The world’s transgender community are up in arms today over an ad for feminine hygiene products circulating in New Zealand and Australia, described as sexist, transphobic and hurtful.
The ad, which has been run on TV and youtube, depicts two women, one trans, one not, getting made up in the ladies’ loo. The story line suggests a sort of competition is going, with each individual seeking to outdo the other: the punchline, however, involves the non-trans woman “winning” because she needs tampons – and the trans woman does not.
Libra’s Facebook page and Twitter feeds have been inundated with complaints, both from members of the trans community and from non-trans women. The former have protested that the ad is vile, and appears to be promoting Libra’s product on the basis of making fun of a minority. Many have also objected that this is sexist and demeaning to women – since it characterises the average woman as shallow and competitive.
Official action has been delayed by the Bank Holiday: however, Trans Media Watch Australia will be lodging an official complaint with the relevant advertising bodies as soone as they get back to work on Tuesday – and activists in the UK are also planning to get in touch with representatives of SCA Hygiene Ltd – Libra’s parent company.
A petition calling for the removal of the ad has been started on the change.org website.
To date, Libra have refrained from commenting on the matter.
It is unfortunate, in this day and age, that some companies still consider that a good way to sell their products is by picking on a minority and making fun. As society has grown up, with the offense given by many everyday jokes better understood – and in many cases also made specifically unlawful through equalities legislation – the range of minorities left for advertisers to pick on has grown ever more eccentric.
As proof: imagine a similar campaign being run, featuring a woman who had suffered a miscarriage “competing” with another woman as they did their shopping – with the punchline provided by the fact that the latter makes a purchase in the nappy section, whilst the former does not.
Or an ad for shoes that illustrates competition between an individual with a disability and an able-bodied person.
We may imagine such – but the point is they are both now next to impossible to imagine actually being made.
To their credit, when Proctor and Gamble’s ad agency put forward a similar concept for their Always brand a few years back, it was never screened and, when the ad made its way on to the net a few months back (by way of a showreel produced by the production company), P&G were quick to dissociate themselves from it.
While the trans community now has legal protection from discrimination in many jurisdictions, it does not yet possess it in New Zealand: many will therefore see this ad as an overwhelming argument for bringing in such protection at the earliest possible.
The final crushing irony is that Libra simply haven’t done their research. If they had, they would know that post-operative trans women DO use feminine hygiene products, possibly in quantities as great or greater than non-trans women do. That’s not choice, but necessity.
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