In our culture, we women tend to do a lot of concealing about our periods — asking a friend in hushed tones for a tampon, hiding maxi pads in special pockets of our purses, choosing to wear black on heavy days to hide any potential stains. But a new commercial asks: If men got periods too, would we feel more comfortable talking about them?
The commercial, for period-absorbing underwear Thinx, imagines a world where men and adolescent boys get periods. In the opening scene, a boy tells his dad, “I think I got my period.” We also see a man with a blood stained bedsheet, a guy checking the back of his pants in a bathroom mirror and teen boy whose pads fall out of his locker. (A nice girl helps him pick them up, of course.) There are more examples of things girls and women deal with every month too — only it’s all happening with guys instead. I have to say the guy in the locker room with the tampon string hanging out of his boxer briefs made me laugh! (What woman can’t relate?)
In the ad, no one is embarrassed by periods and period products because we all get them. What’s the point of keeping it a secret?
Perhaps period talk tends to be so taboo because it’s a woman thing. We talk to our daughters about their first period, but we don’t talk about menstruation to our sons. (We should!) And if women and men were truly treated equally in our culture, maybe we wouldn’t have to keep our menstruation on the hush hush.
It’s a smart idea from a pretty cool brand — and it should give everyone pause about how we approach conversations about menstruation and the female body in general. Definitely, check it out.
The national TV ad will run on 18 networks across the United States, including: Bravo, E!, Oxygen, BET, MTV, VH1, HGTV, the Food Network, TLC and NBC starting tomorrow.
- Pooja Parikh Traveled Across The World For The HS Diagnosis That Changed Her Life Forever
- Can Men Get Periods?
- What causes IMS?
- What are the symptoms of IMS?
- Lifestyle changes may help
- Lingering mood changes aren’t normal
- Bizarre Feminist “MENstruation” Commercial Shows Men and Boys Getting Their Periods
Pooja Parikh Traveled Across The World For The HS Diagnosis That Changed Her Life Forever
(1) Whenever a guy committed a violent crime, people would ask, “But was he on his period?”
(2) To that measure, any time a man didn’t live up to expectations, we’d all first ask — “But was he on his period?”
(3) Dudes would never be pressured into sex by getting shamed for being a prude for not wanting to have sex while on their period.
(4) Nobody would ask them “Are you on your period?” when they’re having a bad day because, unlike women, men aren’t constantly expected to be smiling all the way through life.
(5) Advertisers would show men lifting heavy things or being extra masculine on their periods (instead of the dainty, happy women you see in ads now).
(6) Dudes would probably brag about it. “Bro, my flow was so heavy today, I had to use three pads.”
(7) As a result, super maximum absorbency pads would attain the status of Magnum condoms.
(8) The government and private companies alike would ensure that men got the very best pad/tampon technology. And all of it would be covered by insurance
(9) Women get told their period makes them make irrational decisions. Men would get told they’re at their most creative things/do their best work when they’re on their period.
(10) Men’s periods would not gross people out like women’s periods do now. We’d all talk about it openly. It wouldn’t be taboo.
(11) There’d be an extra seven days off a month to accommodate for men being in pain for a week. There’s not now, because patriarchy.
(12) Men’s first period would be cause for a giant celebration — it’d be like a bar mitzvah.
(13) For some dudes, periods would be a sacred time when they go into their quiet mancaves and are not allowed any disturbance.
(14) “Heavy flow porn” would be HUGE. (Yes, heavy periods would be fetishized if men got them instead of women.)
(15) Women would constantly be talked down to as “not knowing what pain is really like, at all.”
(16) During the halfway point between their last period and their next period — when men would be most fertile (women are most fertile thirteen to sixteen days after their period) — women would be under IMMENSE pressure to have sex with their male partners.
(17) Dudes would only buy pads. There’s no way they’d ever stick a tampon inside their bodies.
It has passed a Nasa wind test. It has a 68C heated therma-core. Scientists have spent years devising its cross-hatched reinforced Kevlar skeleton and its Twistatec (©) technology which “allows for easy insertion”. What is it? A manpon. And what is a manpon? It’s what tampons would look and be like if men had periods.
