Gloria Steinem asked the question in a 1978 essay: What would happen if men could menstruate? Essentially, what would happen if menstrual periods were discussed loud and proud among uterus-havers everywhere?
The organization WaterAid posed this query in their new online ads for the fictional product of “Manpons.” They created the ad to raise awareness about the 1.25 billion women worldwide—that’s about a third of ALL women—who don’t have access to toilets when they’re menstruating. It coincides with Menstrual Hygiene Day (which is today), an event that works “to create a world in which every woman and girl can manage her menstruation in a hygienic way.” Access to sanitary menstrual products for women worldwide is vital for women’s health and education worldwide, and we’re glad WaterAid is bringing attention to such an important issue via such a quirky video.
The first part of the ad takes place in gym bathroom, where a man puts in a Manpon for a boost of energy. The second part depicts two men discussing a recent outburst that one of the men had as a result of PMS, where he discusses his “heavy flow” in detail—with more honesty and pride than the women in the average tampon ad, or even in real life. In the third, we hear two soccer commentators explaining that the winning team might be exceptionally good because their periods are all synced; the fact that it’s the second day of one player’s cycle means he’s at “peak performance.” The ads have AXE-like marketing, with heavy music, a deep-voiced narrator, blue and black coloring, and frequent mentions of strength and power.
The Manpon ads are funny. They reflect the fact that if men had periods, and if menstruating became a default activity of the human race, periods would still be used to explain people’s behavior, but it would connote strength instead of inferiority.
Steinem made the same point in “If Men Could Menstruate”: “But listening recently to a woman describe the unexpected arrival of her menstrual period… She explained that, when finally informed in whispers of the obvious event, she said to the all-male audience, ‘and you should be proud to have a menstruating woman on your stage.’…She had turned a negative into a positive.” People are always going to talk about the marvel that is the menstrual period, but we have the power to transform that discourse into something positive.
And why shouldn’t we? As Barbara Frost, WaterAid’s Chief Executive Officer, told the Mirror: “Every day 800 million women have their period, and yet most of us consider it an embarrassing and taboo subject.” 800 million women have their periods today, and they shouldn’t have to pretend they don’t. We hope that more and more ads will continue to start the conversation about the experience of having a period.
Image and video via WaterAid