A campaign by Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s U by Kotex aims to dispel the idea that periods change how women act, what they say and how they say it -- and argues that men actually have hormonal cycles very similar to women.
The company began the #ItsNotMyPeriod campaign in Canada in September and has adapted it for Australia and Argentina as well. It may come to the U.S. eventually, according to a spokesman, though there are no immediate plans.
The notion that women act differently or say things because of menstruation has a long history. It played out in a successful 1991 criminal defense in which premenstrual syndrome may have helped a Viriginia surgeon get acquitted on a drunk-driving charge and various cases in the U.S., U.K. and France where lawyers cited it as a mitigating circumstance for women accused of violent crimes.
It was also at the center of the feud between Donald Trump and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, when he said she had "blood coming out of her whatever" after she posed tough questions in an August 2015 Republican presidential debate.
A video for U by Kotex from WPP's Ogilvy & Mather Toronto with help from affiliates in Colombia and the U.K. shows a skit with a female prosecutor making heated comments to colleagues about problems in a case.
Men and women watching the skit are asked to identify which of the women is having her period. All point to the prosecutor and make unflattering remarks about her behavior. But later they acknowledge that she seemed most like the leader of the group, and like someone they'd like to have on their own team.
The insights behind the campaign came out of a "social experiment" that included a wide range of age groups of men and women, said Ogilvy Toronto Chief Creative Officer Ian MacKellar. "One of the women was over 60, and her experience was very similar to that of women in their 20s, which suggests it's always been there behind the scenes," he said.
"For too long a period has been used to explain a woman's behavior or her point of view or emotions, whether she's on her period or not," said Leslie Mackay, U by Kotex director of marketing and sales for Canada. "Because U by Kotex is so comfortable telling it like it is, and that a period is a natural part of being a woman, I think it's just time to start treating them that way."
It's not just a problem that men inflict on women, she said.
"Sometimes as women we will defer to claiming it's that time of the month because we've reacted to something strongly and seen the reaction on someone's face," Ms. Mackay said. "One thing that was really interesting when we did the research into periods and hormones was that these hormonal fluctuations in a month's time that a woman experiences are no different than what a man experiences throughout a month."
Indeed, that latter problem even has a name: Irritable Male Syndrome. Men's testosterone level can go up or down four or five times an hour, is subject to daily cycles that make it higher in the morning, and even has seasonal variations that make it higher in November.
However, testosterone levels may be about to plummet for many men, regardless of the outcome of the election. The Atlantic reports in its November edition that a study of the saliva samples gathered from men and women before and after the 2008 presidential election showed that testosterone levels plummeted in men – but not women – who voted for a losing candidate. This is among factors that make men who vote for losers particularly grumpy the day after an election.
So perhaps it's no wonder that brands are mostly staying out of the presidential campaign. Sidestepping partisan controversy, the U.S. version of the Kotex campaign won't be coming until sometime well after the election, if it does at all.
"We're excited by the creative direction of the Canadian program," said a spokesman for the brand in the U.S. "We're looking forward to seeing how this idea resonates with our target consumers in Canada."
K-C isn't the only marketer steering clear of electoral landmines this cycle. Other brands that have been vocal about women's self-esteem issues in recent years, such as Unilever's Dove and Procter & Gamble Co.'s Always, have also been silent on controversies around Mr. Trump.
Leaving aside the risk of alienating millions of Trump voters, the Always brand has never been about responding to news cycles, said P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard.
"Generally what we find works more effectively," he said, "is finding a cultural insight that matters, a culturally relevant situation that matters, but where the brand also matters, which then gives the brand the opportunity to express its point of view."