A new commercial airing in China for Libresse, a Swedish brand of feminine hygiene products, has generated a shower of praise on social media for breaking new ground in menstrual products advertising in China.
The one-minute ad features Chinese actress Zhōu Dōngyǔ 周冬雨, the brand’s Chinese ambassador, who explains why she resonates with the company’s core mission, which is to break down stigmas and normalize periods.
“It’s unfortunate that menstruation has become a taboo topic, something that shouldn’t be talked about publicly. It’s like a ‘no good’ take in filming that needs to be deleted,” the 28-year-old actress says in the video. “The average woman has more than 400 periods in her lifetime. More than 400 menstruation cycles. These days shouldn’t be crossed out carelessly on calendars. These days are important events that deserve to be emphasized with red markers in our life.”
“So, stop hiding your periods,” Zhou says at the ad’s conclusion. “This is what every woman is entitled to do.”
In addition to the empowering message, the commercial pushes the envelope for feminine care product advertising by including an array of red-themed shots to represent menstrual blood.
While the Chinese commercial didn’t go as far as the brand’s ads in Western countries, which used red-colored fluid to demonstrate their pads’ absorbency, it is undoubtedly a refreshing change of pace from conventional Chinese commercials for feminine hygiene products, which usually feature some unnervingly smiley women engaging in activities unrelated to menstruation, mysterious blue liquids being poured on pads, and coded euphemisms for the word period (月经 yuèjīng), such as “the great-aunt” (大姨妈 dàyímā) and “the old friend” (老朋友 lǎopéngyǒu).
The ad is part of Libresse’s “Don’t Hide Your Period” (#月经不隐藏# yuèjīng bú yǐncáng) social media campaign, which seeks to “bring confidence to more Chinese women” and inspire them to “keep it real all the time.”
Since the ad premiered on May 17, the response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive. “I absolutely love this ad and hope there are more commercials like this. When I started telling my male colleagues that I had my period, some of them were surprised to hear in the beginning. But now they are totally fine with it and even ask me what they can do to help me relieve cramps,” a Douban user said (in Chinese).
Orange Umbrella Charity, a Chinese nonprofit dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence and raising awareness about women’s issues, published an article (in Chinese) today in praise of the commercial, saying that while it deserved all the recognition and appreciation it received, the task of smashing taboos around menstruation remains unfinished. “We also need positive coverage in the media, lectures in communities, quality sex education taught in schools, and more straightforward displays of femenie hygiene products in grocery stores,” the organization wrote.
While periods remain a subject cloaked in secrecy and shame for many women in China, Zhou is not the first female celebrity to talk about her menstrual experience openly. In 2016, Chinese swimmer Fù Yuánhuì 傅园慧 made international headlines because of a post-race interview, in which she apologized to her teammates for her performance and said, “My period came last night and I’m really tired right now.” It was a groundbreaking moment in Chinese television and Fu’s candidness inspired a slew of constructive conversations about menstruation stigma back then.