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What Motrin Got Wrong About the Connection Between Pain and 'Progress'

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Note: Motrin has removed one of the videos from its #WomanInProgress ad campaign in response to criticism from viewers.

You know that meme of Chrissy Teigen? The one where she is cringing mid-award show? That’s my face right now. It is in a semi-stunned look of uncomfortable awkwardness. I don’t feel horribly offended or personally victimized… it’s more the feeling of astonishment. And judgment. Lots and lots of judgment.

I just watched Motrin’s new #WomanInProgress commercial, and oh my… it’s a doozy. If Motrin were a person, I would give them a head tilt, shoulder pat, and say, “Bless your heart.”

I think they tried really hard. And the ad had such potential. It started out strong with its diverse set of models, lovely background music, and inspiring text. And then, about 20 seconds in, it gets sort of dicey: “Pain can be progress.” Hmmm. OK. Interesting.

I mean, I don’t totally disagree. Pain can be progress. Like when my iPhone insists I do a software update and it takes 30 minutes and I just have to sit there until it finishes doing its thing. Painful. Progress. But Motrin does nothing for that.

You see, Motrin, the product, is ibuprofen — an NSAID. NSAIDs help with physical pain. People take it for everything from fevers to muscle sprains.

Which is why I don’t get this ad. At best, it’s a fluff piece with a confusing narrative. At worst, it isolates millions of women with it’s poor thesis of, “Pain can be progress.” The latter option is what makes my face twist into a Teigen-esque expression.

I take Motrin (rather, I take its generic equivalent…the kind you can buy in bulk). In addition to taking it for headaches, muscle aches, and the common cold, I take it as a first line of defense for my chronic pain from endometriosis and interstitial cystitis. Sometimes my body responds well to the NSAID and behaves itself. Sometimes my body laughs at its futility and continues raging on like a horde of angry bees. Regardless of how my body responds that day, one thing is certain: pain never makes me feel like I am making progress. And it seems a bit irresponsible for a pain reliever brand to send a message stating otherwise.

In it’s most primal form, pain serves as a signal notifying us that something isn’t right. Telling women to power through pain in the name of progress is just bad advice. Not to mention, for the millions of women who already feel less-than because of their chronic pain, this message only adds to the stigma that our pain isn’t valid, real, or life-altering.

Motrin, I respect your mission to alleviate the set back pain imposes on women. But I challenge you to reevaluate your idea about the correlation between pain and progress. For many of us, pain doesn’t equal progress. It equals regression. It equals loss. It equals despair.

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Originally published: April 12, 2017
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