Girl power: assuring girls that bears and sharks won’t attack

Did you hear that drinking pineapple juice can help prevent pregnancy? Or that sharks and bears can tell when a girl is menstruating and will emerge from the depths and attack?

Ridiculous you say? The sort of thing perpetuated in backward cultures overseas? Sadly these false rumors and urban legends are popular among our boys and girls here who aren’t getting the facts about their bodies and how they work.

Bad information isn’t a joke. The consequences range from big problems like increased risk of teen pregnancy, to less-acknowledged ones, like girls sitting on the sidelines instead of participating in sports and social activities. Just watch MTV’s lineup and you see it – the show “16 and Pregnant” is so popular that it spawned “Teen Mom 2.”

Just teen reality shows, some say. They grow out of it? C’mon. It was just 8 months ago that former GOP Senate Candidate Todd Akin famously said “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

How can this ignorance persist when Gloria Steinem, the chief proponent that knowledge about our bodies is power, is still hard at work at 79 years old?

Kotex, the feminine products manufacturer, is taking the lead in a public education campaign to stop the myths, misinformation and embarrassment. Their “Generation Know” program invites anyone with questions to ask, and is debunking myths on tv commercials, online and on packaging. The answers are frank and factual, using moms, doctors and young women as spokeswomen.

But incredibly Adweek magazine reports resistance from the major broadcast networks to air the ads. Reporter Noreen O’Leary writes in the article:” The networks all requested the spots get reworked to avoid use of the word vagina. One of the myths the campaign seeks to dispel is the fear that tampons will get lost inside of users, an idea deemed to be too visually provocative for consumers in the networks’ minds. (Never mind that erectile dysfunction TV ads are allowed to mention side effects like eight-hour erections.)”

Why would American broadcast networks behave like Nepalese state television, a country where girls are dropping out of school once their periods start because they lack feminine hygiene products? Indeed, these girls won’t have the chance to “lean in” with Sheryl Sandberg if they never graduate high school.

By the way, numbers show Kotex’ U Campaign is proving popular with the target audience. Adweek reports “In the campaign’s first month, the brand has seen a 68 percent increase in YouTube traffic and a 379 percent rise in the amount of social conversation.

“Getting consumers talking is key. In the past, ‘you had to dance around the subject like it was a pharmaceutical product, and a period was treated like a disease,’ said Ogilvy account supervisor Terri Mattucci. ‘We really had to push the envelope here. In order to be an honest brand, it’s up to us to be more open in our discussion about it.’”

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About christengraham

President of Giving Strong, Inc. Christen advises businesses, foundations and families for how to make a greater social impact.