Women menstruate, period.
So, you can imagine how frustrating and upsetting it is that in this day and age, the word “period” and the insinuation of its existence can be deemed inappropriate and “too suggestive.”
Thinx, a company that designs underwear specifically for periods, is “committed to breaking taboo around menstruation.”
It recently pitched some witty, well-designed ads to be placed in the New York City subway system, and of course, complaints and concerns arose.
Outfront Media, the company that approves or rejects ads to be placed on MTA premises, initially declined the ads for being too evocative, but then later approved them "without a single change to their content," according to Cosmopolitan.com.
Born and raised in NYC, I’ve spent a large chunk of my life commuting on trains and buses.
The ads displayed on trains include services for clearing up your skin, affordable podiatric surgery and an abundance of images that sexualize women.
Considering breast augmentation ads that suggest women would be happier with larger, grapefruit-sized breasts have been approved, it’s interesting that these ads that objectify women weren't labeled as “suggestive.”
Ads with women donning bathing suits that ask if you’re "beach body ready" are also somehow completely okay.
It seems body-shaming and sexual objectification are appropriate and even widely accepted on public transportation.
The ads that were pitched from Thinx use the tagline, “Underwear for Women With Periods,” and each ad has a beautifully artistic image to the left of the copy.
While there were complaints for the use of the actual word “period,” there were also complaints of the images alongside them.
According to an email exchange obtained by Mic:
An Outfront representative told Agrawal that in addition to some of their concerns over copyright issues, several of the proposed ads 'seem to have a bit too much skin,' adding that the egg and grapefruit imagery, 'regardless of the context, seems inappropriate.'
Let’s go over what these images actually represent.
The first image is literally a grapefruit. While it’s meant to resemble a vagina, it is a fruit. It is the same fruit that was okayed when it resembled breast implants.
The next ad includes a cracked egg and a woman sprawled over a stool. The egg and the leaning over displays the very real and agonizing experience of menstrual cramps.
Once again, this cracked egg, while meant to suggest something else, it is still in fact just an egg.
Coming from a company that has welcomed a multitude of ads promoting breast augmentation, the criticism these ads show “too much skin” is completely ludicrous.
Those ads display zoomed-in images of, well, breasts.
I don’t think an underwear ad that doesn’t objectify women should offend anyone.
And I really hope I don’t stand alone in this presumption. Actually, I know that I don’t.
In response to the disapproval of the ads, the #NotYourGrapefruit campaign on Twitter was born, voicing women’s frustration.
And while representatives at Outfront Media claimed, "This is not a women's issue. Don't try to make it a women's rights thing," it is, in fact, a women’s issue.
The fact women have constantly been sexualized through imagery in the media is a women's issue.
The fact breasts are okay as fun bags for men, but shameful when breastfeeding is a women's issue.
The fact it's okay to display nearly nude women to sell anything, whether relevant or not, is a women's issue.
The fact saying "period" is not an acceptable term to use in a public space is a women's issue.
This ad is made solely for those who experience periods, so they can lounge in comfort during an uncomfortable experience.
This ad is not made for the male gaze, and that combats a lot of the issues stated above.
The menstrual cycle is a very human experience.
Women know it happens, men know it happens and educated children know it happens.
It's not a dirty, sexual word or experience; it's a natural one.
The controversy surrounding this issue really supports the reason why we need companies like Thinx to challenge the stigma around menstruation.
Managing what ads should appear in public domains and on public transportation should not condone the societal shame that surrounds periods.
Instead, we should celebrate it, and I hope to see Thinx ads on my subway ride very soon.