Free, Empowered, and Environmentally Conscious: How Neoliberal and Second Wave Feminist Ideals Shape Menstrual Commercials and Citizenship



Lysa, Olha

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Menstruation carries a dual nature in United States society. It is celebrated as a sign of fertility and womanhood while simultaneously being seen as dirty, wasteful, and shameful. Since the industrial revolution, menstrual hygiene products were advertised as tools to not only keep the body clean and odor free, but also hide all signs of menstruation. In 2021, advertisements of menstrual products convey a message of empowerment and freedom, promoting themselves as champions and leaders of feminism. However, despite this seemingly feminist portrayal, underneath the surface messaging, the same advertisements carry on the same themes of shame and secrecy. Two primary theoretical frameworks are seen in these adverts, Second Wave Feminist ideas of empowerment and universal womanhood and neoliberal concept of solutions through commerce. Menstrual, neoliberal and environmental citizenship is defined by those who can afford to purchase menstrual hygiene products and participate in the marketplace. In this thesis I examine how neoliberalism and Second Wave Feminist framework shape modern menstrual hygiene commercials that appear in media. I conduct a visual and textual examination of eight feminine hygiene product commercials, ranging from sanitary pads, tampons, and eco-friendly alternatives such as menstrual cups and underwear. This thesis discusses ecological citizenship and how it pertains to menstruation due to the fact that Eco-friendliness of the product and of the consumer is a theme in half of the commercials I examine. Due to their theoretical frameworks and messaging, as well as marketing based on perceived class tastes, the commercials and products end up being racist, classist, and gendered in both the images and language that they use and by creating an exclusion/inclusion dynamic.



Menstruation, Advertisements, Second Wave Feminism, Neoliberal, Citizenship, Eco-friendly