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.