Growing Up Girls: Popular Culture and the Construction of Identity

By Sharon R. Mazzarella; Norma Odom Pecora | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
What Every Girl Should Know: An Analysis of Feminine Hygiene Advertising

Debra L. Merskin

I was about thirteen when I first noticed that long awaited spot on my underpants. Joy, fear, shame, uncertainty, and, ultimately, relief followed. My first period came and went and I waited. It would be another year before it would happen again. In the interim I was sure there was something wrong with me, that my body had betrayed me, that I was somehow less a girl than my already menstruating peers. I just knew everyone was having "their's" but me.

Not only did the coming of my period suggest that I was growing up but that I was growing vulnerable to the things that affect women. The mystique surrounding "the club" evaporated as quickly as that first drop of blood -- what had been promised as a time of fulfillment, of bridging the gap between childhood and Barbies to adolescence and earrings, instead became a time of silence. No longer spoken of with anticipation, my period became "that time of the month," being "on the rag," and "the curse" -- ultimately a terrible secret to be kept -- especially from boys.

Burdened with practical worries unique to their situations, such as gathering sufficient supplies to keep this function hidden with secretive buying and finding places to change, a girl's body poses special challenges. How we, as a culture, have come to think of menstruation is important as well as how this information influences the way adolescent girls think about their bodies.

Centuries of myth and taboo have created a view of the female body that continues to be communicated in modern society. As part

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