The loonie fringe of Irish Feminism
Róisín Ingle went off half-cocked recently in her article published in the Irish Times with the screaming headline ‘I’m menstruating as I write this. And I’m mad as all bloody hell’. What was the cause of her madness? The decision by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) to request the removal of a TV commercial demonstrating to women how to use tampons correctly. Róisín is a feminist and blames the withdrawal of the advert on the ‘controlling tricks played by the patriarchy’ to make women mortified of their menstruation periods. When we examine the truth behind the controversy there is no doubt that the bias evident in the article is the exemplar of the problems facing rational discourse in present-day Ireland.
A small piece of information is kept from the view of readers, which if were included, might drop a big hint that patriarchy is not to blame. The vast majority of the 84 complaints received by the ASAI about the ad, were from women. Some complained that the ad made out that women were too stupid to read the instructions on the packet. Róisín then bolsters this claim, writing that when she was 14 years old, she did not read or could not follow the instructions on a packet of tampons, and argues that TV ads are needed to instruct women and girls on how to use them.
The most interesting aspect is why Tampax chose to present the ad in the way it did. That is what caused offence and drew the complaints. Tampax and practically the whole range of feminine sanitary products have been advertised on Irish TV for decades and this is the first time in my memory that one has attracted so many complaints. I include the description of the advert below along with a link to the video.
Underpinning the advert was a research study which Tampax conducted with over 5,000 women in different countries (not including Ireland), which demonstrated that between 60 to 80% of women had not inserted their tampons correctly. That might not sit well with their market and rather than use rational fact-based advert, Tampax chose to use a chat show setting bearing the title ‘Tampons & Tea with comfort wright from Tampax’. The ASAI provide a transcript…
[If you feel discomfort] “You shouldn’t, it might mean your tampon is not in far enough.” At this point the following on-screen text appeared:
“*Always follow pack instructions for correct use”.
The host continued: “You gotta get ‘em up there girls”.
[At the end:] “So, get ‘em up there girls with Tampax. Do it for comfort”.
Why could the advert not say something like this…
If you are experiencing discomfort from your tampon, it is not inserted properly. Make sure that the applicator is inserted fully before you seat the tampon.
When we ask why Tampax choose to discount a rational format a more entertaining format it might indeed reveal what advertisers think appeals to the female psyche.
Róisín keen to draw big inferences from female sanitary product advertisements writes…
‘Blue liquid indicates clean and fresh as opposed to bright-crimson or darkly brooding blood, which by its omission from the ads was implicitly unclean. You watched these ads as a teenager and understood all of this subconsciously. Your menstrual reality was just too gross. Periods were gross. Women were gross.’
According to that logic, babies are gross too and there are many adverts for nappies/diapers which use blue liquid to demonstrate the absorbent capacity of such products. So if that makes babies out to be gross should we not ban the use of blue liquid and replace it a more natural yellow coloured liquid and perhaps use peanut butter to more accurately simulate baby function number two. May I suggest that when advertising adult incontinence pads the use of hazelnut chocolate spread would give a better representation of adult stools. Diluted Lucozade would be the ideal representation of amniotic fluid, another use for sanitary towels.
In fact, why don’t we use such simulations to advertise toilet paper? I am sure that many people cannot use it properly either. Would it not be a great idea to simulate nasal mucus or snot using lemon curd or rotten custard when advertising tissues or clotted cream to simulate semen in condom commercials. We could also show vomit and pus in pimple-popping commercials.
Róisín tells her readers that ‘everything to do with periods is still embarrassing or offensive or needs to be toned down.’
However that ignores reality, would you like to see accurate simulations of body fluids on your TV screen especially while you are about to consume a product which is now associated with defecation. It would be enough to turn most people’s stomachs but in recent years TV ads for feminine sanitary products have used blood-red liquid not just in pads but running down between a woman’s legs while in a shower.
My teenage daughters find the TV ads for sanitary products embarrassing and wonder why they have to go into such detail. Men and boys do not have to endure such embarrassments but the patriarchy, no doubt, enjoys all the closeup clips of women’s crouches in various poses which now feature in many sanitary product adverts.
Róisín says ‘You didn’t even live in a country where some women are not allowed take part in religious ceremonies while menstruating.’ She is a bit confused in this statement saying that the country allowed women full participation. However, I think she intended to say the opposite, thus positing a big hint without any clarification. Jews and Muslims are a minority today and back in the 80s when she was struggling to get a tampon seated correctly, were in an even smaller minority.
Róisín goes on to tell us about the difficulty she now has in calculating the number of tampons required time period, now that she is at the menopause and about the accident in her friend’s bed. I wonder if this is an argument in favour of TV ads advising middle-aged women of how to calculate the number of tampons or pads needed per hour. Maybe they are in the product instructions already but as non-user, I would have to look that up.
Róisín tells us another story which evinces that feminine disgust of menstruation may be innate and demonstrates the point I made using foodstuffs.
I think I am about the age my older relative was when, as a child on holiday in England, I noticed a patch of brownish red on her pale trousers and was disgusted that she was having her period so publicly.
Stained and shamed, she went to the bathroom, and I heard her say, pleadingly, noticing my appalled expression, “Sorry. I’m bleeding like a stuck pig.” And then my aunt muttered something about “the visitor coming early”, and I wanted to die on the floor of the cafe, and it put me off my scones with cream and all that bright-red, ruined for-me-now raspberry jam. It was all so “offensive” and “over-descriptive”. I wasn’t even a teenager yet, but I’d already got the message.
