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By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

June 9, 2021 | 6 min read

Midol’s new campaign urges people who menstruate to stop apologizing for what is completely normal. With the new spot, featuring a diverse cast of real menstruators sharing their experiences, the brand hopes to contribute to a larger conversation surrounding period and body positivity.

The world is embracing body positivity and sex positivity more than ever – and many brands are leveraging this momentum to connect with audiences in authentic ways. Yet 62% of menstruators under the age of 40 have apologized for their periods. And among younger demographics, the numbers are even higher: 71% of gen Z menstruators have felt the need to say sorry for ‘that time of the month’ – indicating that many learn to feel shame about their periods from a young age.

This is according to a recent study from Midol – the over-the-counter period symptom reliever oft associated with period pains. Now the brand is seeking to stop the cycle of over-apologizing for menstruation and its many associated symptoms.

“Over the last several decades, women and all people who menstruate have used their voices to start to drive change,” says Lisa Perez, marketing director of pain and cardio at Bayer Consumer Health US, Midol’s parent company. “Women are breaking the established norms everywhere – as head coaches and referees, in business as chief executive officers and other leaders, in politics as heads of state, presidents and prime ministers, and so much more. And they do it all every single month, battling their periods and all of the symptoms that come with it.

“However, there is one thing that hasn’t changed much in the last several decades. The apology. Not the sincere apology one gives when truly sorry, but the knee-jerk reaction women and all those who menstruate have been engrained to exhibit. It’s time to help menstruators embrace their periods and stop apologizing for it.”

The campaign’s hero film, ‘No apologies, period’, created by Twelvenote, spotlights real people of various ages, genders and ethnicities, set against a backdrop of a wall graffitied with grievances. They share their unique stories of apologizing for what their bodies do naturally. From issuing ‘sorrys’ for feeling hungry, to not being able to be intimate with a partner, to not wanting to be perceived as a ‘mad Black woman’, the menstruators open up about how they contribute to the phenomenon of over-apologizing for their periods. “If I don’t stop [apologizing],” one woman says, “my daughter and future generations aren’t going to stop apologizing.”

“Thanks to our female-led production, the video set itself was a place where our subjects could be open and honest about a topic that was somewhat intimate,” says Tracy Naden, president of Twelvenote. “Visually, even down to the graffiti wall, you can see all of the real period apologies that people with periods have said, over and over again, symbolically representing the cultural narrative that we are trying to challenge and change.”

The real dangers of over-apologizing

The creative supports the campaign’s broader goal of bringing awareness to the issue of over-apologizing for menstruation and how it affects those who menstruate. According to Dr Maja Jovanovic, sociologist and author of Hey Ladies, Stop Apologizing, offering too many unnecessary ‘sorrys’ can have genuinely detrimental impacts on psychological wellbeing. “Apologies matter... if used correctly, sparingly and genuinely, they can reduce tension, help you take responsibility, heal a rift and promote forgiveness,” she says.

But when women offer qualifiers or unnecessary apologies for run-of-the-mill happenings, she says, “we’re perceived as incompetent and our skills are questioned, because unnecessary apologies creates doubt in the listener’s mind, where there was no doubt to begin with.”

Jovanovic is currently completing the second year of a five-year global study on women’s confidence. She says that after interviewing 250 women from over 22 countries, her findings indicate that “confidence is a muscle that strengthens with use, and with every unnecessary apology we give out, it chips away at our confidence”.

Unfortunately, Jovanovic’s research has found that the habit of women and people assigned female at birth over-apologizing is all too common. “Socially-constructed behavior forces women to be hyper-aware of their actions and the effect they have on others, promoting the adoption of regular qualifying language to avoid any negative feedback from peers – peppering in apologetic language that turns statements into less demanding suggestions or off-putting opinions.” And the habit often transfers across generations. Midol’s recent study found that half of menstruators say they learned their apologetic behaviors from their family members.

People standing in front of graffiti wall

Midol’s new campaign aims to put an end to the period apology cycle. It will be activated across social channels – including the brand’s first foray into the world of TikTok – and will also involve a partnership with Bustle Digital Group.

“With the [campaign launch], we focused on reintroducing the brand to our consumers with great new visuals and bringing our brand benefits to the forefront,” Midol’s Perez says. “As a brand that has an emotional connection with our consumers, we knew we needed to listen to their biggest issues and pain points and be there to help step change.”

Jovanovic, like Perez, hopes that the campaign will help propel a larger conversation about the shame, embarrassment and qualifying that many women and menstruators feel in their daily lives. “Women have walked a tightrope of being too much or not enough, depending on the environment, and it’s exhausting and infuriating to constantly be apologetic for our opinions, our ideas and our bodies,” Dr Jovanovic adds. “But Midol is encouraging people to talk about periods, reclaiming our confidence with no disclaimers, no minimizing language and no apologies needed. Our bodies, our periods, our pain and our pride is no longer something to be concealed or viewed as apology-worthy.”

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