The Imageries of Menstruation in Sanitary Napkin Ads: Representation and the Practice of Discourse as a Marketing Strategy


Menstruation—a biological event in women’s lives—has both positive and negative meanings, as well as specific socio-cultural connotations. The socio-cultural discourses about menstruation often point toward negative meanings of menstruation and dictate women’s behavior. Questions may arise when menstruation appears in the media—which aspects get emphasized? This paper derives from qualitative and explorative research based on primary and secondary data. It makes an audiovisual analysis of sanitary napkin advertisements that appeared on TV as well as in press media during a particular time period. Drawing understanding of the existing socio-cultural perceptions of menstruation from feminist ethnographic literature, this paper tries to unpack their underlying connections with media representations of menstruation. Within the framework of feminist cultural studies, the paper engages in two levels of analysis; firstly, through the application of specific, technical, analytical tools, it unpacks the strategic meanings of the ads, and secondly, following Stuart Hall’s way of looking at the politics of representation, it explores how socio-cultural discourses of menstruation are attached to the representation of menstruation in these ads. Though some ads attempt to question negative norms and offer alternative representations, the majority of the ads still use the negative discourses surrounding menstruation as a product promotion strategy.