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During Menstruation Month at Alpha Woman, a sister intern Anvi Sethi and I reviewed two very different period products the environmentally friendly biodegradable Ruth pads and the Sofy Center-in pads – with a focus on discussing the different social aspects that these pads stem from and consequently, their marketing strategies. Stay tuned later in the week to see our unboxing reactions!

In this article, I’m focussing specifically on exploring the Center-In pads which I reviewed from Japan, as one of the most common and popular period pad products sold in any drug store here in Tokyo. You can see Anvi’s thoughts on the Ruth pads in our unboxing video.

Japanese Period Products

Shopping in local drug stores

My Shopping Experience in Japanese Stores

Beginning from why I chose to review this particular product… Apart from Sofy being one of the largest sanitary product companies in Japan, dominating a significant portion of shelves in any drug store, what struck me was the sheer volume of scented products on sale. 

Here’s a typical view of what you see in a sanitary section of a local drug store.

Period Products in Shelves

A typical view of a sanitary aisle

Approximately 80% of the shelf was stocked with scented pads and if not, a ‘scent absorbent’ pad as well as other scented soaps/cleansers. I’ve lived overseas for most of my life and I have never had as much trouble trying to find unscented period products as I did in that local drug store. 

Scented Period Products in Japan

So many variations of scented pads

As explored in the Alpha woman article, ‘Debunking 13 Common Myths About Periods’, myth 11 ‘Everyone Can Smell My Period’, “…it’s a myth that period smells are obvious to other people.” And yet with such a huge section of scented products, I can only assume the market demand for these products must be prominent. But why? And so, my mission was to gain insight as to why these products are desired.

It’s no surprise that the packaging is aesthetically pretty and artistic as Japan is quite famously known for their packaging designs uniquely fit for the target consumers. With a rich history of centering around consumer convenience, the Japanese place a huge amount of importance on impressions before the unveiling. With phrases such as “Fashionably GO (translated)” written on the front, the product appeals to a young target audience. But most notably, the floral scent is almost overwhelming.

The Center-in Period Pad

The Center-in Period Pad Packaging

Major marketing points

While unboxing this product, I get a strong feeling that it is marketed around the idea of ‘outsiders’ impressions’ instead of comfortability or hygiene; as if periods are dirty and need to be hidden.

This is strongly suggested by:

  • The scent aspect: medical news today expresses the strong correlations between intimate care products and the risk of infection with scented products and vaginal cleansers “linked with 3.5 times higher risk of bacterial infection.” 
  • Seamless noiseless pad
  • Very small 
  • Phrases such as “Fashionably GO (translated)” “IN the pouch (translated)” embedded onto the packaging 

This association of embarrassment may be particularly relatable to young women experiencing periods – I know I have felt ashamed to open my pad in the public bathrooms or school stalls in fear of judgment.

The Center-in Period Pad

Seamless and noiseless to open

the Center-in Pad

Hand for reference to show just how tiny one napkin is!

Concluding thoughts

As I browsed over the shelves in the sanitary aisle, I saw pads containing actual sheets of coal to ‘help the smell’ whilst the closest thing to unscented products were labelled as ‘natural smelling’ (what does that even mean?) – needless to say it was advertised almost like ‘freshly cut grass’ and ‘clean’ rather than a bodily odour.

The messaging that comes across through these brands relates closely to deeply rooted social ideologies that project periods as ‘dirty’, causing an endless cycle of imposed shame, feeling the paranoia/need to contain, and marketing strategies, marketing strategies, and more marketing strategies. Humans can’t physically smell other people menstruating, so we know this is false while these products can be harmful and simply counterproductive. 

I believe we can tackle this issue by educating in order to stop this dangerous messaging. After all, nobody should have to tolerate these ideologies by putting their health at risk.

Monica Okochi

Meet Monica, a Second-year University of British Columbia student studying in the Bachelors of International Economics Program. Growing up as a third-culture child, she began her research exploring the extending influence of globalization along her own associations as the by-product, anchoring her interests into Economics. She believes Economics to be a key participant that interconnects and touches upon many different global issues. Monica hopes to use her intercultural capabilities to dig deeper into the social, economic, cultural, and political agents in gender socialization and advocate the voices of women across the world. She is also a black belt in karate and a tennis player, enjoying her time spent outdoors and always enthusiastic to try something new!

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