In a trilogy of rather brilliant short films, WaterAid imagines how different society would be if it were men who lost the endometrium of their wombs every month. An accompanying survey of 2,000 people found that 78% thought the world of sport would change if men had periods; a quarter thought white sportswear would be banned and that men would brag about their periods; 21% thought that bookmakers would factor menstrual cycles into their odds.
The films bring this alternate reality to vivid life. Around the office photocopier, men compare flows: the heavier the better. In WaterAid’s second film, football commentators talk blithely about a player being the most likely to score because he’s “on day two of his cycle” and “right in the optimum performance zone this month”. Wait, there’s an optimum performance zone? I’ve come to the end of my menstruating life without realising that, and I haven’t realised that because there is nothing blithe or casual in how we talk about periods.
I’ve written for a few years now about the dreadful state of things in the developing world, where girls leave school because they don’t have a toilet or sanitary protection, and use sand or rags, or sell sex to buy pads. This is the serious point behind WaterAid’s satire: a petition to provide latrines or toilets for the 1.2 billion women who don’t have one. They have been timed, too, to appear just before Menstrual Hygiene Day, which is today. This satire isn’t new: Gloria Steinem’s wonderful essay If Men Could Menstruate still resonates, nearly 40 years after it appeared in Ms Magazine (“Young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day”).
But the films are still powerful, not least because they make me think about things nearer to home, where I do have a toilet, and always have had, and have always been able to buy sanitary pads or tampons – though they are, ridiculously, taxed, while disposable razors are not. Within the security of such luxury, it’s easy to laugh at Menstrual Hygiene Day. Yesterday was International Otter Day. But WaterAid’s ads should puncture such smugness. Instead, as well as all the daft images of women running along beaches in white trousers, and the notorious but now rarer blue liquid, the message is still: Hide! Disguise your tampons as sweets, and your pads as gift-wrapped packages. I looked on the Tampax website for its latest advertising, and once its clunky player actually worked, I saw an advert showing a high-jumper being confronted by the cunning Mother Nature – a mature, beautiful woman dressed in witchy green – before leaping over a high jump to a voiceover of beating your obstacles.
My period can be annoying, painful and inconvenient. But it’s not an obstacle. I don’t need to fight Mother Nature or jump high-jumps. But I do need sanitary product manufacturers to develop an ounce of the wit and warmth of WaterAid’s ads. And I’d like them to fix the many ways in which we, in our secure world of privacy and plumbing, are still getting periods colossally wrong.
In the US, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has been trying for years to get a bill passed that would require tampon manufacturers to be more transparent about the chemical content of their products. There is no data, she says, that proves tampons are “unequivocally safe”. The Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act is named after a woman who died of toxic shock syndrome (yes, that still exists), and wants independent testing of all sanitary products (or anything that goes near or in the vagina, though that’s not in the text) done by the National Institutes of Health. Although the US Food and Drug Administration requires tampon manufacturers to report dioxin levels, there are other byproducts of tampon manufacture that are of concern. I’ve written often about the absurdity of half the world using dry toilet paper to cleanse the dirtiest part of our bodies; that’s almost dwarfed by the leeway given to an industry that makes products that are inserted into or used near one of the most absorbent parts of a woman’s body.
You won’t read about this in adverts for “feminine hygiene” (because of course having periods makes us dirty). Nor will you see any reference to the fact that women throw away, on average, 125-150kg of sanitary products in a lifetime, adding up to 200,000 tonnes of sanitary waste per year. Tampons and pads make up 10% of things flushed down toilets, a fact that makes wastewater workers despair, as well as beach cleaners: in a 2010 Beachwatch survey, for every kilometre of beach, 22.5 towels, panty liners or backing strips were found, and 8.9 tampon applicators.
So laugh at Menstrual Hygiene Day if you want to. And definitely laugh at WaterAd’s brilliant ads. After that, let’s start to seriously clean up periods, and I don’t mean fragrantly.
That’s the opening line of Thinx’s new ad campaign, uttered by a young boy to his dad. In the next frame, a man rolls over in bed to reveal a blood stain on his sheets. Later, another man walks through a locker room with a tampon string peeking out from his briefs. These are, of course, everyday occurrences for people who get periods. Thinx’s ad reframes those experiences by asking: What if we all had periods?
