Body Scripts: Cultural Representations

Candace, 26 July 2005, Comments Off on Body Scripts: Cultural Representations
Categories: Bodies, Women's Studies

August 2005’s Cosmopolitan features an ad for Tampax Fresh: “the only cardboard tampon that doesn’t smell like a cardboard tampon.” The image used in this advertisement perpetuates dualistic paradigms and characteristics about women’s bodies.

add for tampax fresh

Beguile your senses.
Succumb to the freshness.

The colour white is associated with purity. This advertisement uses the colour white to symbolize that this menstruating woman is clean. Even though blood is leaving her body this woman has no odour — in fact her menses is fresh-scented. Women’s bodies are associated with nature/the wild and in need of taming/conquering. This leads to viewing their natural body functions as needing to be managed.

The use of water in this image furthers the idea of purity because water is used (symbolically and literally) to cleanse and purify. With water this woman cleanses herself of blood so that she can maintain her purity.

The colour and design of the woman’s gown is suggestive of an angel. The woman is so pure she can sit on top of the water, a biblical allegory. This completes the the virgin/whore dichotomy that Tampax is using to maintain the socially constructed purity of women. Dualistic philosophy associates women with the body and further to this, the female body is seen as being able to take only one of two forms: the virgin or the whore. Women who are sexual cannot be virgins. Women who menstruate are sexual creatures. The conclusion then is that menstruating women must be whores. Women who can hide their blood from scent and sight can pass as virginal. Therefore women should hide the fact of their menstruation.

Women have historically been ostracized from their communities during menstruation. They have been shunned and forbidden to participate in activities. Some suggest that the time of menstruation was an opportunity for women to bond together within their own community of female bodies but since this action was usually not made by personal decision it is not really a choice but external coercion.

Because the female body is so laden with barriers to social equality, many women seek to disassociate themselves from the body in order to be associated with the mind. It is hard to do this when blood flows from between our legs. This image suggests that the mundane reality of life as a fertile woman can be dealt with in sweet scented ways that permit a woman to ignore her sexual self.


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