Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Rebecca Ortiz


advertising, brand activism skepticism, commodity feminism, menstruation, stigma

Subject Categories

Communication | Mass Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Beginning in the early 2000s, menstrual product advertisers in the U.S. and other developed countries began to use red liquid in their advertising to represent period blood rather than the blue liquid used in the past, which is often criticized because it portrays stigmatizing representations of menstruation. These more “menstrual-realistic” advertisements instead communicate that bleeding is normal and arguably help correct past wrongdoings relating to the tainted history of stigmatizing menstrual product ads. This imagery has garnered mixed reactions from the public, including praise, disgust, and skepticism. Extant research demonstrates that consumers prefer media that align with their preexisting beliefs; yet, they may also be mistrusting of the appropriation of feminist ideals for commercial purposes (i.e., commodity feminism). Thus, an investigation of how consumers’ liberal feminist and sexist attitudes relate to their perceptions of these types of ads was conducted. Specifically, this dissertation examined how consumers’ liberal feminist attitudes and beliefs, sexist attitudes, and stigmatizing attitudes about menstruation are related to their attitudes about menstrual-realistic ads and how their level of brand activism skepticism may also play a role in those ad perceptions. Results from an online survey of U.S. men and women (N = 794) revealed that the more participants reported liberal feminist attitudes and beliefs, and the less they reported stigmatizing attitudes about menstruation, the more favorable were their attitudes about menstrual-realistic advertisements. Contrary to what was hypothesized, however, benevolent sexism among both men and women was also positively related to favorable attitudes about menstrual-realistic advertisements. Also unexpectedly, the more participants reported liberal feminist attitudes and beliefs, the less skeptical they were of brand activism in menstrual-product advertising. Brand activism skepticism was also positively related to perceptions of menstrual product brands’ credibility, though brand activism skepticism did not mediate the relationship between liberal feminist attitudes and beliefs and credibility perceptions. The findings imply that consumers interpret menstrual-realistic ads similarly, but for different reasons, given that liberal feminist attitudes and beliefs and benevolent sexist attitudes were most strongly related to attitudes about menstrual-realistic advertisements. This data also suggests that menstrual-realism in advertising may not be viewed as “feminist” as many originally praised it to be. Given these findings, advertisers should be mindful about the potential ways in which consumers view and understand menstrual-realism in advertising.


Open Access