Conditioning is for hair, not minds
A new series in collaboration with The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman
The ad I’m taking up this time as the 3rd instalment of ‘Conditioning is for Hair, Not Minds’ – a series in collaboration with The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman – is by Whisper Ultra. The ad review suggestion was made by award-winning blogger Sheena Dabholkar, who is also the co-author of this post.
So let’s begin. I was sent a link to this ad, that’s currently just available online and runs for a few seconds only. We are shown a package wrapped in newspaper- which is carefully torn away to reveal the new and shiny Whisper Ultra Clean- five times better than the earlier Whisper Ultra (not-so-clean?)! The ad ends there.
Check it out here if you haven’t already seen it.
Now, let’s look at the positives first. Thankfully, we aren’t shown any exceptionally happy women in ungodly white pants jumping fences, running through busy streets, dancing in the middle of a gym, etc… Because you know, those are the things we love doing while we’re on our period. It’s not like most of us are lying in bed with our hot water bags, wishing we were dead. That’s where the positives end for me.
But what’s wrong with this ad? Well, for me, what’s really disappointing is that a powerful corporate entity chose to cash in on what is clearly a regressive practise. Yes, I know what you’re going to say – it might be commonplace, BUT it is born out of the shame and secrecy attached to a natural monthly occurrence almost all women go through. An occurrence that, on an average, lasts for three decades of adult female life.
If you’re a woman reading this, you know what I’m talking about. Every time you go to a medical store and ask for sanitary napkins, the (always male) shopkeeper gives you a look which I can only describe as disgust mixed with a kind of sanctimonious pity. Then comes the entire process of procuring the package (“Stayfree ya Whisper?”- what is with these names?), putting it in a paper bag and then in a black (ALWAYS black) plastic one. God forbid the world finds out that women menstruate! OH, IMAGINE THE CONSEQUENCES! The pandemonium, as millions of men across India – who had stopped briefly by the roadside to practice their piss-writing skills – run to shield themselves from this disgusting revelation, would be off the charts! Men interrupted rudely as their brick mortar canvases constructed primarily for this purpose are suddenly and heartlessly abandoned! It’s only fair then that female hygiene products be handed out with secrecy befitting national security ops.
But even more remarkably, it’s Whisper driving this corporate cultural appropriation that I find saddening. The fact that they adopt the stigma as they see fit / when they can benefit from it. In 2014, Whisper launched the #touchthepickle campaign in order to break out of period related stigma, and now, so conveniently, they choose to use another aspect of this very stigma as a promotional tool to market their Ultra Clean product.(Also, their obsession with clean, clean, clean, irks me. Do they or do they not think periods are the dirtiest thing in the world?)
The newspaper thus represents what the brand feels is a routine, acceptable practice when it comes to sanitary goods, further validating that periods are something to be ashamed of, something to be hidden (I wonder if the ad- makers had been in touch with the priests at Sabarimala).
So here’s some shocking news for Indian advertisers- women menstruate and you know what, those few days aren’t pretty – a lot of us aren’t always cheery (yes that’s right, women are allowed to be snappy too), wearing white and saving the world as your ads might have people believe – but guess what? We aren’t ashamed either. We’re proud. We don’t need newspaper covered packages, your dark plastic bags and hushed whispers. Because maybe you haven’t heard, Whisper, but you know what? We are happy to bleed.
January 13, 2016 at 12:19 pm
Thats why I prefer the brand stayfree, they have the idea right, its not somehting to hide, its a part of being a woman
January 13, 2016 at 12:29 pm
Hi. Please please send a copy of this to those big companies. I really am so fed up of being handed over sanitary products in a paper cover or a black bag. Looking forward to the next. I would also love to read something about sustainable menstruation. It’s good to hear other women speak about these aggravations so many of us go through but rarely voice
January 13, 2016 at 12:53 pm
Hi Divya! I just started asking them to not give me pads in those opaque things anymore and ensure that I carry the packet in my hand till I reach my destination or mode of transport. I don’t know if it makes a difference at all, but I like to “normalize” it for the people who do notice.
In any case I avoid taking plastic bags for anything unless it is terribly inconvenient without them.
Also, to go sustainable like you said, I have switched to menstrual cups and swear by them. There is a learning curve, but once that’s done with, you simply cannot return to pads!
if you’re not comfortable with those, there’s always Eco Femme- washable, reusable cloth pads.
January 13, 2016 at 5:00 pm
I’ve also switched to more sustainable options like the cup and eco-femme pads. I wish we could see more about sustainable menstruation in India since hardly any one seems to be talking about it.
Even my mother was not to keen on the cup since she hinted that you have to be a virgin to use it.
There’s even Thinx underwear that’s come out recently and I thought about buying it very seriously, but the price plus shipping charges put me off. Any way, it’s great to hear voice against the big bad multinationals of pads that have just taken over menstruation options in India!
January 13, 2016 at 7:45 pm
Hi Aditi and Divya,
I co-authored this post and I’ve blogged about the menstrual cup before over on my blog. You’ll be heartened to know that it is my most popular post (even over on a travel/design blog) and I’ve received dozens of emails about it, it seems people do want a sustainable alternative to pads and tampons and are dying to have the conversation. Thanks for your comments. 🙂
February 1, 2016 at 8:51 pm
A good 15 years ago,when I just stopped taking polythenes for any purchase,I decided not to do so for the sanitary napkins too. I knew that I would sure get to see raised eyebrows but never did I imagine that the shopkeepers would get their knickers in a bunch. On one occasion this “ultra” shareef shopkeeper told me that he CAN not hand it to me JUST LIKE THAT,without a polythene. Grudgingly he said I could “discard” the polythene in my car! Things have come a long way since ,as @ 45years of age now,both my sons,18 y and 12y not only fetch me sanitary napkins from the cupboard but also from the market,discuss (without batting an eyelid)about not only mensuration but also normal and vaginal deliveries,breasts and lingerie,penises and vaginas so matter of factly! Long live the feminist movement!
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