Jokes about PMS are so old and not funny that I almost didn’t even want to bother addressing The California Milk Processing Board’s latest campaign, a multi-media venture that features clueless men offering up half-hearted fauxpologies and gallons of milk to their apparently rage-absorbed, PMSing girlfriends and wives. The premise of the campaign is that calcium can help reduce the symptoms of PMS, subsequently freeing these men from the apparently punishing experience of knowing someone who is about to start menstruating.
But alas, this campaign is blowing up in a big way, and it feels impossible to ignore. So before I dive into my criticisms, let me just get this out of the way for the PMS-fearing dudes in the audience: yes, I’m mad about this. No, I am not on my period. No, I am not about to be on my period. But even if I were about to be—which isn’t your business because what are you, my gyno?— you don’t get to do stupid, offensive things and then blame my reaction on my period when in fact my reaction is rooted in one thing and one thing only: that stupid, offensive thing you did.
To wit, the website for this ad campaign is called Everything I Do Is Wrong. To this I say: sounds about right. The Milk Board’s executive director, Steve James, insists that the site’s humor “is aimed at how clueless men are in emotional situations,” but I’m not really sure how a stock ticker predicting the futures of cocoa (man, hysterical women sure do love chocolate) and silver and gold (maybe buying us presents will shut us up?) is a joke at the expense of clueless men.
I mean, it definitely shows clueless men doing stupid things, but when the punch line to your joke is “buy her some milk and she’ll stop being so crazy”—instead of, you know, “stop blaming everything on her period”—then the joke doesn’t really seem to be on dudes. It’s just the same tired “LOL WOMEN!” routine that’s been hashed out a million times before, and it wasn’t funny or clever any of those times either.
Take this “possible apology” for example: “I’m sorry I haven’t been more sensitive to your feelings of me being wrong.” Â I’m sorry, too, man, because if you would actually entertain the idea that you could possibly be wrong instead of blaming my fragile, hormone-twisted female emotions for the issue, we would both be a lot happier. And who knows, maybe you’re not wrong! But if you think you’re not, is writing me off as a crazy woman really gonna make your situation any better?
This ad campaign is like entering a never-ending ouroboros of sexism: women’s emotions are minimized and blamed on hormones; women get mad because that’s stupid and wrong; women’s reactions are minimized again because “see? They’re so irrational they can’t even laugh at themselves!”; and on and on forever and ever amen.
Luckily, these ads aren’t going unchallenged. Ms. Magazine has started a petition with Change.org to tell the Milk Board to end this stupid, sexist campaign. If you’re tired of seeing the same tired tropes being trotted out again and again, sign the petition and tell the Board that everything they’ve done in this campaign is, indeed, wrong.