Australia’s advertising watchdog has dismissed hundreds of complaints about a TV commercial for sanitary products which depicts menstrual blood for the first time on our television screens. .
Ad Standards said the the Libra ad did not beach the industry’s code of ethics.
The ad included a woman’s legs in the shower with water and blood running down them, a woman in white lingerie with the bottom of the patterned underwear stained red and a teenage girl entering a bathroom holding a pad.
Words on the screen include: “Why is it considered unacceptable to show period blood?” and “Periods are normal. Showing them should be too.”
There were more than 600 complaints against the ad describing it as “disgusting”, “offensive” and “disturbing”.
The makers of Libra, Asaleo Care which makes Libra period pads, said they launched the ad as part of a campaign to destigmatise menstruation
The advertisements in primetime slots, highlighted a number of ways young girls and women experience menstruation.
Scenes included a young girl removing a blood-stained pad from her underwear, and a close-up shot of a woman in the shower, showing blood and water running down her legs.
A number of people argued that showing period blood was “disgusting”, but the watchdog found the commercial did not break any section of the advertising Code of Ethics.
Dr Elizabeth Farrell, medical director of women’s healthcare service Jean Hailes, told the ABC the idea that when a woman is menstruating, she is tainted, or should feel embarrassed when she is having her period, is centuries old, and “absolutely ridiculous”.
“It seems as if there is still a little bit of that attitude prevailing,” she said.
Complaints about the ad included that it was “distasteful”, “unnecessary”, “offensive and inappropriate”, “disturbing” and “not appropriate for children”.
One complainant said, “Bodily secretions shouldn’t be shown on TV ads”.
Others were outraged the commercial was shown on TV after 7:00pm, saying that children may see the ad and ask their parents about periods.
“I am absolutely appalled that Libra has chosen when I was to talk to my seven-year-old little girl about periods,” wrote one viewer.
“The images portrayed in the ad are disgusting and demeaning to women,” wrote another.
“Showing girls bleeding is wrong at any time of the day,” a further complainant said.
Ad Standards, which deals with complaints made against advertisers, noted that some complainants were upset the ad was broadcast during meal time, and considered some of the images of women having their period “unsavoury”, but said “bad taste” fell outside the Code of Ethics.
Section 2.6 of the code says marketing material must not “depict material contrary to Prevailing Community Standards on health and safety”.
The watchdog’s community panel was satisfied that the depiction of bodily fluids did not constitute a breach of the code, and noted that a viewer’s aversion to blood was not covered by the code.
Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer in gender studies at the University of Melbourne, told the ABC blood is frequently seen on TV, so the portrayal of a menstruating woman is in keeping with community standards.
“It’s a chicken and egg situation: is it because you haven’t seen it on film and TV and therefore you’ve built up the stigma, in a way that you don’t feel grossed out about the blood that comes from a knife wound?” she said.
While “bad taste” is outside of the code, discrimination and vilification are firmly within it. Ad Standards dismissed all assertions that the Libra ad vilified women by publicising a private matter, or humiliated them by depicting them having their period.
The panel noted the advertisement was part of an advertising campaign designed to normalise menstruation, and remove any stigma of shame or embarrassment.
SheSociety is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.