I just watched Django Unchained. It’s your usual Quentin Tarantino signature serve of a gorno festival-with blood and brains splattering every white surface every ten minutes. I’m not a huge fan of gore, but when I can stomach it, I watch the odd tribute to violence and testosterone that action movies usually are. So I watched Django Unchained because it was supposed to be different in its narrative of slavery and slave trade in America. And it was. But still lots of gratuitous violence, and oh so much blood.
I thought nothing much of the movie (this is not a movie review) until maybe a week later when I was watching television. On came an Always commercial and as has been since I knew what a sanitary pad was, the ‘blood’ in the ad was blue. And I don’t mean blue blood in the aristocratic context-I mean blue like the ink in a blue pen. I thought back to Django Unchained. The hundreds of pints of blood, fake blood actually, were red-like the blood that all people bleed. So why is the blood in a sanitary product commercial blue? What kind of subliminal messaging is going on here?
I remember my first sanitary pad commercial experience, in the comfort of the family living room, around dinner time, with the TV on. On came the pads, and the cotton wool and then the beaker of blue ink. The advert went through its paces, showing just how absorbent the pad is, and how it doesn’t leave any blue on you. At that time, we had just started using ink fountain pens at school (the suggestion was that fountain pens improved your handwriting-I now think that it was probably leftovers from the colonial British education system). Anyhow, I tell my mother, between a mouthful of pap and vleis, that I need one of those for school. I keep messing with my ink pen and this pad thing seems to be just what I need to absorb all that ink. There is deathly silence in the room, and a chuckle from my mother. She mumbles sure and that’s supposed to be the end of the discussion.
The problem with that is when we finally learnt about periods in school, I could not make any kind of connection between the sanitary pads that the teacher was talking about and the ones on TV. None. The teacher said you bleed, and blood is red. Why would they use blue in a sanitary pad commercial? The pads on TV had to be for something entirely different. When I finally got my period and was presented with the pad, only then did I make the connection.
Many years and Django Unchained later, I beg the question. Is the fictitious depiction of period blood that disgusting? And what makes it so unpalatable for our delicate senses? If people can sit through almost two hours and maybe 180 litres of fake blood, why can’t they stomach 30 seconds and five mililitres of the same? Is it because it comes from our vagina’s? Is that what makes it disturbing? I can bet you my bra, a pair of shoes and a pack of cigarettes that there are pubescent boys that think girls bleed blue every month. Some will find out later that it’s not blue, and it’s really just blood, and others will never know what goes on down there when his girlfriend/wife/partner is having that ‘special time of the month’. Makes me sad. Then mad.
It’s this continued skewed, dishonest, sugarcoated, commercial presentation of natural, biological, healthy, processes of a woman’s reproductive cycle that increase women and girls own negative relationship with our bodies. Let blood be red-all blood. I don’t see how a sanitary pad advert will loose customers if they switch from blue to red in their demonstrations. They will be telling the truth. We need to tell more truths about women and women’s bodies-even if it’s something as simple and honest as the fact that we bleed red. Not blue.