The campaign—which bears the fitting tongue-in-cheek title “MENstruation”—is Thinx’s first ad on national TV and the first such campaign to be launched by a period underwear company. (This ad features cisgender men, but Thinx has previously run advertising with transgender men; the brand also carries more gender-neutral styles that are inclusive of all people with periods.) Thinx recruited advertising agency BBDO to create the campaign, which will run on 18 networks across the U.S., from NBC to Bravo, starting next week. Also in the mix are audio segments that will air on Spotify and podcast advertisements.
This ad certainly makes a statement on its own, but the intent is to introduce Thinx to people who don’t even know period underwear exists, let alone know the brand, and turn them into customers. (The company’s target is to reach 50% of women between the ages of 18 and 49 by the end of the year.) While Thinx has customers across the country, its base tends to be in urban areas. “A key piece of this is we need people to know that we exist,” says Maria Molland, who took over as CEO in 2017 and rehabilitated the startup after reports of poor benefits, pay, and work culture. “But our challenge is: There’s a lot of people who love the brand, but they don’t necessarily convert into customers because it’s such a behavior change.”
The research Thinx conducted before producing the ad was encouraging. Molland says product consideration—the percentage of people surveyed who are very likely to buy or will buy the product—was 58%, as compared to the typical figure of about 42%.
While the campaign feels like a stylistic departure from some of Thinx’s previous advertising, the brand is no stranger to pushing the envelope. In 2015, the New York subway ran a Thinx ad campaign—after nearly rejecting it—that featured suggestive images of a grapefruit cut in half and runny eggs. “We’ve always created very thought-provoking brand campaigns,” says chief brand officer Siobhan Lonergan. “So we wanted to take some of what makes Thinx really Thinx and embed that into the creative concept.”
The ad closes with the line “If we all had them, maybe we’d be more comfortable with them,” then cuts to an image of Thinx’s product. “We really fed into the duality of comfort—the idea of society being more comfortable, but also the fact that our product is a much more comfortable solution on your periods,” Lonergan says.
Can Men Get Periods?
Like women, men experience hormonal shifts and changes. Every day, a man’s testosterone levels rise in the morning and fall in the evening. Testosterone levels can even vary from day to day.
Some claim that these hormonal fluctuations may cause symptoms that mimic the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including depression, fatigue, and mood swings.
But are those monthly hormonal swings regular enough to be called a “male period”?
Yes, claims psychotherapist and author Jed Diamond, PhD. Diamond coined the term Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS) in his book of the same name, to describe these hormonal fluctuations and the symptoms they cause, based on a true biological phenomenon observed in rams.
He believes cisgender men experience hormonal cycles like women. That’s why these cycles have been described as “man-struation” or the “male period.”
A woman’s period and hormonal changes are the result of her natural reproductive cycle, sex therapist Janet Brito, PhD, LCSW, CST says. “The hormonal changes she endures are in preparation for possible conception. men do not experience the cycle of producing ovocytes, nor do they have a uterus that gets thicker to prepare for a fertilized egg. And if conception does not occur, they do not have a uterine lining that will be released from the body as blood through the vagina, which is what is referred to as a period or menstruation,” Brito explains.
“In this definition, men do not have these types of periods.”
However, Brito notes that men’s testosterone levels can vary, and some factors can influence testosterone levels. As these hormones shift and fluctuate, men may experience symptoms.
The symptoms of these fluctuations, which may share some similarities with symptoms of PMS, may be as close to “male periods” as any man will get.
What causes IMS?
IMS is supposedly the result of dipping and oscillating hormones, specifically testosterone. However, there’s no medical evidence of IMS.
However, it’s true that testosterone plays an important role in a man’s physical and mental well-being, and the human body works to regulate it. But factors unrelated to IMS can cause testosterone levels to change. This is thought to lead to unusual symptoms.
Factors that can influence hormonal levels include:
- age (a man’s testosterone levels start declining as early as age 30)
- changes in diet or weight
- lack of sleep
- eating disorders
These factors can also impact a man’s psychological well-being, Brito adds.
What are the symptoms of IMS?
