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Indian Ads on Periods Have Got It All Wrong, and Here’s How to Fix That

While on their period, women don’t get abnormal bouts of energy, and neither do they bleed blue. Here’s how Indian ads misrepresent menstruation.

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The manner in which menstrual products are represented in Indian TV commercials has a lot to do with how society perceives menstruation in the first place. Not only do these ads depict society’s stigmatised view of menstruation as being filthy and taboo, but they also further validate it.

Advertisements are made with the sole purpose of selling the product. It doesn’t matter, then, if they manifest the negative cultural perceptions surrounding menstruation, and, as a result, strengthen the stigma attached to women’s bodies. As long as the product is selling, it’s all good.

The purpose of this article is to analyse how menstruation is represented in Indian advertisements and to deconstruct the underlying meaning of the recurrent imagery and language used in these commercials.

Let’s start by discussing the premise under which these ads are created. While marketing sanitary pads to their Indian consumers, most ads are concocted under one theme – women empowerment.

The girls jump fences, run for social causes, become abnormally bright and breezy, and why? Because they’re wearing a sanitary pad. These pads will protect them, save them and boost their confidence.

Heck, it’ll even make them scale mountains with no special skill needed, thank you.

Screengrab of Stayfree’s 2017 advertisement

At the same time, however, these ads depict menstruation as a debilitating evil. One that affects their sleep, their school grades, and their career prospects. The women are awkward, irritated and repulsed by it.

Stayfree’s 2008 commercial ran with the tagline ‘Kisi bhi roop ke sath samjhauta nahi’. The woman in the ad wouldn’t have to compromise with whatever role she chose to play – whether that of a teacher or a loving daughter – thanks to Stayfree’s ultra thin, secure, dry sanitary pads.

The fact that the ad assumes that a woman is somehow compromising with her true identity, or is always low on self-esteem when she’s on her period makes menstruation look like some kind of a disease.


In collaboration with Aakar Innovations, The Better India is setting up a sanitary pad manufacturing unit in Ajmer, Rajasthan, that will not only produce eco-friendly or biodegradable sanitary pads, but will also employ women from rural communities around the area.

Contribute for the campaign here.

Unable to view the above button? Click here


A recurring imagery in these ads is the use of the colour white. From their clothes to the bed sheets, everything is white. Even the walls and curtains are white! What won’t be immediately evident to the consumer is that here, white is a major subtext, which marks a clear distinction between regular happy days – when not on the period – and ‘those days’.

The advert tries to tell the consumer, ‘Hey, you can wear or sit on anything that’s white, take these pads and rest assured you’ll never stain.”

However, what it actually does is use a concealment strategy in a more convincing white environment.

Screengrab of Whisper India’s 2013 advertisement

Their desperation to eliminate and exclude any sign or ‘mark’ that would prove the woman is menstruating becomes evident with these reappearing images of all-things-white.

Experiences of menstruation are different for every woman, but there’s one thing that all of us have in common – we don’t bleed blue. The misrepresentation of menstrual blood as a blue gel is problematic on so many levels. Although meant for those who menstruate, these ads are created keeping in mind the discomfort society would go through if they saw the dirty, unholy period blood.

Even though it is just a gel, why can’t it be red in colour?

From Whisper India’s 2017 ad

Hence, the aspirations of the advertisement match the socio-cultural aspirations of society.

Forget period blood; the ad protagonists don’t even talk about periods. They may sometimes refer to period days as ‘un dinon’ or ‘those days’, or not mention it at all. Whisper’s 2014 ad elaborates this. A girl sits dejectedly, worrying about her upcoming hockey match. Her mother reassures she will win and presents to her Whisper’s special dry-weave top sheet sanitary pads.

Note here that there was absolutely no dialogue between the two about menstruation. The mother, with her special psychic abilities, knew that if her daughter was upset about something, it had to be because she was menstruating. Because what else could it be, right? She can’t be nervous about her hockey match for sure!

One ad that strayed away from the usual template format was Whisper’s ‘Touch the Pickle’ that set out to break a common taboo associated with menstruation. However, it looks like it was the only TV commercial of its kind.

Perhaps Indian ads could start with referring to menstruation directly, without shame or hesitation, and not dehumanise menstrual flow like they do currently. A direct conversation between the mother and daughter, with no use of euphemisms. Maybe they could even involve the brother or father in the dialogue, and stop adolescent girls from being embarrassed about a normal, physiological process they undergo every month.


In collaboration with Aakar Innovations, The Better India is setting up a sanitary pad manufacturing unit in Ajmer, Rajasthan, that will not only produce eco-friendly or biodegradable sanitary pads, but will also employ women from rural communities around the area.

Contribute for the campaign here.

Unable to view the above button? Click here


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Written by Deepika Bhardwaj

When she's not resolving conflicts between belief and desire, she's letting her mornings be consumed by Coltrane and leaving her nights in the hands of Hendrix. An average singer and lover of graphic novels, Deepika tries to proper your noun for a living.