Breaking the menstruation taboo – Why India needed a ‘marketing gimmick’

Flashback to seventh grade.
We were told Whisper was coming to school and there was going to be a talk about menstrual health. I personally thought this was a great opportunity to learn more and ask questions from health experts about the monthly cycle. Boys were obviously assigned to “two sports” periods while the girls went to this secret seminar.

This is about fifteen years ago, at a well-known school in Noida.

From a hush-hush topic to the PadMan movement where celebrities, regardless of their gender, are publicly posting a picture of them with a pad in their hand – this is an imperative movement giving a chance to Indians to be more mature about women’s health.

When I first saw the trailer for PadMan, I felt a mix of emotions. Growing up in a country where when I used to go to the chemist to buy sanitary pads, I’m handed over to – either wrapped in a brown paper bag or an otherwise-never-seen black plastic bag. I wondered why. Over years of confusion and guessing, I realized girls were meant to hide these sanitary pads from everyone. This included friends, family and let’s not forget – anyone else standing around the chemist at the time of purchase.

akshay kumar
Picture courtesy: Instagram.com/akshaykumar



PadMan, is not only a movie openly discussing pads – it is being done so by a huge artist. Unfortunately, in a country with 74% literacy, where we claim to be forward thinking in many ways – Bollywood influences the masses more than it should.

Coming to the main reason for this article – I’ve noticed that people have raised questions about the movie’s marketing strategy. I am out of words – Thankfully not literally. The outrage is over ‘wasting pads’. If a person is ‘holding a pad’ and nominating another person to ‘hold it’ – how it is wasting pads? First off, they are perfectly returnable to whomever they belong to and in perfect condition for any woman to use. Even if people decide this is not a good enough reason – isn’t the point of advertising all about displaying the actual product? The fact that huge influencers have taken up this issue is a big deal.

Can you imagine the magnitude of its reach across India? And I mean through all existing platforms – movie, print media, online media, and new media.

Now comes the point where some people are raising the fact that the Instagram ‪#PadManChallenge‬ does not in fact cater to the rural areas. Sadly enough, we have enough reasons to have this challenge on Instagram. Exhibit A:

One of many comments on Akshay Kumar’s Instagram post holding a pad

Many such comments can be found here.

To remove the taboo of just talking about pads, to me, holding out a pad, and posting a picture of it for the world to see – was absolutely necessary. What should be an issue is the tax on sanitary napkins, which deters women from buying pads, further causing reproductive diseases. Marketing gimmick or not, India needed Padman. I am glad we’ve taken the first step to start an open discussion about women’s health.

 

Author: Prachi Tyagi

Public Relations & Marketing Communications Enthusiast