Essity, creator of Libresse, Bodyform, Nana, Nuvenia, Nosotras and Saba, launches its latest taboo-busting activation, #painstories, exploring the true extent of the pain women endure and inviting them to share their stories. #Painstories has been created to tackle the gender pain gap one story at a time and offer a new way to express and articulate pain, with a focus on endometriosis, via a newly launched Pain Dictionary. The launch will also see the world’s first Pain Museum created to educate and engage society on the extent to which this pain is overlooked, underfunded and often ignored. It shows how working together we can help close the gender pain gap once and for all.
The experience of pain for women is complex, complicated and desperately underacknowledged. Endometriosis is just one example of the agony being endured. It affects one in 10 women but, astonishingly, takes an average of seven and a half years to be diagnosed due to the perceived notion that severe period pain is ‘normal.’ Enduring this pain has a profound impact on every area of sufferers lives with some people experiencing depression, loss of relationships and in some cases even considering suicide. This is also reflected in their work with research finding that over 40% of those with endometriosis had given up or lost their job because of it.
As part of its brand DNA, Libresse is committed to challenging harmful taboos surrounding women’s intimate health through its change-driving initiative Project V. Project V is committed to listening to people, accurately representing their experiences and supporting them in meaningful ways until taboos have been challenged, understood and removed from society. #Painstories is one of the change-driving initiatives the brand embraces, and it started when Libresse found out that 51% of women and 52% of men think period pain is something women should endure. This insight proves just how deeply embedded in society this taboo is.
In order to better support those living with intimate pain, Libresse has initiated The Pain Dictionary. This ongoing project uses real descriptions of pain from those with endometriosis, from which Libresse has created pain words and definitions. The dictionary will bring these experiences of pain to life using descriptions and illustrations, to show the variety and intensity of endometrial pain. Healthcare professionals often ask: “Describe your pain on a scale of 1-10?” But pain is complex and unique and often can’t be reduced to a number. Descriptions in the dictionary include depictions of pain such as: “tightening barbed wire” and “a womb full of nails and daggers.” The Pain Dictionary gives sufferers a new language to express their pain to doctors, empowers people to recognise severe pain as a problem and to seek help, as well as raising awareness for endometriosis.
Tanja Grubner, FemCare global marketing and communications director at Essity said: “Women have been putting up with excruciating pain for years. Due to outdated taboos, women’s pain is systematically overlooked, and they are too often dismissed, ignored and misdiagnosed. By inviting women to share their #painstories we hope to overcome the culture of silence that holds women back – in this case, from proper diagnosis and treatment. We know that 176 million women globally have endometriosis, and we need a language to help them articulate their experiences so they can get the help they need. Through definitions, conversation and exposure, we hope to help women tell their #painstories, to raise awareness for endometriosis and other painful pelvic conditions.
“We want this initiative to help those who are experiencing similar things yet struggling to make their voice heard. Listening to how women feel is critical to driving change, and we know it’s so important to understand the problems, before we can start solving them. By sharing our extensive research, we now hope to work closely with charities and health partners together and we will start to bring about societal change and make the world that bit easier for women globally.”
Speaking at an online launch event, Luciana de Azevedo Lara, global brand communications manager, FemCare at Essity outlined the campaign’s ambition: “To empower those women and society, including those women, [to] understand that they could and they should be asking for help if they're experiencing that level of pain. Our hope with that is with these tools is that we can potentially bring the diagnosis time down for a few of these conditions.”
In order to highlight the extremely important work medical professionals do on endometriosis and ensure their point of view is included within the project, Libresse has partnered with the GP Dr Shireen Emadossadaty. “There is a big problem in the world where people feel that women should just deal with their pain,” said Dr Shireen. “A lot of women think painful periods is normal but actually, it’s not, particularly when the periods are starting to affect activities in your daily life. Opening up the conversation around period pain will encourage women to see their GP, to be persistent about their symptoms and hopefully we can bring down that diagnosis time. You’re not alone, period pain is common but it’s not normal and it’s not something you should be suffering with.”
