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New Year Honors Marketing

Brands that busted menstruation taboos: The Drum editorial team’s best of 2020


By The Drum Reporters, Editorial team

December 29, 2020 | 5 min read

It’s that time again, when we look back at the agencies, the brands, the organizations, movements and trends that have shaped the past year. In 2020 – a year so many of us would like to forget – our industry of problem solvers proved time and again that they have what it takes to muck in, help out, ask questions, shape cultures and change the world. It is them that we celebrate in our New Year Honors.


Bodyform’s ‘Womb Stories’ depicted everything from menopausal hot flushes to first periods

Despite significant progress in the last several years, there are still many biases and taboos when it comes to the discussion of topics such as menstruation, menopause, miscarriages, IVF treatment, endometriosis and the general health and wellbeing of people with wombs and vulvas. However, 2020 was a year for the books when it came to legislation, campaigns and organizations opening up important conversations and making meaningful changes in these areas.

Often falling under the umbrella term of ‘women’s health’, these issues can affect people of any gender, as was recognized by the over 11,000 people who signed a petition calling for more gender-neutral period products back in October.

Inclusive language around periods and the people who have them was a prominent topic this year, as was the campaign for the availability and accessibility of period products for those who need them. Promising strides were made as the UK government finally scrapped the ‘tampon tax’ that previously classed products such as tampons, sanitary towels and menstrual cups as ‘non-essential, luxury goods’ and carried a 5% VAT as a result. The change will come in with the Brexit transition on 31 December.

Meanwhile, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all in a bill that was unanimously backed by the nation’s MSPs. The legislation means that local authorities now have a legal duty to provide period products to “anyone who needs them” and provide them with access to different types of period products “reasonably easily” and with “reasonable dignity”.

When it came to tackling taboos within culture, brands also made their contribution to de-stigmatizing the realities of having a womb and periods. Bodyform’s ‘Womb Stories’ campaign, for example, was a ground-breaking and popular success – depicting everything from IVF treatment to endometriosis cramps, menopausal hot flushes and first periods. The range of womb stories in the ad were illustrated by an eclectic mix of animations that served to demonstrate the complex relationship people can have with their menstrual cycle. And for a market-leading brand to commit itself so honestly to having the difficult conversations was an important step for customers and bleeders across the UK and the world.

And when it comes to firsts, the founding and opening of the world’s first Vagina Museum was a big one. Conceived as a dedicated space to celebrating and educating people on the female sexual organ, the Vagina Museum almost didn’t make it through the year after its funding potential from live events, membership programs and ticket sales were thrown into jeopardy by the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, three creatives from the advertising industry saw the value of the museum and clumped together to offer their services pro bono in order to get the museum back on its feet. The creatives (Natalie Gordon, Amy Fasey and Jacob Hellström) then reached out to artists of different disciplines, genders, sexualities and nationalities, and asked them to produce original artwork. 60 responded to the brief, which was then sold at auction to fund the museum’s big re-opening.

2020 was a year of re-evaluation for many and the realities of the pandemic have thrown many issues within society into sharp relief. That the dismantling of taboos around wombs and vulvas, and the various realities of living with them, made such promising strides this year is significant. And the legislation that is set to come in off the back of the hard work of campaigners and organizers will make the realities of menstruation less stressful and more dignified for many.

We’ll be celebrating all our favorite things about 2020 on between now and early January. Keep an eye on our New Year Honors hub to read more.

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