If you thought the ads that were rejected by New York City’s subway system were provocative, you’ve got another Thinx coming. A new ad for UK brand Bodyform takes on the taboo of showing red blood in period ads—with Game of Thrones-level grit and gusto.
Twitter is going crazy for the ad, which shows a number of women being generally badass: boxing, playing rugby, running, surfing, and dancing—and playing through pain, with injuries like skinned knees, bloody noses, and ballet blisters. (So, no, this is not a dramatization of the hero marathoner who ran a race sans tampon last year and set off an online sensation.) But still, there is blood. Lots of it. And that’s the point: the slogan is “No blood should hold us back.”
The ad is part of a Bodyform campaign, Red.fit, to educate women on how their periods can affect their bodies at different points in their cycle. (Fun fact: You can even tailor your workout plans to where you are in your cycle.) And the take-no-prisoners feel of the campaign is another step away from tampon ads with white pants and soft-focus scenery—toward blunt, no-shame-in-our-game menstrual realness.
Bodyform’s goal of educating women about their periods is especially important, considering that according to an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, scientists are resistant to studying women’s bodies because periods are just too confusing for them.
While you might think women’s hormonal fluctuations should be predictable (they happen every month!)—and thus can be accounted for like any other variable—it turns out that scientists really don’t know that much about periods—period, the Journal argues.
As a result, women made up only 39 percent of participants in sports and exercise studies between 2011 and 2013, according the the Journal, because “the complexities of the menstrual cycle are considered major barriers to the inclusion of women in clinical trial.”
When they did include women, they tended to prefer those who were in the beginning of their monthly menstrual cycle (when hormones are most similar to a man’s). “There’s still a massive gap of understanding around what actually happens at all phases of the menstrual cycle. It’s the same for people on the oral contraceptive—we don’t know the effects of that either,” Georgie Bruinvels, a PhD candidate at University College London and lead author of the editorial, told BuzzFeed News.
Whoa. Surely there are a few fit women who, if only asked, would happily volunteer for the good of science to help researchers figure out periods. And there’s an opportunity every month.