Tampon ad makes fun of tampon ads, still can’t say “vagina”

Via The Sexist, it looks like Kotex finally got the memo that birth control ads are weird:

Transcript from The Sexist after the jump.

I’m glad we’ve reached the point where it makes sense to sell tampons by making fun of what Sarah Haskins calls period control ads. When a company’s tampon ad mocks its previously criticized ads you know feminism is working. But apparently tampons must still stay in euphemism land:

The New York Times reports that the above ad–in which a young actress mocks traditional tampon ads for their condescending, euphemistic tone–originally referenced the “vagina.” When three networks rejected the spot, Kotex subbed in the euphemism “down there” for “vagina,” and only two of the three networks rejected it. Now, the commercial contains no direct references to female genitalia–you know, the place where the fucking tampon goes.

I guess period control ads aren’t just euphemism-happy so as not to offend our delicate lady sensibilities or burst the illusions of man folks. You actually can’t say the “vagina” word in an ad for a product that goes in your vagina. And two out of three network censors still feel icky when they hear “down there.”

TRANSCRIPT: How do I feel about my period? We’re like this [crosses fingers]. I love it. I want to hold really soft things, like my cat. It makes me feel really pure. Sometimes I just want to run on the beach. I like to twirl, maybe in slow motion. And I do it in my white Spandex. And usually, by the third day, I really just want to dance. The ads on TV are really helpful, because they use that blue liquid, and I’m like, Oh! That’s what’s supposed to happen!

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    We all know that women are pure as snow and never exhibit any signs at all regarding normal bodily functions. *eye roll*

  • Brittany

    And yet how many times I’ve been forced to watch the commercial with that fucking creepy smiling guy while girls pile up to sleep with him, which also says later “If your ERECTION lasts longer than 4 hours…”
    But we can’t say vagina. Riiiight.

  • Brittany

    Men like to think that women fart roses and piss wine.

  • Silva

    Not directly related to the post, but to this comment about “women is not supposed to show bodily functions.” I snore, loud, I’m a woman. Husband tells that at a bar table and I feel slightly embarrassed and a second later I thought “why?” And I added “yes, sometimes I even wake up with the sound of my own snore.”
    At the same time my sister-in-law is outted by her husband and I can tell she feels so embarrassed; she turns red while vehemently denying it. Yes, I feel a little better that I’m not that way…anymore.

  • Sloppy Sandwich


  • heyitsmartine

    I’m not trying to be a downer.
    But just because a tampon company makes fun of how ridiculous it has been in the past (even as recent as last year, so how much can things have really changed!), doesn’t mean it cares about women or is being feminist.
    Oooh, these tampons have witty commercials that mock tampon companies, and they’re packaged in “bold lipstick colors”. They really know what women want, huh??
    How about offering more safety procedures in the manufacture of tampons? How about requiring sterilization of the things, because who knows what your tampon has touched in the factory before it gets packaged into those plastic sleeves? How about finding an alternative to the chlorine bleach and pesticides that are used to make these products that women put INSIDE OF THEIR BODIES every month for years?
    Or how about also offering options like menstrual cups which are safer for women’s bodies AND the environment? Oh that’s right — they’re so much better than tampons and a single one will last for 10 years, so they can’t make enough money off of that one.

  • tps12

    Classic commodification of dissent.

  • Livia_Augusta

    I don’t know about y’all, but I definitely poop roses and piss wine. And also, I love my tampons to be like a fluffy, cuddle stuffed animal that just gentle cuddles up “down there” …. cause it’s not like I have a VAGINA or anything. Ew.

  • Jane

    ive had some problems with menstrual cups. for one, i don’t work in a place where i can rinse it out in the sink without someone thinking someones been murdered in the bathroom. and for another, ive had some…tipping issues. tampons may not be great, and id like to try cups again, but im just trying to get through three days without ruining 7 pairs of underwear, a set of sheets, 3 pairs of pants with the least amount of hassle/blood loss.