She blames the patriarchy for giving her ‘the message’ but she was disgusted as a child, a pre-teenage child, or lacking an adult understanding of the world, which might indicate that females have an innate revulsion for periods. All sanitary products ads feature females, not males and the use of the words like ‘sanitary’ relates to health, while ‘hygiene’ relates to cleanliness and deodorant pads and tampons indicate that bad smells are also associated with menstruation. Add in the cramps (dysmenorrhea) and crankiness which can be part of menstruation for many women it is not surprising that women react negatively to crass depictions of feminine sanitary products. Tampax has form, look at this advert which has a fish dangling from a fishing line. So you want everyone to know it smells fishy or be reminded every time you open a magazine or turn on the TV.
I found a TV commercial from 1980 o YouTube for Playtex tampons featuring Brenda Vaccaro who wanted to tell women about ‘the facts about tampons, to use them intelligently and to know what you are doing.’ That message has failed, as 40 years later Tampax has to repeat the same message, but with now using a simulated vagina (thumb and forefinger).
Clearly, for Irish feminists, men are to blame for all women’s problems but the Tampons with their tube in a tube applicator were invented by a man, Dr Earl Hass in 1931. Tthe following year he sold the patent to Gertrude Tenderich for $32,000 and she, in turn, founded Tampax. Dr Haas motivated by his observation of how uncomfortable, frustrated and embarrassed his patients and his wife felt when they had their period and set about inventing a device to try and help them. Such evidence exposes the nonsense about patriarchy and evinces that the Irish feminist agenda is founded on the twin pillars of self-victimisation and notoriety through the fabrication of androgynous falsehoods.
Dr Ciara Kelly is a radio presenter and a feminist and she too had a lot to say about the removal of the TV ad and put all the blame on men. In the webcam footage of the radio show, she fails to inform her audience that 83% of the complaints made to the ASAI were from women, and 17% were from men. Perhaps she had not taken the time to inform herself of such facts and so she too went off half-cocked and broadcast her anger to the nation…
I totally get that to men, a vagina is, and I am going to say that word so many times today because I’m a bit irked, is a sexual thing. Do you know what, to the body I live in and the body that 51% of the population live in, that is female, it is just a bit of our body and in fairness it does other things too.
Accordingly, listeners to the Ciara Kelly show will be left with the false impression that the advert was removed because men find that a vagina is ‘a sexual thing’. She is mistaken, but I doubt if she will withdraw any of claims and apologise for what seems to be a plethora of androgynous prejudices. Besides some men do not find vaginas a ‘sexual thing’ and in this age of diversity and equality, why are there no TV ads selling butt plugs to men using the slogan, “you gotta get ‘em up there boys”. Also neglected is the fact that some owners of vaginas also find vaginas ‘a sexual thing’, according to Kelly’s logic, it is only men and lesbians who complain about tampon ads. I think not. I would also surmise that the patriarchy would enjoy it immensely if Tampax showed their product being inserted into a real vagina, instead of a simulated vagina using a thumb and forefinger. Note the use of the word vagina seven… now eight times in this paragraph.
There is no mistake, Kelly is blaming males for complaining to the ASAI:
…and if that ad for putting a tampon in your vagina offends you, well half of us are doing it all the time. I am not wearing one at the moment lads but I wear one sometimes and I don’t care. And you can complain the BAI is where you complain about me too, not the ASAI but this is a nonsense.
Most women in Ireland belong to a cohort of people who are intelligent, competent and sensible. They are likely to complain when they encounter a TV advert which in their opinion is demeaning to women. The silent majority are kept quite due to a natural tendency to avoid the stench of cow manure and getting caught up in an unwinnable argument in a country which has been abandoned by the age of reason and enlightenment.
In Ireland in recent times, public opinion is guided and manipulated using apathy. Hardly any effort is required to base one’s opinions on assumptions, false history and prejudice. These three amigos have been allowed to take precedence over and above well researched, erudite and rational discourse. It is illustrative of how the race to the bottom was won. That is 21st century Ireland for you.
Why are stupid adverts continually aimed at women and what does that say about women who are receptive of such ads? Ireland’s feminists will not like the answer.
The advert transcript by the ASAI
The television advertisement, set in a studio type setting for a chat show, featured a female host and a young girl sitting in a chair waiting to be interviewed. A background screen featured a teacup at the bottom with on-screen text which stated:
“Tampons & Tea with COMFORT WRIGHT FROM TAMPAX”
A small circular table appeared to the right of the screen. The table contained a cup turned upside down with a saucer on top. The saucer contained a box of Tampax Tampons Pearl Compak.
The advertisement opened with the word “TAMPAX” on-screen. The chat show host appeared alongside a young girl seated in her chair. The host engaged with her audience and spoke as follows:
“Welcome back. We have a great show for you today.”
The host sat down and continued to speak:
“So, tell me, how many of you ever feel your tampon?” The young girl raised her hand and nodded her head to demonstrate that she had.
The host continued:
“You shouldn’t, it might mean your tampon is not in far enough.” At this point the following on-screen text appeared:
“*Always follow pack instructions for correct use”.
The host continued:
“You gotta get ‘em up there girls”.
The host resumed accompanied by an on-screen demonstration of how to insert a tampon correctly. The demonstration featured a woman making a circle with her thumb and index finger on one hand as she held the tampon applicator in the other hand. She inserted the tampon applicator from one hand into the circle just created and released the tampon from its holder. While this demonstration was on-going the host spoke as follows:
“Exactly. Our special Tampax Pearl Compak grip design for your guide to comfort. Just pull it, lock it and put it in. Not just the tip, up to the grip”. The majority of this message also appeared as on-screen text with an additional footnote which stated:
“*When experiencing persistent discomfort not related to incorrect insertion of your tampon, consult your doctor”.
The host concluded the presentation with the following message:
“So, get ‘em up there girls with Tampax. Do it for comfort”.
In the end frame, the host winked at the camera, the young girl smiled and a pack of Tampax Pearl Compak appeared on screen.