The symptoms of so-called IMS mimic some of the symptoms women experience during PMS. However, IMS doesn’t follow any physiological pattern the way a woman’s period follows her reproductive cycle, as no hormonal basis of IMS exists. That means these symptoms may not occur regularly, and there may be no pattern to them.
Symptoms of IMS are vague and have been suggested to include:
- confusion or mental fogginess
- low self-esteem
- low libido
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, there is likely something else going on. Some of these symptoms may be the result of testosterone deficiency. Testosterone levels do naturally fluctuate, but levels that are too low can cause problems, including:
- lowered libido
- behavior and mood problems
If these symptoms persist, make an appointment to talk with your doctor. This is a diagnosable condition and can be treated.
Likewise, middle-aged men may experience symptoms as their natural levels of testosterone begin to fall. This condition, colloquially called andropause, is sometimes referred to as male menopause.
“When it comes to andropause, which does show up in the research, the symptoms tend to be fatigue, low libido, and tends to affect middle-aged men due to low testosterone levels,” Dr. Brito says.
Lastly, the term male period or man-struation is used colloquially to refer to blood found in urine or feces. However, Brito says, bleeding from the male genitals is often the result of parasites or an infection. No matter where the blood is located, you need to see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan as soon as possible.
Lifestyle changes may help
IMS isn’t a recognized medical diagnosis, so “treatment” aims to:
- manage symptoms
- adapt to the emotions and mood swings when they occur
- find ways to relieve stress
Exercise, eating a healthy diet, finding ways to relieve stress, and avoiding alcohol and smoking may help stop these symptoms from happening. These lifestyle changes can also help a variety of physical and mental symptoms.
However, if you believe your symptoms may be the result of low testosterone, see your doctor.
Testosterone replacement may be an option for some men with low hormone levels, but it does come with risks.
If your doctor suspects another underlying cause, they can schedule tests and procedures to help rule out other problems.
If you believe your partner shows signs of severe hormonal changes or low testosterone, one of the best ways to help him is to have a conversation. You can help him seek out professional help and find ways to manage any symptoms, regardless of their underlying cause.
Lingering mood changes aren’t normal
Bad days that cause crabby attitudes are one thing. Persistent emotional or physical symptoms are something entirely different, and they’re a possible indication that you should see your doctor.
“ are serious if they are bothering you. See a doctor if your symptoms bother you. See a sex therapist if you need help revitalizing your sex life or see a mental health professional if you are experiencing depression or anxiety,” Brito says.
Likewise, if you’re bleeding from your genitals, you should seek medical attention. This isn’t a form of a male period and instead may be a sign of an infection or other condition.
“Men definitely have hormonal changes that can be noted monthly,” Dr Diamond informs me. “And these subtle hormonal fluctuations – that occur in most men – have generally been ignored.
“Many men report changes in mood, sexual desire and physical well-being that they find occur at similar times every month. For some men the symptoms are so subtle as to be unnoticeable. For others, they may be more significant and could even be as uncomfortable as those that many women experience.”
“The physical side of a period is grim – and there isn’t any way a man can know that unless he’s got seriously bad piles” Emma Barnett
Dr Diamond believes that the ‘man period’, or IMS (irritable male syndrome), is caused by biochemical changes in the male body. Every month, when levels of certain hormones – testosterone, epinephrine, leptin or thyroxine – oscillate and become unbalanced, men appear to briefly experience the same emotional symptoms that women exhibit during their monthly menstruation.
“IMS is a state of hypersensitivity, anxiety, frustration and anger,” continues Dr Diamond. “The hormonal changes that are associated with monthly cycles are generally more subtle in men and don’t last as long. However, as I indicated, for some men the symptoms can be severe. And these symptoms can vary greatly. In the same way that some women have symptoms that are mild and unnoticeable and some that are very severe, men’s symptoms also show a wide range.”
Testosterone is just one of the male hormones that changes levels in cycles Credit: Getty
Whilst Dr Diamond has penned three books and many academic articles attempting to prove the existence of the ‘man period’, there remain those who are sceptical.
Doctor Stephen Hurel is a consultant physician and endocrinologist at London Bridge Hospital. Whilst acknowledging that male hormones do present in cycles, Dr Hurel believes there to be no evidence that this happens on a monthly basis. He goes as far as suggesting that the ‘man period’ is a complete fallacy.
