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Let's be more realistic on female hygiene products

Updated: 2015-09-03 11:04
By Emma Gonzalez (China Daily)

Let's be more realistic on female hygiene products

A customer chooses sanitary napkins at a supermarket in Shanghai. [Jing Wei / For China Daily]

Recently I found myself recalling with a Chinese friend our best and worst memories of school.

She remembered physical education as her most hated class, but also that by saying just two powerful words, she was able to skip it: "li jia".

Roughly translated they mean "having a break", but they also refer to the menstrual period.

It was not uncommon for Chinese girls, she told me, to use the words to excuse themselves fro many physical activities.

Back home in Spain, most of my classmates would have preferred to suffer in silence rather than telling anyone that it was "their time of the month".

It would have meant huge embarrassment to admit they could not go on with their normal life, and need a break.

According to the United Kingdom-based Charity Plan, menstruation affects women around 3,500 days of their lifetime. For women across the globe, it's simply a personal and unavoidable fact of life.

But what might differ for women in different markets are the taboos and stigmas that surround this natural process, and in turn the feminine hygiene products that are available.

For example, in European television ads, sanitary napkin and tampon manufacturers encourage women to simply continue with their lives as normal when their period comes.

The women in these ads act merrily as if nothing has happened.

Most feature athletic-looking females swimming, cycling, even mountain climbing, proving that their products allow life to go on smoothly.

These "ulta-active" adverts promote the full gamut of products: Ultra-thin sanitary napkins, odorless towels, silky tampons, under the general motto "less is more".

The message is that given women are enjoying an increasingly dynamic role in society, they demand sanitary protection that allows them to maintain their fast-paced life.

These "perfect-world" adverts, however, are generally mocked in the West as patronizing, and are as far as possible from reality.

But here in China, the whole approach is different.

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