If you have followed History By Zim long enough you know that I love a good random bit of history. Today’s post seems to epitomize the word “random.”
Just saying the word “Disney” often times evokes childhood memories of watching favorite Disney characters on a unending loop. Disney has enthralled generations of youth with its music, “Happily Ever Afters” and victorious heroes. These fanciful stories were not the only films they produced.
In 1946, the Walt Disney Studios thought they could help explain a delicate issue to young girls. So they created the following short Sex Ed film about menstruation.
The film was sponsored by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation (advertising the Kotex brand) and was one of the first corporately sponsored films distributed to high schools. In these cases, the companies often sent along free promotional materials and supplements. Kimberly-Clark was no different. Along with the teaching material, the young girls received the booklet Very Personally Yours that encouraged girls to use Kotex and not tampons (a market dominated by rivals Procter & Gamble’s Tampax brand).
With The Story of Menstruation, Girls around the country were told that “once you stop feeling sorry for yourself and accept menstruation as routine, you’ll find it easier to keep smiling and even-tempered.” It is no surprise that some took issue with the film. In 1950, historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg wrote:
In the Disney world, the menstrual flow is not blood red but snow white. The vaginal drawings look more like a cross section of a kitchen sink than the outside and inside of a woman’s body. There are no hymen, no clitoris, no labia; all focus is on the little nest and its potentially lush lining, Although Disney and Kimberly-Clark advise exercise during the period, the exercising cartoon girls (who look like Disney’s Cinderella) are drawn without feet; bicycles magically propel themselves down the street without any muscular or mental direction from the cyclist. The film ends happily ever after, with a shot of a lipsticked bride followed immediately by a shot of a lipsticked mother and baby.
The Story of Menstruation, was used for over 35 years and seen by more than 100 million high school students. It was shown in schools, Parent Teacher Associations, YWCAs and nurses’ hospitals. Good Housekeeping even gave it their famous seal of approval. Because of the success, Disney continued to produce these educational films aimed at schools through the early 1950s.
Sean Griffin, Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out,” New York: NYU Press, 2000.
Thomas Heinrich and Bob Batchelor, Kotex, Kleenex, Huggies: Kimberly-Clark and the Consumer Revolution in American Business, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 2004.