Monday, 2 January 2012

Tampons and Transphobia

Trigger Warning: Transphobia, cissexism

Edit: Thank you for those who let me know that the appropriate term is 'trans woman' with a space. It has now been changed. This article explains why (via Elichrusos)

Libra is the Australian & New Zealand arm of an international brand of women's 'feminine hygiene' products. So basically, they sell tampons, pads ect. I've never tended to pay much attention to their advertisements to be honest. To me, tampon ads to seem to (usually) all look the same. Some of them I find mildly offensive due to the stereotyping of women in the advertisements, but most of the time they don't even make my radar. 

Libra's latest ad definitely made my radar. The ad (courtesy of YouTube) is below if you want to take a look. The ad is currently featured on Libra's website and is playing on free to air television.

The advertisement is incredibly offensive to trans women (and any woman, I would think). It features a pretty young ciswoman in a bathroom next to what appears to be a trans woman or possibly what is meant to be not a trans woman but a 'drag queen' (I am unsure what Libra were intending). They both begin applying makeup competitively, mascara then lip gloss ect. The ciswoman then pulls out a box of tampons and offers one to the trans woman. The transwoman walks off in a huff. 

The ad ends with a box of tampons and the slogan 'Libra gets girls'.

This ad has so many problems it appalls me.

Firstly, the stereotyping and mocking of trans women. Portraying trans women with over the top makeup, huge fake nails and fake boobs is extremely stereotypical. Trans women are very rarely portrayed in the mainstream media, and when people only see images like these of transwomen, it is extremely harmful. It reinforces specific perceptions on what a trans woman is.

Secondly, the implication that trans women are not 'real' women. The entire ad is based on the premise that 'real' women get periods, and that if you don't, you are excluded from 'womanhood'. This idea not only excludes transwomen from the club of 'womanhood' but also so many other women who do not get periods. For example, women who have had hysterectomies, women who do not get periods due to certain illnesses. 

The slogan really frustrates me too. Clearly if Libra 'got girls' they would not have made such a damaging advertisement. They would understand that definition of gender is not restricted to if a person has one bodily function. 

Implying that women are only women if they menstruate is reinforcing a culture that says that women are only made valid by their ability and desire to have children. 

In short, it is a disgraceful ad that should be pulled. Libra should be apologising for even thinking that this was a good idea. It uses trans women as a punchline, something to be laughed at and degraded. 

If the ad has made you angry too, here's how you can help:

Complain to Libra:

Their facebook:
Their twitter: @LoveLibraX with the #transphobictampons hashtag.

Complain to Ad Standards:

Their website:

Inform your friends. Link to this blog, or the video, or post about it yourself.

Boycott Libra. Money talks more than anything else.

If you're interested, take a look at this website: by Matt Kailey, who has a great (but not definitive) FAQ on how to not be offensive to trans people, and general education about trans people. 


  1. Hey! I appreciate your post, but at the same time I think maybe you could please read this:

    Also, your third paragraph reads like you're conflating drag queens and trans* women, which I am sure you are not, but heads up.

  2. Honestly, I don't know what is worse;
    A. This offensive ad.
    B. That most tampon ads are offensive to women, yet it takes an insult to a particular group of women to get us up in arms.

    All round this advert is offensive, I'm not taking from the fact that this specifically is offensive to trans women and that absolutely needs to be focus here, just I think we all should be looking at how offensive and opressive tampon ads are in general.

    As a side note - my ex boyfriend is now a trans woman (yes, the language is tricky), few months ago she was explaining that she actually does get a 'period' bleeding, but gets the full range of PMS symptoms once a month. I'd not exclude trans women from the cycle and period experience all together, and I think as time goes on we all will learn a lot about social influences on menstruation from these women (perhaps view of menstrual taboos from those who experienced growing up female differently)...tampon companies could probably learn from them on this too.

  3. The funny thing is I am biologically female, and I do not get periods due to something called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, so with that in mind, this commercial is implying that I, a Biological Woman, am not actually a Woman because I do not menstruate, that along with the Transphobia makes this an extremely offensive commercial to me. ( I am a Biological Female, but I Identify as Male, Though if I look at it from a Cisgendered Female with Polycystic's Prospective ( Which I can do) It is still quite offensive.)