Speaking at the launch event, Dr Shireen added: “The Pain Dictionary is an extremely powerful tool. I've had a little look at it. When you're a doctor you really want to empathise with your patients. And when it comes to knowing what a period feels like, unless you've had a period, it's sometimes quite hard to really appreciate it. Say for example, a male doctor. Yeah, sure, they can empathise that your period feels like maybe a little cramped, but unless you've experienced it, it's really hard to fully appreciate. Take a period and make it 10 times, 100 times more painful. Even as a female doctor who has periods you can't necessarily always fully appreciate that level of pain. So something like the Pain Dictionary that's made it so descriptive, that's put it in a language and terminology that is relatable, that you can kind of actually picture what that pain feels like, I think will be so so powerful as healthcare professionals, to doctors, to nurses, to pharmacists. That tool will be extremely helpful for them to understand as much as possible what that patient is going through, to take their symptoms more seriously and to push for investigations, bringing down that lead time and that time for diagnosis. Because they're understanding more, and that's ultimately what your healthcare professional wants to do. The Pain Dictionary is a fantastic aid for that.”
Libresse has also partnered with Lauren Mahon, who offers a human perspective from her own experience with the disease, encouraging the dialogue to shift towards open conversation. The BBC broadcaster, founder of GIRLvsCANCER who suffered Endometriosis in her early 20s said: “When you allow a woman to be in her body and not fearful of it or feel embarrassed about it, you give her power. It is only by talking about our pain that what is abnormal comes to light and then we can get people looked after in the right ways. Let’s get comfortable with having these conversations and being much more respectful of the women that endure this pain.”
Reflecting on her experiences and the goals of the project at the launch event, Lauren added: “No pain that severe should be undiagnosed. I still can't get my head around it. If a woman is experiencing that level of pain that is excruciatingly altering their day-to-day life, affecting relationships, affecting jobs, then, it shouldn't be undiagnosed, and the first port of call should be to get that sorted.
“I'd love to see this conversation happening in people's homes, happening in education, so that people really understand their menstrual health and how their body works and what's normal, what's not normal, because then they can go out and get the help early. I think it's horrific that we get to a point where we literally cannot cope before things tend to get diagnosed or we tend to seek help.”
The Pain Dictionary
Libresse has created The Pain Dictionary,
using real descriptions of pain from people with endometriosis. The dictionary includes new words and definitions which have been visualised by artists and creators, whose powerful illustrations bring the definitions to life, resulting in a new verbal and visual language for endometriosis pain. Contributors include illustrator Venus Libido, and textile artist Ellie Pearce, both of whom suffer from endometriosis.
The campaign will encourage a culture of sharing #painstories online: The Pain Dictionary is a collaborative ongoing project, where Libresse will continue to listen to women, to use their pain descriptions to build an expansive source of pain experiences, showing the variety and intensity of endometriosis pain.
This book will give those with endometriosis the tools to express their pain properly to doctors, raise awareness of the condition, and help those still suffering without a diagnosis recognise their severe pain as a problem. The Pain Dictionary is available on Bodyform’s Instagram story highlights as an Insta-book, as an e-book, and as a physical book.
The Pain Museum
To launch #painstories, Libresse has created the world’s first Pain Museum
for people to explore the gender pain gap one story at a time. It will take people on an expressive deep dive into pain –– telling the #painstories that need to be told, exploring the taboos that fuel the silence around pain through artwork, and includes interviews with endometriosis sufferers and medical experts. The Pain Museum is a true education into the experience of pain that brings women’s #painstories to life and addresses how we can create a language to confront it, to move towards a world where this suffering is not something shrugged off as “normal”, simply to be endured.
The Pain Report
To inform the campaign, Libresse has conducted extensive research into the gender pain gap, including interviews with 30 female experts across several disciplines as well as 20 advocates who suffer from painful conditions around the world. To create The Pain Report Libresse has gone far and wide, covering insights from UK, Nordics, France, Russia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, China and Malaysia, to explore the silences and taboos that surround female pain, as well as trans and non-binary experiences, addressing how pain is treated culturally and institutionally, to prove how a more open culture and honest and empathetic language can help drive long-term change.
The #painstories campaign and the Pain Dictionary were created by AMV BBDO. The artwork from the Pain Dictionary is exhibited in the world's first Pain Museum created by Ketchum. This virtual space explores the campaign in detail and includes interviews with #painstories partners Lauren Mahon and GP Dr Shireen Emadossadaty.