We may be living in modern times, talking about body positivity, equality, feminism and proclaiming self-love, but when it comes to menstruation, no matter how openly one tries to talk about it, there is no denying that the stigma and taboo attached to the subject prevails. There are still households in India that don’t allow their ladies to enter the kitchen, prayer area or even touch things that may be used commonly. Women are often asked to sleep separately, use different washrooms, and not to sit on beds or sofas when they are on their period, for fear that they will make the space dirty since they are ‘impure’ during their periods. Forget baseless traditions, something as basic as buying tampons and sanitary napkins is also a whole other ordeal, with you being handed your basic hygiene products in double layers of newspapers and black bags, as though it were contraband. In the United States too, women have a lack of access to affordable menstrual hygiene products, which is known as period poverty and affects one in five teens.
This isn’t all, think pop culture, and if a female character is agitated, frustrated or in general having a rough day, another character (usually male) will surely roll his eyes and shrug that it must be ‘one of those days’ all for the sake of comedic relief. Or sometimes, to make the gag funnier, they’ll have a female character ask the male if he is ‘PMSing’. It is unfortunate, that despite having the power to sway the opinions and thoughts of millions, pop culture too has failed to show periods as more than just the time of month when women are off their rockers and should be avoided, or smothered with chocolates.
However, colour company Pantone has come up with the most unique idea that hopes to destigmatize this subject. The colour company has partnered with Sweden-based intimate and menstrual health brand, INTIMINA, and launched Period, an “energizing and dynamic red shade that encourages period positivity,” as part of INTIMA’s Seen + Heard campaign. According to Pantone’s website the goal of the campaign is to break down the stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation, and to “enable everyone, regardless of gender and generation to feel comfortable to talk freely and proudly about this natural bodily function.” The campaign also hopes to inspire ‘national and international conversations about periods through creative ideas that portray periods sympathetically and accurately’.
Vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, Laurie Pressman’s statement on the Pantone website read, “An active and adventurous red hue, courageous Period emboldens people who menstruate to feel proud of who they are. To own their period with self-assurance; to stand up and passionately celebrate the exciting and powerful life force they are born with; to urge everyone regardless of gender to feel comfortable to talk spontaneously and openly about this pure and natural bodily function.”
In a press statement, Intimina’s global brand manager, Danela Žagar, said, “Despite the fact that billions of people experience menstruation, it has historically been treated as something that shouldn’t be seen or talked about publicly. And if we look at popular culture, depictions of periods have ranged from wildly inaccurate and unsympathetic to being the subject of jokes and derision.”
The red colour is inspired by a steady menstrual flow, and Pantone and Intimina worked alongside a gynecologist and consulted research published in Medical News Today to develop the shade, however they clarified that the colour is not an accurate depiction of actual menstrual blood, instead it is just a visual identifier that aims at using the power of colour to share stories. While Pantone is most well-known for its Colour of the Year (Classic Blue for this year’s uncertain times on account of the coronavirus pandemic), however it has also launched several colours to promote social, mental health and environmental issues.
Pantone is one of many organisations, individuals, businesses and governments, who have made attempts to promote and boost this movement of ‘period positivity’. Women often miss studies on account of their periods, and in 2018, Scotland became the first country that provided free menstrual hygiene products to students at schools, colleges and universities. This policy was followed by the British government in early 2020. In 2019, Rayka Zehtabchi’s short documentary titled, “Period. End of Sentence,” won an Academy Award. Later in 2019, a non-profit organisation developed and approved a new emoji the ‘drop of blood’ which symbolised menstruation. In India as well, Zomato, the food delivery app, introduced paid period leave for its employees who had a tough time on their periods
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