- When it comes to pain, men get off lightly
“The hormonal changes that occur in women,” explains Dr Hurel, “are the result of fluxes in gonadotropin and sex hormones that are preparing for ovulation and the support of a fertilised egg in the womb. This monthly oestrous cycle is nature’s way of preparing women for the possibility of conception.
“Men do not exhibit this cycle,” continues Hurel. “Male testosterone levels have been found to vary on a day-to-day basis – with the higher levels of between 7am and 9am falling during the course of a day. But this is a purely circadian rhythm.
“There is neither evidence nor rationale to suggest that the monthly female cycle, and its resulting physical symptoms, is mimicked in men.”
Last year, Wateraid ran a campaign titled ‘If men had periods’ Credit: Youtube
Even if Dr Diamond had unquestionable evidence proving that men follow a hormonally-charged monthly cycle, would we be correct in labelling it a ‘man period’?
Dr Estelle Ramey, a celebrated feminist endocrinologist, once wrote that “the evidence of hormonal cycles in men may be less dramatic, but the monthly changes are no less real.” Dr. Ramey may have sided with Diamond on the hormone debate, but if she had known that men would label their cycle a ‘man period’, would she have been so quick to draw comparisons?
Emma Barnett, women’s editor of The Telegraph, suggests not. “I think the terminology of it is reductive,” she tells me. “To reduce a period to emotion means you’re not grasping what is physically a very difficult thing.
“The concept of a ‘man period’ demeans both men and periods,” she continues. “Because what you’re doing is attaching a higher prominence to the emotional aspect of a period to define it, rather than the physical. And, actually, the physical side of a period is grim – and there isn’t any way a man can know that unless he’s got seriously bad piles.”
- Five surprising ways to increase your testosterone levels
Barnett believes that men shouldn’t appropriate certain gendered terminology before they truly understand what it means to women. She believes that because husbands, boyfriends and even fathers tend to shy away from discussions surrounding the physical process of menstruation, they have falsely identified the defining characteristic of a period to be emotional changes.
Would men have appropriated the ‘period’ label if they fully understood the physical aspects of menstruation? Credit: Alamy
“Periods mean more than just emotion,” explains Barnett. “So to label it a ‘period’, ‘man’ or otherwise, is wrong. I don’t think men need to have that same phrase or terminology to describe what is essentially a mood cycle. I don’t think their experience needs to be conflated with menstruating because, despite being hormonally-driven, it’s not the same.”
Barnett also objects to the use of the word ‘period’ as a blanket term for all episodes of irritability or grumpiness. “I feel like it’s cashing in on what has been quite a pejorative tool or jibe aimed at women. It seems that it’s OK to openly discuss a ‘man period’ because there’s no blood. That’s what annoys me – that it makes headlines when men say they’re going to get a period – even though they don’t experience the key physical process of menstruating.
Emma Barnett believes men should not covet periods Credit: Alamy
“And that’s what makes a period a period.”
- What would the world look like if men had periods?
Bizarre Feminist “MENstruation” Commercial Shows Men and Boys Getting Their Periods
It’s apparently a concept that the brand “Thinx” came up with as an ad for their line of period panties. Only it’s not telling you how well they work, if they’re comfortable, or what benefits buying their brand over other brands will give you.
No, they’re going to sell panties by wagging their fingers at men for the crime of being men who don’t get periods.
The commercial, released earlier this month, starts with a boy telling his father that he’s gotten his period, and proceeds to put men in the place of women in various situations when their period starts, including a man rolling over while he’s sleeping and leaving a small bloodstain where he once was.
Rebirth of a Nation? Forget Washington – A Group of Homeless People Have Formed Their Own Government
Other instances include a student having his pads fall out of his locker when he opens it, having to ask for one from a co-worker, and two lovers informing each other that they’re on their period before they start doing whatever it is they were going to start doing.
The commercial ends with a swipe at men’s “discomfort” with periods.
“If we all had them, maybe we’d be more comfortable with them,” reads some text on the screen.
At the time of this writing, the ad has not been taken well. On YouTube, it currently has 6.4k dislikes to its 1.9k likes. Also, the comments have been disabled for the video, signaling that reactions from viewers have been less than kind.
