The menstruation ads are getting smarter. At first, commercials for feminine hygiene products were simple affairs, featuring kicky beach scenes and earnest women in white pants. Then the companies turned on themselves, producing winkingly modern tampon commercials mocking terrible vintage tampon commercials in order to sell more tampons. Last year, mail-order tampon service Hello Flo upped the ante by producing advertisements that take the form of full-fledged comedy shorts starring pint-sized period queens in precarious situations. And now, sanitary pad brand Always has enlisted The Queen of Versailles director Lauren Greenfield to give its menstruation solution the documentary treatment.
To film the ad, “#LikeAGirl,” Greenfield recruited a group of women, men, and boys and asked them to step in front of her camera and act out certain scenarios. When Greenfield asked them to model what it looks like to “run like a girl,” they responded with generalized flailing. The prompt to “fight like a girl” produced ineffectual thrashing. And when Greenfield asked them to “throw like a girl,” their arms went limp. Then, Greenfield brought in a group of young girls and asked them the same questions. When these girls were asked to act “like a girl,” they ran fast, fought fiercely, and threw as hard as they could. Cue soaring music and a plug for always.com.
The ad is ostensibly a promotion for Always’ new campaign to “champion girls’ confidence” as they transition from childhood to adolescence. But when I go to the website like the film prompts me to, I mostly just find links to buy the product. These companies have discovered that women and girls want to see clever, funny, and revelatory stories about themselves on screen, and good for them. But it’s a little sad that all of this enthusiasm for women’s stories are leading us directly to a box of maximum protection with wings, while female filmmakers and characters are still so underrepresented at the box office.