Earlier this week, the Pantone Color Institute — best known for its annual "Colour of the Year" — announced a partnership with menstrual cup brand INTIMINA in creating Period, "the perfect shade to represent periods." In a blog post about the colour, INTIMINA explains the goal is "to make menstruation more visible and normalize the most normal of bodily functions." The colour, the brand says, "represents a steady flow during menstruation."
Comments on the post tease the effort for all the ways it misses the mark: The menstrual cup shown on the paint chip is depicted inside a uterus, something that should never happen and would require immediate medical attention. Others noted the claim to include all menstruating folk, regardless of gender when the brand still markets itself as a purveyor of "products for women at every stage of life." But we have a bone to pick with the specific politics of choosing this shade of red.
If the Kool-Aid man had a period, this would be the shade he would produce. This is not the colour of any menstrual blood (or non-menstrual blood) I've ever seen. This is the sugary red of canned cherry pie filling and race cars. It recalls the YouTube logo and the red notification bubbles at the corner of iOS apps. This red is a lot of things, but menses ain't it.
Yes, Period kind of approximates the redness of menstrual blood (like any other red) but it's in no way a reflection of menstruation itself. When it's fresh, it's bright and intense, like blood coming out of a wound, rarely without dark spots of clotted crimson. It oxidizes into a rich rusted colour and is often brown by the time the tampon comes out or pads come off. Towards the end of the cycle, it can look more like coffee grounds. It stains bed sheets, pants, and underwear — not with a cherry Icee red — but with the brownish-reddish hue we've grown too comfortable with thinking of as "dirty."
Menstruation stigma is real. And many don't care to look into menstrual cups — despite being a cheaper, safer, more eco-friendly alternative to traditional menstrual products — because of the very prospect of having to touch their own blood. Period is the prettiest imaginable version of menstrual blood red. If the goal is to chip away at the stigma, why not choose a shade of red that best approximates the blood we see and touch? It's the insistence on a sanitized "pretty" version of people's bodies that created the stigma to begin with. We have to let go of pretty if we want to have these "more accurate and honest conversations around menstruation."