Adolescence, Advertising, and the Ideology of Menstruation

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Title: Adolescence, Advertising, and the Ideology of Menstruation
Author: Merskin, Debra
Abstract: Since the 1920s, American advertisers have recognized the taboo associated with menstruation and have incorporated messages about the social consequences of "showing" into feminine hygiene advertising. In order to answer the research question "do advertisements that target girls perpetuate or dispel myths and taboos associated with menstruation?" a content analysis was conducted on ten years of feminine hygiene advertising in Seventeen and Teen magazines (1987-1997). Categories included an analysis of the setting and the themes used in the advertisements. The findings suggest that the ads do rely on headlines and themes that hearken to the past. However, unlike earlier studies that found the ads present menstruation as a "hygienic crisis," focusing on shame, physical discomfort, and fears, this study found something more encouraging-that the body copy of these ads is working to dispel these myths. Racial representation in ads, however, remains troublesome as black models are rarely shown unaccompanied by white models. These findings are important to researchers, advertising practitioners, and consumers as magazine advertising has become a key agent of socialization for adolescent girls.
Date: 1999-06

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