  • Nancy Shrew

    “Penis” is also a “dirty word”. Just watch an extenZe infomercial sometime (or don’t). They use just about every euphemism to avoid saying “penis”.
    What the hell is wrong with those words, anyway? They are perfectly clinical. Jesus.

  • gab

    Just wanted to note that I saw commercial about health insurance where there was a woman saying how she just wants to see her “personal doctor” once a year. Really? Can’t say gynecologist, either? But we can sure talk about erectile dysfunction!

  • MLEmac28

    Well, I don’t fart or poop at all, so I don’t know about the roses part….

  • MLEmac28

    There’s also then Extenze commercials where they have so-called doctors claiming it enhances “that certain part of the male body”
    You’re a fucking doctor??? Say the word! PENIS!!!!

  • Ms. Junior

    Seriously, though check out the website: ubykotex.com It’s super awesome. They have a campaign geared at teenagers to talk about vaginas and vaginal health with their friends and family. From the website: “Newsflash: It’s not the 1950s anymore. Talking openly about many intimate health issues is no longer taboo. In fact, it’s encouraged, leading to increased awareness and better health care for people everywhere. So why is it that society and the media still can’t get it together when it comes to women’s issues below the waist? Sadly, this secrecy and shame about all things related to vaginal health have a negative impact on a woman’s body image, self-esteem and overall health.” And its super feminist! They have doctors talking about vaginas! They have a promise for people to sign to talk about their vaginas! I’m super excited, you guys (in case you couldn’t tell). It’s like the Vagina Monologues for teenagers! Also, I’m not making money by saying this!

  • Ms. Junior

    Also, in response to heyitsmartine, everything you said is valid and true, but these tampons and pads are marketed to teenagers who might be embarrassed or ashamed of their bodies. And while a menstrual cup or cloth pads would help with this, many teenagers (especially younger ones) might be intimidated by them. Also, while these products are a lot cheaper in the long run, lots of teenagers don’t want to spend a lot of money on something new that they don’t know if they’ll like. So I see it as baby steps. And teenagers like fun colors, or at least I did and my friends did when we were teenagers. The point of the campaign (because they do have a whole campaign, not just menstrual products that you buy) is to get girls to be more comfortable with their bodies, and if hot pink and neon green helps someone to not be ashamed of having to carry a tampon, then I think it’s a job well done.

  • Swift

    YES. Thank you.

  • bumblebecky

    I was watching MTV and this commercial comes on a lot during it. I don’t know how they would fit the word vagina in the monologue.
    It’s a comedic way for them to sell their
    same products at $1.55 more for the packaging.
    That’s all.
    I researched their website and it’s actually pretty awesome, they have articles about buying your daughter’s first bra among other informative articles. Which I think is really cool…

  • uberhausfrau

    first miracle whip and now kotex. hipster irony can stop now, it’s really just not funny anymore. now, a lolcatz tampon commercial would be AWESOME!

  • Mighty Ponygirl
  • TD

    In that case they might prefer not to say which “part” so that if a person exhibits any swelling in any area it won’t be a false claim.

  • ironrailsironweights.wordpress.com

    Commercials for enlarged-prostate drugs like Flomax and Avodart are probably the most explicit ones on television. They avoid euphemisms and talk about “male urinary symptoms” such as “weak stream” or “stopping and starting.”
    Speaking of such products, if you see an actor in a TV commercial who has even a hint of gray hair, you can be pretty much certain that the ad will be for an enlarged-prostate or erectile dysfunction drug.

  • rebekah

    hey Jane,
    I hear you on the problems with menstrual cups. I changed to the cup for convenience because I have to measure my flow and the measurements on the side make that possible. I also had leak problems etc, because my cup was actually too big and not fitting right inside of my vagina. They make different cups that come in a few different sizes which may be more helpful to you. Also, I too cannot wash it out (I live in the dorms with community bathrooms and I tried to wash it out in the sink and one of my dormmates came in saw and freaked out and fainted so they told me I couldn’t wash it in the sink) so I clean my with toilet paper to remove the excess fluid and then at the end I clean it with super hot water and vinegar, which seems to do the trick. I hope that helps and if not, there is not ever going to be a single “right” product for every woman. Just find what works well for you. Good Luck!

