Gosh I love the Swedes. First they gave us cartoon genitals for a kids' sex education show; now they have graced us with dancing, wigged tampons to teach children about menstruation.
It was a shock, I must admit, to watch the video of The Period Song. Alex Hermansson, a 23-year-old TV host, sings whilst four cheery tampons dance a vibrant, jolly song. At several points blood-like paint is splashed on the camera, and at another point the tampons dangle in red-coloured liquid.
And the lyrics, translated from the Swedish, are… well… rather direct.
Show a little patience
It's just a little blood
Period, period, hip hip hooray for period!
The body's working as it should!
As a woman who first got her periods back in the eighties, I find it all quite confronting. After all, we did not talk about periods when I was growing up. It was something that was discussed in hush-hush tones with our mums; read about in Judy Blume books under the cover of darkness; or whispered about with school friends when we were feeling particularly brave.
And when ads for tampons appeared on TV, they were not at all representative of how periods really felt. The most common period scenario featured girls in white pants inexplicably riding horses along the beach. This was despite the fact that very few of us wore white pants, rode horses on a beach, or ever combined the two.
And to demonstrate a tampons absorbency on TV, it was always dunked into blue liquid. Clearly red liquid was far too shocking and distressing, reflecting the terrible scourge and shame of periods.
But periods aren't shameful or disgusting. Half the world's population menstruates at some point. And as the Swedish song says, 'It's just a little blood'. So why the metaphors, the horse rides, the blue liquids, the whispers?
I instinctively winced when I saw the red paint being splashed on the screen in the Period Song. And I recoiled, just slightly, when the dancing tampons went for a dunk in the red liquid. But that is my problem, and is indicative of the social construct of periods when I was young. I don't want my two girls to wince when they see blood. I don't want them to feel ashamed or embarrassed by their own bodily functions. I don't want them to think that tampons are weird or that red liquid is hideously confronting. I want them to be perfectly comfortable with their bodies and the products that aid them.
I love the Period Song. I love the dancing tampons dressed as pirates and kings. I love the fact that it is sung by a cute young man without awkwardness or unease, considering men have traditionally been protected from all things related to menstruation. I love the genital song (aka Willie and Twinkle) and everything that demystifies our bodies.
I love the Period Song. I hope we come up with our own, Australian version very soon. Perhaps tampons dressed as kangaroos and koalas, dancing to a song performed by Five Seconds of Summer?
Now that's the kind of sex education that could really shake things up around here.