The strong reaction to a banned Tampax advert in Ireland shows that we’ve absolutely had enough of period shaming.
Just last month, we reported on a new Bodyform advert that went viral on Twitter. In a world where we’re sick of the sugarcoated advertising for period products, it was so refreshing to see a video showing the realities of what vaginas go through. From blood leaks, to infertility and endometriosis – it helped smash taboos around periods and made some noise in the face of society’s silence over women’s wombs.
But the banning of another period product advert in Ireland shows that there are still so many open discussions we need to have about periods.
Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) advised that Tampax’s Tampons and Tea advert should not air again in the same format, after receiving 150 complaints – with 83%, perhaps quite surprisingly, coming from women.
Let’s take a look at the the so-called “offensive” advert.
As you can see, it’s tame: a talk show host basically uses her hands to demonstrate how to properly insert a tampon properly into a vagina so that it feels comfortable. “Not just the tip; up to the grip,” she says at the end. And that’s literally it.
But, as reported by Metro, the complaints included: the ad was demeaning to women, suggesting they don’t know how to use a tampon; it contained sexual innuendo with the hand demonstration; and it was unsuitable for young children.
None of these specific complaints were upheld by ASAI, but it did uphold the complaints of general offence, saying the advert breached standards because it “caused widespread offence”.
The Irish Times has since reported that the ASAI has signalled the decision could be reviewed, but it is continuing to drive a big discussion about period advertisements. Although some women argue that the advert was patronising, it’s difficult to grasp why this would cause enough offence to call for a ban on an advert that, ultimately, aims to help women with their periods.
Speaking on Newstalk FM, doctor, newspaper columnist and radio presenter Ciara Kelly discussed what she thinks the real issue is here: the “shame” that is still associated with women’s bodies.
“First of all, the complaints that weren’t upheld, around things like ‘it was full of sexual innuendo’. Do you know what? I totally get that, to most men, a vagina – and I’m going to say that word so many times today because I’m a bit irked – is a sexual thing” Kelly asserted.
“But do you know what? To the body that I live in and the body that 51% of the population live in, that is female, it’s just a bit of our body, and in fairness, it does other things too. We give birth through it, we menstruate through it. It bleeds, it sits there [ …] it’s like having an elbow. We have vaginas and they do stuff and it isn’t all about sex. So suggesting that anything to do with the vagina is sexual, that’s not the female perspective, OK?”
She continued: “To me, what this says, and the reason I am concerned about this, is the only reason this ad was taken down – and 84 complaints isn’t that many in a population of 6-odd million, nearly – is because it’s to do with shame around women’s bodies.
“And let me say this: we have the lowest breast feeding rates in the Western world because our boobs are sexualised, and even though they are actually designed to feed our babies… [people say] ‘that’s disgusting’.
Kelly added: “The ASAI say they don’t like to have these kind of ads about tampons if there’s going to be people under 18 looking at them. We get our periods at about the age of 11 or 12. Some girls get them at the age of nine. Are they not supposed to find out about them and think of them as normal for another 11 years?
“It is an old, anachronistic throwback in Ireland: we might be all liberal and we might repeal the eighth and we might vote for this, that and the bloody other, but there is an inherent shaming of women still in this country. And if that ad for tampons talking about putting a tampon into your vagina offends you, well half of us are doing it all the time.”
She concluded: “I’m not wearing one at the moment lads, but I wear one sometimes and I don’t care.”
Kelly’s reaction has now garnered over 13k likes on Twitter, proving that – although inherent shame around women’s bodies is still prevalent – there are so many people out there who want to be part of the change that smashes this outdated perspective.