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2021-05-25 12:05:03

A Chinese company’s new line of sanitary products is facing backlash over an ad campaign some have accused of period shaming.

In a promotional video posted last week to microblogging platform Weibo, sanitary products brand Sofy heralded a coming “disposal revolution” thanks to its new products, which come with extra adhesives so the pads can be rolled up and sealed before being thrown away.

The comment section under the video was soon flooded with negative feedback from women, who pointed out that Sofy’s Weibo account didn’t even use the term “sanitary pads,” instead replacing it with the hashtag “auntie pads” — an antiquated euphemism for such products in China. By turning the biological term “menstruation” into something vague, critics said, the company was adding a layer of awkwardness to a natural bodily process, making it more shameful to openly discuss.

“What kind of advertisement is this? Do you fold paper towels and tissues before disposing of them? If not, why is this an issue when it comes to sanitary pads?” one user commented under Sofy’s post. “Is this yet another way of stigmatizing menstruation? Shouldn’t people just throw away pads the same way they throw away paper towels?”

Left: Sofy’s new line of period products; right: A rolled-up and sealed Sofy sanitary pad. From Weibo

Left: Sofy’s new line of period products; right: A rolled-up and sealed Sofy sanitary pad. From Weibo

However, among the many angry comments were others agreeing that rolling up sanitary pads could help eliminate some hygiene problems for cleaning staff, and suggesting that the deluge of criticism was perhaps too extreme.

“I’ve been tossing rolled-up pads my whole life and I’m not offended by the ad,” another Weibo user wrote under the video. “People who think that way are being too sensitive.”

Period shaming has been a hot-button issue in China and elsewhere in recent years. On social platform Douban, users have been comparing what they view as Sofy’s attempt to monetize women’s needs to another tone-deaf product, Pinky Gloves — a pair of pink gloves for women to wear when removing and throwing away their tampons, launched last year by a pair of German men.

Because there are so many voices in society talking down to women and telling them what to do, it’s hardly surprising that they felt offended.

Many women have expressed doubts about the necessity of such “ludicrous” products.

Last October, “period poverty” became a buzzword in China after women said they couldn’t afford menstrual pads. In response to a growing online campaign, dubbed “Stand By Her,” 126 universities in China added dispensers in campus bathrooms to provide free sanitary pads to anyone in need of one.

However, what started as a positive movement aimed at destigmatizing menstruation soon became a target of jokes from male students, who designed their own bathroom dispensers containing cigarettes or tissues they could use to clean up after masturbating.

Chen Yaya, a gender researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told Sixth Tone that Sofy’s advertisement seemed like a classic example of a marketing flop.

“The company should start with satisfying customers’ needs instead of lecturing them,” Chen said, adding that most women already roll up their pads before throwing them away. “But because there are so many voices in society talking down to women and telling them what to do, it’s hardly surprising that they felt offended.”

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Sofy’s new sanitary pad featuring adhesive tape for easy sealing. From Weibo)