Ads by menstrual underwear company might be too “inappropriate” for the NYC subway

The company Thinx is trying to buy space on the New York City subway to run these ads for “underwear for women or any menstruating human with periods.” While the MTA hasn’t approved or rejected the ads yet, it’s run into some objections from the company that manages the subway’s advertising — including concern about including the word “period” at all.

Mic reports:

In an email exchange obtained by Mic, an Outfront representative told Agrawal that in addition to some of their concerns over copyright issues, several of the proposed ads “seem to have a bit too much skin,” adding that the egg and grapefruit imagery, “regardless of the context, seems inappropriate.”

During initial conversations with the agency, before Thinx submitted its proposal, a representative reportedly expressed concern that the advertisements would not be approved if they contained the tagline “For Women With Periods.” According to Veronica del Rosario, Thinx’s director of marketing, the representative was concerned that children would see the word “period” in the ad and ask their parents what it meant. When Thinx later submitted the ad with the word “period” in the copy, the agency told them they could not run the copy “as is.”

The claim that the ads, which feature women in underwear, tanktops, and a goddamn turtleneck, show “too much skin” for the MTA’s standards is a clear double standard, given that far more scantily clad women regular appear on the subway in lingerie, breast augmentation, and weight loss ads, not to mention movie posters. As Thinx’s CEO Miki Agrawal told Mic, “We can objectify women in their lingerie, but the minute we acknowledge that they might be bleeding in their underwear, it’s no longer acceptable.” As for the suggestive egg and grapefruit, even that’s been done before. Last year, an ad for a plastic surgery firm showed a woman holding a pair of grapefruits in front of her chest. When Thinx asked why the grapefruit imagery wasn’t deemed inappropriate that case, the rep from Outfront fumbled for an answer.

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But I’m even more pissed off about the concern that children would see the word “period” and might — God forbid! — ask their parents what it meant. I would like to live in a world where parents explain to their kids what periods are. I would, in fact, like for them to do that without an ad campaign spuring that conversation. I mean, I’m not one to respond to menstruation stigma by reclaiming some sense of innate feminine power in my cycle because 1) that’s cisnormative and gender essentialist and 2) on the day-to-day I think periods are just an underwear-ruining hassle. But, for fuck’s sake, not only is menstruation something half the population does but it is a pretty key part of the story of how human life itself gets reproduced. And explaining that fairly incredible story seems like it should be basic parenting 101.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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