Since I was about sixteen, I’ve been passionate about de-stigmatising periods. I used the Clue app religiously and showed it to all my friends at school, including the boys. I talked about periods loudly and graphically. I didn’t care if that made boys feel uncomfortable. I had confidence about my periods. They made me feel powerful and were an important part of my identity as a young woman. Because of my contraception, I don’t have periods anymore. My female friends are usually jealous of me when I tell them this, but I actually miss them; they’re a sign that everything’s ticking over and working properly. They’re completely healthy and natural, so why is there such a big stigma surrounding them?
When I did have periods, my go-to brand of feminine hygiene products was Bodyform. Unlike other brands, Bodyform pads didn’t irritate my sensitive skin. They fit my body perfectly and came in lots of shapes and sizes, with and without wings, to suit all flows and bodies. Bodyform famously made waves by featuring period blood in its ads, something that has been stigmatized for years. Now, Bodyform has launched a campaign called “Womb Stories” and I’m even more impressed by the ways in which they’re catering for such a wide range of people who have periods.
There is a toxic and damaging culture of silence around menstruation and female sexual health, and Bodyform is doing amazing work to tackle that. All life comes from the womb, and so, it’s incredibly important to understand the processes that take place within this part of the female body. Everyone should be educated about what it means to have a womb and periods, whether they have them or not.
As part of the campaign, Bodyform has produced a short film depicting different women’s experience of menstruation. The film is inclusive and realistic, showing female bodies at different stages of life and in varying scenarios from sex to childbirth. It features a blend of live action and animation, as the internal workings of the womb are personified and, in some cases, caricatured through dynamic illustration. Concepts, like pain and pleasure, are portrayed in visual, physical ways that authentically represent what these sensations are like and clarify our understanding of what it means to feel them. Pain is presented as horrifying, sharp and monstrous while pleasure is visualised as a boat and flowing water, sharpened at times by bursts of colour.
Everyone who has periods experiences and views them differently. One’s relationship with their cycle can be complicated and changing, but Bodyform covers a broad scope of situations from IVF treatment, baby loss and pregnancy scares to puberty and menopause. Things like period pain, deciding whether or not to have kids and menopausal hot flushes may seem like small, insignificant matters, but they all contribute towards what it means to have a biologically female body and to live with a menstruating womb. They characterise the lives of billions of people universally, and they should be represented and talked about so much more than they are. Everyone should understand the highs and lows of having periods.
Bodyform is the only brand that has fully embraced a raw depiction of womanhood and femininity. Other feminine hygiene brands, like Always, haven’t been quite so bold. Always’ ‘Like A Girl’ campaign was effective in its own right; it is extremely positive, and its entire purpose is to be motivational and suggest that girls can do anything (even while menstruating). While this does, to some extent, de-stigmatise periods and promote confidence in young women, it suggests that having a womb is never debilitating, that it never holds us back, which is not always the case. ‘Like A Girl’ doesn’t show a multi-faceted, realistic view of what it’s really like to deal with periods, which is exactly what ‘Womb Stories’ succeeds in doing. In my opinion, it makes people feel less alone and more united with other people who have periods.
Our wombs are miraculous. They have the capacity to produce life and to bring pleasure and power. But of course, they can also cause pain, discomfort and anxiety. It is amazing to see all of this covered in such a short film, and to see such a significant amount of attention brought to this through Bodyform’s campaign. The whole campaign is wonderfully done. The only improvement that I would like to see in the film is the inclusion of transgender men who continue to have periods following or during transition. I would have loved to see a trans womb story in the mix.
Overall though, the ‘Womb Stories’ campaign is a triumph for feminism, equality and the de-stigmatization of menstruation. My younger teenage self would have loved to show all her female friends the film to let them know that they’re not alone. She would have shown it to her male friends too, to demonstrate to them what our wombs can do, to explain to them what women go through. She would log severe cramps and a heavy flow in her Clue calendar and feel connected, rather than alienated, in her experience.
Bodyform’s short film is an emotional work of art and the stories told in it need to be listened to and heard. Loud and clear. Period.
– Bridie Adams
Featured Image Source: Still via Bodyform // YouTube. Director: Nisha Ganatra.