Internalizing the Taboo: Israeli Women Respond to Commercials for Feminine Hygiene Products

Sigal Barak-Brandes


This paper presents and analyzes the findings relating to commercials for feminine hygiene products that emerged from an extensive feminist reception study which examined, for the first time, how Israeli women interpret images of women and femininity in TV commercials. Adopting a feminist and interpretive approach, the qualitative study was based on in-depth personal interviews with Israeli women from diverse cultural, economic, and social backgrounds.
Grounded theory methodology, employed for analysis of the interviews, revealed that many Jewish women in Israel, in particular those who are traditional or religious, are deeply disturbed by commercials for feminine hygiene products. The focus of their criticism was that intimate private matters which should be kept hidden are exposed to public view, thereby arousing embarrassment, shame, and even ridicule, especially when younger family members are present. In addition, the women were both critical and scornful of the customary advertising strategies that are employed systematically in these commercials.
The paper discusses all these findings in the Israeli socio-cultural context and attempts to identify different interpretive communities in the diverse population of Israeli women in respect to these texts.

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