At least once in our lives, many of us will have used a euphemistic phrase to describe the arrival of our period; there are so many of them and some of them are so funny, it’s hard not to. But the reason this endless list of euphemisms exists is, in part, a discomfort with talking about periods in an upfront and open way. Often there’s a sense of embarrassment or shame around the subject: young women are made to feel that they should hide the fact that they’re on their period and be discreet like the sanitary products they use purport to be. It’s wrong that people who go through the perfectly natural, if unenjoyable, experience of periods should be made to feel ashamed or unable to talk about it.
Bodyform apparently think this too, which is why they’ve decided to really open up the conversation around periods with… period emojis. The company have launched a social media campaign and a Change.org petition in an attempt to get Unicode to add period emojis, or Femojis, to the official keyboard. They’ve even created totally realistic text exchanges to show why Femojis just need to happen.
— Bodyform (@bodyform) 29 February 2016
Nicola Coronado, Marketing Director at Bodyform said the company’s aim with the emojis is “to break down the taboos around periods. There are currently 1620 emojis on the Unicode keyboard, but for the important things in life, like our periods, there is no way to express ourselves in this new universal language. And let’s be honest, if an aubergine can prosper on your list of frequently used emojis, we’re certain that you can find a million-and-one uses for Bodyform femojis!”
Some things are indeed hard to say, but in this particular case a set of emojis won’t make expression any easier. In cases like these anti-bullying emojis I could see the point; it can be hard to find the right thing to say tactfully to another person when they’re upset and there should be a way to simply say ‘I support you’ that’s warmer and less robotic than the phrase itself. But in the case of my period there’s already a word: it’s period. It’s a straightforward part of my biology and having an emoji to replace it won’t make it any easier to say out loud, if anything it’ll just make it more difficult. I’d rather someone was able to message me or turn to me to say ‘I’m on my period’ comfortably and without compunction than to send me a cartoon of some blood stained knickers.
— Bodyform (@bodyform) 1 March 2016
Teach people not to be ashamed of talking about their periods by actually talking about them, rather than replacing the phrases with associated images than can’t be used in actual conversation. “What’s wrong, Becky?” “Um, I’m feeling a bit half balloon woman, y’know?” Basically, Bodyform, you’re not removing the taboo around talking about periods by continuing to stop us comfortably using the word.
Besides this, one of the most fun things about emojis is using them euphemistically, that’s why the aubergine is so popular. Is it because you had weekend tryst or is it because you finally mastered that aubergine parmigiana? Both make for an exciting Saturday. We don’t need an emoji that acts as a literal representation of absolutely every human experience.
This seems to me like another example of this new incarnation of advertising towards women that tries to act like it’s empowering us but actually patronises us. How surprising that a brand that sells us products for our periods thinks we need emojis for the experience. How surprising that a brand that charges us and profits from something we can’t help want to be seen to be on our side. I’m not embarrassed to talk about my period, but I am embarrassed by this.