The new This Girl Can advert features a woman’s visible tampon string, which shouldn’t be revolutionary, but it kind of is. Sport England celebrated the fifth anniversary of its groundbreaking campaign to get more women and girls active with the release of another ridiculously inspiring TV advert, and the moment with the tampon is one of the highlights.
The aim of the ad is to promote diversity, normalise the unfiltered reality of exercising and shine a light on the barriers that prevent many women from getting into fitness – from motherhood to period pains. Hannah Johnson is one of the real women chosen to feature in the campaign, and it’s her tampon string that we get a glimpse of towards the end of the film.
‘Recently, I have become so unapologetic about my periods, and what I go through with my period pains every month. ‘But there was definitely a moment where I was like – “do I really want to be the one with my tampon out on a national TV campaign?” Of course there was some trepidation,’ Hannah tells Metro.co.uk.
‘But I just had to put my money where my mouth is. Being open about this stuff and normalising the what the female body goes through is so important to me, it’s something I believe in. So I had to do it. I wanted to do it. ‘We’re all so scared to even say the word “tampon” – but it’s not a dirty word.
Periods are incredibly natural and normal, everyone knows that they happen, so it makes no sense that we have to hide that.’ Hannah’s period pains have been incredibly debilitating ever since she first started getting them. They leave her in intense agony every month, and for a long time, fitness was the last thing on her mind when she was suffering. She has always been shocked by the complete lack of empathy when it comes to period pains and PMS symptoms – and she thinks that comes down to the fact that nobody talks about it.
‘I would go in to work and just be in the most intense pain, and nobody would care. I just had to be there, and suffer through it. There’s no consideration and I think people don’t appreciate how bad it can get. But I thought to myself, if I have to be here at work then I can at least do something for myself as well. That’s when I began to research about exercising on your period.’
Hannah has been doing yoga for around 10 years now. She loves it, but always avoided going to classes on her period because she was in so much pain. But after reading online that fitness could actually help alleviate PMS symptoms, she decided to give it a go.
‘It genuinely really works,’ says Hannah. ‘For me, it’s all about being really prepared and organised. The second day of my period is normally really heavy, so if I work out on the first day it can make the rest of my period much easier to cope with. I always wear all black, just in case of spillages and so I can feel more comfortable. You don’t want to be rolling around on a mat doing backwards-this and upside down-that worrying what the mat’s going to look like when you get up.’
The realistic advert is in response to a clear demand for more realistic, unfiltered fitness content. Sport England found that almost a third of women say they would feel positive about seeing social media posts about exercising without make up (31%), sweating (20%), discussing not being very good (42%) and menopause symptoms (26%).
This Girl Can first launched in 2015 to promote sport and activity among women, and has since inspired four million women to get into fitness. But there is still more work to be done. Figures show that nearly 40% of women in the UK are still not active. And Sport England research shows that more than 60% of women are impacted negatively by images of slim, toned bodies on social media.
Hannah thinks it’s vital that we see real images of women working out, facing real obstacles and overcoming them in normal ways. And periods are just one more taboo to be tackled. ‘If men had periods, it would be completely normalised. We would never hear the end of it. Everyone would be talking about periods all the time,’ says Hannah.
‘There is literally nothing to be embarrassed about. Now, if I have to walk around with my hot water bottle at work I’ll just say straight out if people ask me – “it’s because I’m on my period.” If anyone wants to say anything negative or mean about the fact that you’re talking about your period, that’s embarrassing for them – not you.’
Women online have been loving the new advert, with the tampon string shot really hitting home for many. ‘Tampons and tits are still regarded as taboo mostly by men who just haven’t grown up yet. All power to This Girl Can,’ said one woman.
‘I wish seeing a visible tampon string in an advert didn’t make me feel really empowered, but it does,’ added another. Someone else said: ‘Love love love the new This Girl Can ad! Woman on period exercises! And not in white gym gear! And there’s a tampon string!’