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Journey to normal: the story behind that DAME tampon string advert.

Today at DAME HQ we launched our first ever London Bus advertising campaign with a tampon string front and centre (an organic tampon, naturally) on 200 buses around London and beyond.

WHY THE NEED FOR THIS CAMPAIGN?

This isn’t about DAME. This is about something much bigger than DAME.

For too long periods have been hidden away, avoided in conversation or whispered about in coded language. This only perpetuates the outdated narrative that periods are in some way shameful or dirty.

A 2018 YouGov poll, commissioned by international charity ActionAid, revealed more than one in three (37%) of UK women have experienced period shaming, through things like bullying, isolation or jokes about it being ‘that time of the month’. Even more shocking is that nearly half (40%) of those who have been shamed said it was their partner who was responsible for the shaming.*

Periods are a normal, natural bodily function for girls, women and people who menstruate. They’re not dirty or unhygienic. There’s no need for stigma.

It’s just blood. Normal, natural blood. Collected in a pad, tampon or cup. Nothing radical about it.

So here we are, normalising periods by bringing them out of the shadows of the 20th Century.

MAKING PERIODS GREEN

DAME understands its responsibility to change the narrative around periods and period blood in keeping with wider cultural changes in the 21st Century.

DAME’s mission has always been about sustainability and acceptability but the data suggests the biggest blocker to people reusing period products is their negative association with their own period blood.

But period blood is as normal and boring as blood on a cut finger or a nose bleed. Again, it’s just blood.

In order to make periods green, and get people using plastic-free products, we need to normalise periods and encourage people to engage with their bodies.

Acceptability is the biggest driver of sustainability when it comes to periods. In other words, being cool with touching period blood will end the demand for plastic-filled disposable period products.

IMAGE FOR CHANGE

The image in our bus campaign is a self-portrait taken by a DAME customer. Enter Demi Colleen, a veterinary nurse, law student and vegan beauty blogger, wearing pants with a tampon string hanging down.

She styled the image herself, choosing to show her string; her body, her choice. It’s not a forced or staged photo engineered by a brand with an agenda. It represents an attitude towards periods that is natural and even, dare we say it, a little bit cool.

To many people, this is what normal looks like. We’d like everyone to be this cool with periods.

NOT AN EASY JOURNEY

In bringing this ad to light, we faced many roadblocks. It is no coincidence that the media industry is dominated by men who aren’t comfortable talking about or seeing periods.

Many iterations of our advert got rejected. Along the way we were told it was: “Racy”, “What, in the industry, we call brave" and "We might have some problems broadcasting this at breakfast shows".

This clearly demonstrates the vast cultural chasm between what is happening with women’s bodies and how they are portrayed in reality.

STRING OF EVENTS

Today is a moment in menstruation history but it is also another step in the long journey to normalising periods. We want to acknowledge that DAME stands on the shoulders of past taboo-busters:

  • JAN 2020 Sport England’s This Girl Can digital campaign showed a tampon string
  • OCT 2019 American period underwear brand Thinx digital ad ‘If we all had periods’ showed a tampon string hanging out of pants worn by man walking through a sports dressing room

This is a fight to break the cycle of negative messaging and language created by a handful of major brands dominating the industry for the last century.

We salute our fellow challenger brands and organisations working to undo this damage and de-stigmatise periods: Bloody Good Period, Thinx, Natracare, Health Not Hygiene, Bloody Honest.

Much of the movement to normalise periods to date has been online. DAME is now taking the it public: off our phone screens and onto London’s streets to help make it all the more real.

JOIN THE MISSION: 5 actions to take now

  • Share the string image to your social media using #bleedredthinkgreen and @dameforgood - the more eyeballs see it, the further the mission spreads.
  • Pledge to talk about periods, menstruation and period blood. Avoid using the words hygienic, sanitary or any euphemisms when talking about periods.
  • Sign Health not Hygiene’s petition to change negative period language in supermarkets.
  • Sign Natracare’s similar petition.
  • Pledge not to hide period products at work or in public spaces. Ain’t no shame in bleeding.

With thanks,

Celia & Alec, co-founders of DAME

Image Credit: Demi Colleen - @demicolleen

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,076 adults, of which 1,094 were women who have had a period. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th - 17th May 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

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