By now many of you may have seen the commercial disguised as a comedy sketch from HelloFlo, advertising their "period starter kits." The one where, in retaliation for her tween daughter lying about getting her period for the first time, a very devious mom hosts a First Moon Party, full of ostensibly funny sight gags (bobbing for ovaries?) but more intent on humiliating the tween and putting her in her place.
So what's the trouble with a story like this? NPR's Laura Dalrymple had a lot to say on the subject, and here's the gist of it. Many girls like the one in the ad feel confused and pressured to get their periods at just the right time. Many girls feel ashamed and embarrassed if they get their period too early, too late or just not when their friends do. When a girl lies about her period, it's generally because she's feeling something difficult and uncomfortable. In short, it's the perfect time for moms to be empathic and supportive, rather than calculating and intent on humiliating.
Watching this video, we get what we think the company is going for. Periods can be funny, and it's okay to laugh about something awkward that all girls will experience. But the setup in this story makes you laugh at the tween's expense, rather than with her. Instead of minimizing the shame around menstruation, it actually capitalizes on it to teach the tween a lesson. And it uses the mom as the one who does the shaming, which reinforces the idea that moms are at war with their teen daughters, and will use humiliation as a tactic to keep control of them. As big fans of tween girls and helping them overcome shame about their bodies, confusion about what's happening to them, and strengthening their bonds with moms, this ad misses the mark by a mile. Where's Judy Blume when we need her?