Tampons and Transphobia

Advertising, Disposable menstrual products, FemCare, Menstruation

Guest post by Lauren Ingram

Libra is the Australian and New Zealand arm of an international brand of women’s ‘feminine hygiene’ products. So basically, they sell tampons, pads, and other femcare products. 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:

If you’re interested, take a look at this website: http://tranifesto.com/transgender-faqs-and-info/ 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.


Update: As of late afternoon, January 3, 2012, Transadvocate reports that Libra has apologized and suspended the campaign.

Lauren Ingram is a Journalism and Political Communication student at the University of Canberra. This post was originally published at her blog, That Politics Girl, on January 1, 2012.

2 thoughts on “Tampons and Transphobia

  1. I have a couple of points to make on this. If the definition of being a woman is having a period – as it seems according to this advert – then all women taking the Pill would also not be considered real women. They do not have periods. Some may have withdrawal bleeding for a week, but more and more now run packs of Pills together and rarely bleed at all. Also of course, women after menopause do not have periods. These are two huge sections of the female population ruled out of being woman.

    If having a uterus and ovulating does not indicate being a woman – then does having breasts and a vagina? If having breasts and a vagina is no indication then why do many tranwomen take hormones and go through surgery to obtain these, and other, exterior signs of being female? Why wouldn’t it be simpler, and more progressive even, to just stay as you are physically but label yourself as you desire – genderless if necessary?

    I’m curious as as a genetic woman I myself have ever changing views of what it is to be a woman for me and how I feel within my sex and within my gender. Sometimes I think I’d like to have the feeling of being a woman I hear transwomen say they gain from changing their bodies. I have met transwomen who make me feel like a poor substitute for a ‘real women’ so feminine – and in line with social norms – that they are in appearance and behaviour. I think some genetic women do change their bodies in order to feel more womanly – they have breast implants, surgery on their vaginas, liposuction. Yet they are not considered transwomen, although they are transformed to an extent. If someone is born with a penis but ‘feels’ like a woman, what does that feel like? I’m not sure I understand, and as a woman I feel I should know how that feels.

    If it is only a matter of how you choose to define yourself then I question the use of the term ‘cisfemale’ – according the definitions I found of this term it means someone whose assigned female gender is consistent with their personal sense of self. My assigned gender is not at all consistent with my sense of self. I am told I am a woman, but I am just me. I am me and different to other people who would be called cisfemale. This seems so restrictive in itself.

    If I am honest, the times that I most definitely ‘feel’ like a woman is when I ovulate and when I have my period. When I feel the cycle of hormones reaching the peaks and troughs throughout the month – this is when I feel connected to something bigger than myself, to perhaps my ‘gender’ – my womanliness. The rest of the time, I’m just me. I imagine you may find many genetic women feel the same. When I was on the Pill for ten years I was still considered a woman (although I was transforming my body throughout that time on the inside in a way as dramatic as plastic surgery – and in a way not unlike that process undertaken by many transwomen), but I was divorced not only from my woman-ness as I now feel it but from my sense of self in doing this. I would go into this further – but better to check out my blog – http://www.sweeteningthepill.blogspot.com and particularly the ‘Beyond Female’ post.

    I completely understand where you are coming from with this advert. I am not on the company’s side. I do however think the discussions arising around transwomen and what it is to be a woman are often making massive leaps of logic and many unapologetic assumptions.

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