  • heyitsmartine

    Oh yeah that’s definitely true. Cups aren’t for everyone, and re-reading my comment it did seem like I was touting it as a be all end all. It’s not. Each and every product for attending to menstruation has it’s pros and cons. I guess my point was, there’s more than two options… it wasn’t until five years after menarche that I figured it out, and plenty of women never learn about these alternative options because the information is not mainstream.
    Even if they end up deciding that tampons are the best choice for them, women should be armed with the knowledge to make a choice out of all the options, not just the two that are easiest for manufacturers to make a lot of money off of.
    I’m not sure how heavy your flow is or how long your work day is, but mine is fairly heavy and I work 9 hour days, and this is how I got around the changing at work thing (because I definitely can’t do that either!). Usually, if you insert right before you leave for work and dump and rinse right after you get home, you can get away with not having to change it while at work. At first I wanted to empty it as much as you change a tampon, especially since I had some leaks my first few tries so I thought it was filling up. It wasn’t. It will actually hold a LOT of blood. You just have to make sure that you’ve got a really good seal. It takes some practice, but it’s kind of a twist to make sure it unfolds and pull… almost like you’re pulling it back out, but you stop just shy of it, and it will work it’s way into place, sans leaks.
    Good luck!

  • Gnatalby

    What Sarah Haskins criticizes as period control ads are ads for birth control, not tampons.
    Tampons: actually for period control. In your vagina.

  • heyitsmartine

    I see where you’re coming from, but here’s my beef. I think a major reason teenage girls feel so ashamed of their bodies/periods is because of “traditional” tampon advertisements. So yeah, they’re on the right track by acknowledging that and making an effort to change it. But this is a very specific sub brand for a very specific demographic… Do they plan on doing an entire brand overhaul? If not, the other ads, they very ones they are mocking… they will still be producing these for other demographics. Teenagers will still see the other commercials that shroud the menstrual cycle in shame and secrecy. They will still be absorbing those images and messages.
    I took a look at the campaign website, and was pretty disappointed by an article titled “Look How Far We’ve Come” in which they discuss how much better off we are for having disposable pads because OMG PEOPLE USED TO HAVE TO MAKE THEIR OWN. I don’t use cloth pads personally, but newsflash, people still do! I’m sure, as a manufacturer of these products, they must know that people still make these products — I’d be appalled if they didn’t because that seems like it should be basic industry knowledge. If they were really concerned about women’s health they could use that as a teachable moment — just stick in “and some women still do,” and if somebody were interested they could research more on their own. But that wouldn’t help sell tampons in jewel-toned packaging, would it?
    Just seems like a gimmick to sell shit.
    I will say, however, I liked this on the Period Myths page:
    “Myth: Menstrual blood is different from regular blood.
    Menstrual blood is regular blood. This myth probably gained traction because menstrual blood flows from the vagina. And because vaginas [sic] are a normal part of the female body, there’s nothing unusual or wrong with menstrual blood. And did you know it has no odor? Now that’s a fact!”
    So, it has it’s good and bad, but overall I think, just as tps12 said, it’s a classic commodification of dissent.

  • AJ

    ^^You actually can’t say the “vagina” word in an ad for a product that goes in your vagina.^^
    Similarly, have you ever seen a commercial for fiber products that say it will help you poop? No. They say it will make you “regular.”
    I think that erectile dysfunction ads get the closest to saying what they mean. At least for a product that lives in the land of euphemisms.

  • sarah_steel

    That commercial infuriates me!

  • w0rdst0ck

    i bought a cup like the one you’re talking about from lunapads.com. they’re based out of canada, and are amazing. they’re called the diva cup. while the name makes my eyes roll, i enjoy not creating garbage during my period, and it has made things more manageable for me. thought i’d give a plug for them ;]