Sultana, U. B. F. (2011). “The Imageries of Menstruation in Sanitary Napkin Ads: Representation and the Practice of Discourse as a Marketing Strategy.” Advertising & Society Review 11(4), Advertising Educational Foundation. Retrieved January 24, 2017, from Project MUSE database.
This 2011 paper reports on a study conducted to determine representations, both negative and positive, in sanitary napkin ads with an aim towards exploring deeper issues of cultural connotations regarding menstruation. Sultana, who employs qualitative and explorative research methods, uses both primary and secondary data analysis guided by a framework of feminist cultural studies. By using Stuart Hall’s methods involving the politics of representation, the author’s study takes “three sets of visual and technical tools of analysis: focalization, framing, and membership categorization analysis (MCA)” and applies them to advertisements through visual analysis to uncover the “strategic meanings of the ads” (Sultana 2011). The ultimate aim is to find out if negative associations and taboos about menstruation in socio-cultural discourses are being strengthened or challenged by modern advertising.
Sultana covers her methodology and analytical framework thoroughly, including decisions that were made regarding exclusion and inclusion in the selection process for analysis. In addition to Hall, she also draws on the works of Kress and Van Leeuwen for the technical analysis of visual communication components. Her explanation of how MCA will be conducted is left a bit vague, seeming to rely only on binary descriptives. Cultural and historical discourses on menstruation are also included but much of this section seems to be conjecture rather than supported evidence. She then presents a detailed visual analysis of six advertisements, three in print and three commercial television ads, all presented through popular media in Bangladesh. Do the ads utilize menstrual discourses as a marketing strategy, and if so, to what end? In what appears to be a visual narrative discourse analysis of these sanitary napkin ads, Sultana moves around these methods of focalization, framing, and MCA within each artifact.
The conclusions reached are also problematic in that Sultana finds that negative connotations still prevail in advertising of menstruation products, and even when ads attempt to alter messaging and connotation in a positive way, these messages still play into pervasive taboos surrounding menstruation. Also, no solutions are offered for altering these visual representations in a positive manner to impact larger cultural change in discourse. Though this work aligns very closely with my project by including visual analysis of advertisements for menstruation products to explore socio-cultural shifts in perspectives towards menstruation, the structure of this work is very complex and does not seem to flow very well at times, with the analysis of the artifacts getting bogged down in minute details, often with little focus on methods as applied. Perhaps this piece may work well for me as representative of what not to do?