As well they should be.
The narrative that men are somehow bothered by periods is a feminist myth. Being around females all our lives, periods aren’t exactly anything new, and while some people may be grossed out by blood, it’s not exactly something the entire male population loses its mind over. Both men and women can hate the sight of blood, no matter where it comes from.
Regardless, it’s a tired narrative being pushed here, not to mention a divisive one. Using anti-male sentiment to push products is old hat, and usually doesn’t go over well with the population at large. You can ask Gillette about that.
(READ: Gillette’s “Woke” Ad That Insulted Men Cost P&G Billions)
The bottom line is that men understand periods. We know why women have them. Just because we don’t have them ourselves doesn’t mean we can’t sympathize with women. In fact, men spend a bit of their time in resources attempting to comfort women while they have them. Anyone who is or has been in a romantic relationship with a woman can attest to it.
As far as I’m concerned, Thinx is just another company with some really bad values.
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Tags: Feminism men periods Thinx Women
The perpetually enraged One Million Moms (OMM) has started a petition in protest of a commercial about men menstruating.
The company Thinx makes underwear for menstrual hygiene. They released an ad that asks what the world would be like if cisgender men had periods too, about how that would normalize it as a topic of discussion.
Related: One Million Moms targets Taco Bell for commercial that dares to say ‘hell’
It’s a pretty innocuous ad that says, “If we all had them, maybe we’d be more comfortable with them.”
But not to the folks at OMM – a project of the American Family Association – who called it “twisted,” “crass,” and “damaging to young people who are already navigating the uncertainties of puberty amidst the constant push of liberal agendas.”
“Society does not need Thinx to normalize periods between genders by airing a commercial with such crudeness and sensationalism,” OMM said on its website.
But then OMM gets to the point: “Women and men are different. Men do not menstruate… ever. Period.”
That is the point of the Thinx ad: some people don’t menstruate and we’re not used to hearing them talk about periods.
OMM may have thought that the ad is a reference to transgender men and non-binary people who menstruate because the topic that was in the news earlier this week when the brand Always announced that it will be removing the female symbol from the packaging of its sanitary pads.
Their site has a petition asking Thinx to remove the ad that it claims over 8000 people have signed.
“Women, who are your target market, and even men are offended by your newest MENstruation campaign,” the petition reads. “Your MENstruation commercial is crude and crass! Not only do you blur gender lines, you totally destroy them.”
Thinx has hired gender non-conforming models for their products in the past.
Periods have been around as long as people (longer even), yet the monthly event that occurs in half the population is still a taboo subject. One company in the U.K. is doing their part to help eliminate the stigma and get period talk out in the open. That means enabling everyone to discuss menstruation, even people who don’t look like they would deal with periods. For the first time, a trans man, starring in a campaign for periods, is helping to bring the conversation of menstruation to the mainstream.
Pink Parcel is a subscription service in the U.K. that delivers tampons and other period-themed goods directly to customers. Their latest campaign, titled “I’m On,” is aimed at reducing period shame and encouraging men and women to discuss periods. One way Pink Parcel is reducing the shame is by featuring Kenny, a trans man who appears in the new campaign. Kenny spoke to Pink Parcel about what it’s like to deal with periods while not identifying as a woman.
Still getting his period in the early stages of his transition, Kenny says that one of the biggest issues with dealing with periods, whether or not you identify as a woman, is the lack of discussion and information available. “I think this is a topic that is rarely discussed since so many transgender individuals will attempt to hide this point of their life,” said Kenny. “I believe the biggest misconception is that it will be over in a flash – it stays with you forever. Even though I no longer bleed, I still have the pain of periods from time to time.”
Kenny told Pink Parcel that getting his first period was one of the earliest indicators that his body did not match his gender. “I remember that my body didn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t want my period and there was a lot of confusion within myself. It did make me realize that periods weren’t something I wanted to happen to me and it motivated and pushed me to further my transition.”
It’s pretty amazing to see a company working towards ending period shame, while also featuring a model that represents a group that is often forgotten about when it comes to menstruating. Now if we could just convince tampon and pad companies to cool it with the blue water. Trust us, it’s not blue.