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'No subject should be off limits'

FROM vaginal health to the overpowering feeling of invisibility that accompanies the menopause, a huge audience turned out to hear Oscar winner Halle Berry call for “more conversations” about the social taboos that stop women living their best lives.

Accompanied by Patricia Corsi, chief marketing and information officer – consumer health, Bayer; and Kristen Cavallo, global CEO, MullenLowe Global, Berry said: “It all starts with talking and creating a community feeling. No subject should be off limits.”

Berry was at Cannes Lions to talk about her new enterprise, re-spin, which is focused on helping women deal with perimenopause and menopause. Setting herself the goal of being “to menopause what Dr Dre is to headphones”, she said: “There are a lot of women who don’t feel they are valuable to society anymore once they go through menopause. As someone who is currently smack in the middle of it, I want women to be able to share stories, access resources and find the products they need.”

A veteran of diarrhoea campaigns, Corsi talked about her own journey as a marketer – recalling how she had felt uncomfortable when first discussing vaginas in meetings. “But now just pick your subject — anus, penis, vulva, vagina, I’m game.” Like Berry, Corsi said taboos around sensitive subjects are holding women back —with some areas of discourse actually going into reverse. TikTok, for example, is now regarded as a better source of education about periods than schools. “Through conversations and better understanding we can empower people. I want people to think of us as the taboo slayers when we leave this stage.”

Cavallo said agencies and entrepreneurs were missing a trick if they didn’t realise the scale of the opportunity that Berry is now tapping into. “Menopause is reckoned to be a $600bn industry. Wherever there is a taboo subject, there is opportunity for agencies to grab attention — as long as they are not nervous about ideas.”

Berry stressed, however, that “you have to start by working towards a cause you believe in. If you are passionate and stay true to yourself, the business will follow.”

All the panellists agreed that empowering women requires men to be involved in the conversation. Berry said: “We all have to work together to change the narrative. So we need to educate men to be open and curious about these issues.”


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