogger Demi Colleen from the waist down, standing in her underwear with a tampon string dangling down her inner thigh.
Those championing the advertising concept faced a backlash on numerous occasions when trying to get the ad launched.
“In bringing this ad to light, we faced many roadblocks,” said Dame co-founder, Alec Mills. “It is no coincidence that the media industry is dominated by men who aren’t comfortable talking about or seeing periods.”
The Dame founder was told the ad was “racy”, “brave” and “problematic”. “Many iterations of our advert got rejected,” said Mills who was told there might be “problems broadcasting this at breakfast shows”.
"This clearly demonstrates the vast cultural chasm between what is happening with women’s bodies and how they are portrayed in reality. We have an opportunity to change that, for good,” said Mills.
Earlier this year, the This Girl Can ad by Sport England showed a tampon string on TV, when Hannah Johnson helped busting taboos by demonstrating the “unfiltered” image of doing sport as a woman.
It’s time we stopped talking about periods quietly, said Pool: “This just perpetuates the outdated narrative that periods are in some way shameful or dirty. Periods are a normal, natural bodily function for girls, women and people who menstruate. They’re not dirty or unhygienic. There’s no need for stigma. It’s just blood. Normal, natural blood. Nothing radical about it.”
Another advert, titled “Tampons and Tea” was banned in Ireland on television in July after 84 members of the public complained about it. The same ad was still aired in the UK, but Ireland’s Advertising Standards Authority deemed it to cause offence to viewers.
Some of those who complained said it was demeaning to women as it suggested they weren’t able to read instructions on how to use tampons, while others thought there was too much sexual innuendo when referencing the period products.