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Can we ever look at women’s health beyond taboos?

Updated: Nov 26

We are living in the 21st century yet the unconstrained conversation around periods or women’s menstrual cycle remains a taboo. In the recent, wave of feminism when women’s sanitary healthcare products could have preemptively availed the chance to ramp up the awareness campaign concerning menstrual health, they elected to propel regressed, patriarchally-tainted ideologies to the masses.

Famous menstrual healthcare brands like Always or its local competitor Butterfly, inanely advertise for sanitary pads without addressing the existence of menstruation. Their marketing team mindlessly conforms to societal repudiations and masterfully addresses periods as “Un Dinon” when routinely used terms like; periods, menstruation, or in the local language mahawari could be easily incorporated into advertisements. The avoidance of authentic terminologies stems from the ingrained shamefulness about a basic physiological function of the female body. The reason behind the stigmatization of periods is socially acceptable misogyny which transforms anything related to women’s bodies into an emblem of shame or obscuration. The commercials that adhere to such beliefs solidify the taboos especially when they run on our television screens around the clock.

Be that as it may, some recent commercials, such as the one aired by Always in 2022, have taken a comparatively progressive and valiant approach. They openly used the word 'periods,' marking a significant shift in breaking taboos surrounding menstruation. Nonetheless, the branding campaign commenced with the slogan #BehtarseBehtareen. The protagonist in the commercial was seen to be extraordinarily, gleeful and robustly determined on her periods. When any normal woman would desire to be comfortably tucked in her bed. She is shown arduously flying planes and skillfully performing karate gimmicks. Needless to mention, while donning an all-white pristine costume, the only concern a woman has on her periods. Such commercials may appear harmless at first glance but are depictions of deep-rooted misogynistic ideologies that revolve around trivializing the misery of women. While it may be a desperate ploy to portray feminist beliefs and embrace womanhood, in reality, it is a product of projected patriarchy.

Menstruation is not only an unpleasant or uncomfortable episode for women, it can be severely sickening and accompanied by excruciating cramps, body aches, and undesirable mood swings. When we require moments of reprieve and care, particularly to be nurtured and tended to. Since, in our traditionally male-oriented society women are supposed to be well-functioning, reasonable, and vigilant without complaints at all hours, such misleading and irresponsible advertisements belittle the adversity of the situation. Moreover, portrays the absolute contrast of reality, normalizing the suffering of women in patience, silence, and endurance. Emphasizing, that one has to be not adequately responsible, behtar but overtly diligent, behtareen in times of distress.

Further explaining the misrepresentation, it goes as far as exhibiting blue-colored liquids as blood. At large, this might be being circumspect about an “inadmissible” truth, in actuality it is also an attempt to veil the underlying disgrace tethered to women’s bodies. Ultimately, the question remains can we ever look at women’s health beyond taboos?

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