5 Apr

Here we are, the beginning of the third millennium and what have we done? We’ve been places, we’ve eradicated the Pox, the Plague, the Scourge, almost. We have not done away with the Curse, tho’ the tampon ads get slicker every year.


I remember some ad from the late 70s. Lots of David Hamilton photography; a beautiful mother with her blossoming teenage’d daughter walking thru the forest in springtime. The reassuring maternal voice-over in the compulsory diction of the private-school educated Sydneysider hard-nosed career bitch: navy suits, pearls, Oil of Ulan. Fundraiser committees associated with the Liberal Party. What euphemism did she use? Heavy days. Heavy days seem a bit of concern. Heavy days may ruin a sun-blessed walk in the bush.

Some time ago, trashy historical novels tell me, working class women referred to their periods matter-of-factly while those women that did no housework kept it strictly discreet. The hard-boiled 19th century with its frenetic sexual morals, it’s cold lit analysis, its silent anxieties. Menstruation? Unmentionable save in medical circles where puritanical men got together and tried to solve this bit of biological madness called Woman. Now it’s the basis for specialization in the spreading apparatus of information processing: symbols, sounds, colour and form pitting you up against impossible dreams, all in aid of moving the merchandise. And still there’s the need to use euphemism about something as basic as a placental mammal’s menstrual cycle and the blood that comes forth from it.

We’ve gone to the moon but still can’t face that? White pants? Well at least the ad doesn’t refer to heavy days. Sometime later there was an ad where a slick young supermodel type uses a maxi-pad to clean blood from the floor before the men in the trenchcoats arrive. Can we see a story that evolves from the days when advertising tampons and pads was a clinical euphemism. Internal protection? That’s a bit saucy? Kids might ask questions. Internal, what’s inside?

If there’s continuity in these ads it’s in the stress on privacy, comfort and non-interference with work. The 50s ad says to the housewife that she can rely on tampons not to have her menstrual cycle interfere with her work; the 90s ad says to the young career bitches that the threatening masculine pack will be held at bay; the current ad says we know this is stupid, we know that we’re being manipulated but hey, at least they’re honest and… cool pack! The thread that runs thru the ads is that this is the solution to a problem: mass manufactured and wrapped in clean fresh plastic.

“Are you sure I’ll still be a virgin?” There was a time not so long ago that that was an actual concern. These days the world agrees with Clint Eastwood, what’s so great about virgins? Well that’s the mainstream position. Coming up the rear, religion returns and girls in certain circles pledge to their father they’ll remain pure until their wedding night. A revival of tradition? Ah.. but these are 21st century girls so of course there’s promise of a material pay-off.

I have my doubts that satisfaction is guaranteed.

Time was when the Moon Cycle was a mystic thing, then it was a symbol of degradation – a basis for disgust. And now it’s a problem that must be solved rationally in a mode consistent with Modern Civilization’s requirements that everything have a smooth pristine clinical and colour-co-ordinated surface. People say, well at least it’s not a big deal anymore. And I say: exactly! It isn’t. Shouldn’t it be? I’m sure there are families for which it is still, bewildering as it might seem, a moment of profound shame and embarrassment.

Are there families out there that celebrate?

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