Radiant Me

by Elissa Stein

Radiant (from Webster’s Dictionary): 

1. Radiating rays or reflecting beams of light

2. Vividly bright and shining: glowing 

3. Marked by or expressive of love, confidence, or happiness

I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s not remotely how I feel when I have my period. There are the double-me-over cramps, fingers so swollen my rings barely fit, and oily patches on my forehead and chin that rival the ones I had in high school. Not to mention the emotions that careen wildly from minute to minute. 

I don’t feel particularly radiant when menstruation arrives each month, and I’m relatively certain that wearing a particular pad or tampon wouldn’t make me feel that way. But last night as I wandered through the cramped aisles of my local Rite Aid, I was stopped cold in my tracks by glistening boxes I’d never seen before. Hot pink and yellow with a metallic sheen, they caught the light and sparkled at me. Even the product name was enhanced with a typographic sparkle–I was meant to be dazzled, and it was working.

On the main display there was a shiny, silver Charlie’s Angels-esque silhouette outfitted in a micromini, next to the words “invisible protection, invisible fit, radiant you” splashed across the top. By now, I was deep in conversation with my daughter about this glitzy advertising tactic. She said it made her radiate annoyance and anger, but I felt more insulted. Having written a book about menstruation (in large part about how the media shapes our language and feelings about our bodies and this process), I’m ultra sensitive to the words and images used to sell pads and tampons. This language and imagery was such a profound disconnect from the reality of menstruation that I was incredulous. And then pissed. 

Why can’t someone talk about the pink elephant in the room? Or rather, the bleeding, breaking out, emotional, bloated elephant in the room? Millions of girls and women menstruate. We know what it is. So why do advertisers and marketers still hide behind euphemisms and cutesy packaging, trying to sell us on their untrue vision?

The reality is that people are still afraid to talk about menstruation, a normal, healthy, biological function for half the people on this planet. And the more advertisers control the conversation with words like “radiant” and “invisible,” the more the truth is doomed to stay in the closet. But we deserve better than that. Our bodies and all they do shouldn’t be something we’re made to feel ashamed of. 

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