Ana Veciana-Suarez

Most every father I know, as well as women of a certain age, can recount a funny story about the terrible timing of menstrual cycles and the consequent emergency shopping for feminine products. The tales come loaded with embarrassment and euphemisms for what is a pedestrian bodily function.

My husband once confided how awkward it was when his 10-year-old daughter got her first period on his watch. Divorced and single, he rushed to buy sanitary napkins at the drugstore, where the variety of products overwhelmed him until a helpful employee offered him a box. Twenty years and many periods later, the incident still elicits nervous laughter and an inside joke: "Sticky side down."

In my era, sometime after the advent of color television and before the dawn of the Internet age, girls talked about "my friend" when alerting others about "that time of the month." We bought tampons surreptitiously and preferred turning down a dinner date to discussing cramps with a man.

Thank goodness times have changed. Kotex, maker of perhaps the best-known fem-care products, has launched an advertising campaign, U by Kotex, that might have once prompted parents to send children out of the room. Now the ads are being praised for their frankness, and rightly so.

In one, a young woman mocks the ridiculously bucolic commercials of yesteryear. "How do I feel about my period?" she asks rhetorically. "We're like this. I love it."

The actress goes on to say, tongue-in-cheek, how her period makes her want to hold soft things, run on a beach and twirl -- in white spandex, of course. "Usually, by the third day, I really just want to dance."

Yeah, right.

The ad ends with a question: "Why are tampon ads so ridiculous?" and finally, "Break the cycle."

The spoof, which uses clips from old Kotex commercials, is sure to elicit high fives from every woman who has survived monthly backaches, monstrous headaches, debilitating cramps, emotional roller-coaster rides and breakouts that change the topography of her face. Finally, straight talk about the mundane.

Yet three television networks told the ad agency that the word "vagina" could not be used in advertising, according to The New York Times. When the company substituted "down there," two networks turned it down again.

How quaint coming from media outlets that think nothing of running suggestive commercials for erectile dysfunction drugs. (Granted, those ads -- separate bathtubs in a Cialis spot, for pete's sake! -- are a hoot, and do little to further the cause of candor.)

On its Web site,, the campaign is informative. A two-minute video, "Using a Tampon for the First Time," includes the tip of propping a leg up to ease insertion. The site asks girls to sign a Declaration of Real Talk.

I often write about the lack of civility in our society, about the coarseness in public debate, but these ads have nothing to do with that. There's a difference between crudeness and cliche, between invectiveness and euphemism. The Kotex campaign proves refreshing because it erases the evasiveness surrounding a normal and healthy experience all women share.

Finally, a period is no reason to blush. Finally, it's time to say, "So long, my friend."


Copyright © Ana Veciana-Suarez. All rights reserved.







Women's Health - Kotex Ads Take a Refreshingly Frank Approach