The Vagenda ran a piece last week entitled No Gory With Tampax – a feminist take on the vaguely Olympic-themed but overarchingly sick-making ‘No Tampax, No Glory’ ad currently running on TV.
I’d already seen a few ads from this series via US femzine Jezebel, but hadn’t realised that they were showing outside the States. Peddling variations on a theme of pretty girls outwitting ‘Mother Nature’ as personified by a caustic older woman, the ads are now busily exhorting UK women to pay Procter & Gamble a fiver a month for a selection of daintily-marketed wodges of cotton wool.
I used to find the ads merely annoying, but have been actively seething with rage since reading this NY Times article about Prostate & Fumble’s marketing strategy. The quote that really got me was from the female creative director of the Tampax account at the Leo Burnett USA agency, who insisted that the campaign is “intent on avoiding oft-parodied clichés”.
You what now?
Mother Nature? Monthly gift? Red wrapping paper and white gym knickers? Knowing looks? COME ON. I accept that there may be vagina-fearing Americans out there who see this euphemistic drivel as thrillingly explicit*, but I really want to know why there are still cretins in UK focus groups saying that they like this shit.
We’re the nation that produced Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Wollstonecraft, the Pankhursts, Susie Orbach and Caitlin Moran. Germaine Greer likes it here so much that she’s decided to stay on. Cupcakes and Cath Kidston notwithstanding, feminism in the UK has literally never been this hip. Surely British women are ready for honesty in advertising? Something that doesn’t patronise us. Something that tells it like it is. Something like:
It’s day two of your period, and it appears that the world has just fallen out of your vagina. We understand. Buy our product, because it will enable you lead a relatively normal existence for the next few days while at the same time preventing stains to your furniture and loved ones. It comes with a free bottle of gin. Here is how it works.
In an ideal world this message would be accompanied by an animated demonstration (which could involve pubes, but at no point a pair of water wings) and some nice music under a clear, non-patronising voiceover. There could be a series of these ads, each one narrated by a different woman with a different regional accent (or, alternatively, exclusively by the guy who does the commentary for Come Dine With Me: I haven’t decided yet). In case viewers are still unsure as to what differentiates the brand from its competitors, there could be a brief word from the company CEO and perhaps some footage of the place where the product is made, featuring jocular factory workers wearing hair nets and singing rousing menstruation shanties. It would be great. Sales for the product would go through the roof.
But no: we’re still stuck with the same ads, the same characters, the same tired codes. Sure, nowadays the ads daringly using the words ‘period’ and ‘flow’, but essentially they fail to address the reality of what most women experience once a month. More importantly, they’re boring. As the author of the Vagenda post said: “Perhaps if the lady in green was replaced by a red tsunami, it would actually be pretty great.” Amen to that, sister.
From our point of view, the ads are pointless. Feminine hygiene products don’t come free on the NHS, so nearly every woman in the UK between the ages of 12 and 50 is a potential customer for these companies. Unless you’re blessed with an exceptionally light flow – or everything you own is red and self-cleaning – you’re going to need to buy sanitary products from someone for around 40 years of your life. The adverts are just to try and persuade you not to buy them from another company. Unless you’re 11, they’re not going to be educational – so instead, they try to make them entertaining and aspirational. And that gets on my tits, ESPECIALLY when there’s an alternative that I hardly see represented at all.
The Mooncup is probably the only consumer product for which I am 100% prepared to evangelise. It literally changed my life. For those not in the know, the Mooncup is the most popular-selling brand of menstrual cup in the UK. A menstrual cup is pretty what you’d imagine something of that name to be. It’s a silicone cup with a trimmable stem that you fold up lengthways and insert into your vagina. Once in place, the cup unfolds itself and forms a seal with the inside of the vagina, so nothing can leak out. Then it just sits there, quietly collecting menstrual blood until you take it out by pulling gently on the stem.
You remove the cup every few hours, just like a tampon, and empty the contents into the toilet, or down the sink. The genius of it is that even in the unlikely event that you menstruated a greater volume of blood than the volume of the Mooncup, the blood would just pootle around, trapped between the Mooncup and the inside of your vagina. Until, of course, the whole passage fills up. Then the Mooncup is expelled with the force of a thousand geysers**.
Ah! The Mooncup. I love everything about it: the convenience, the healthiness, the comfort, the environmental smugness, the hilarious slurping noise it can make if you whip it out a bit too quickly in the cubicle of a public toilet. then there’s the not inconsequential matter of the £550 or so that my two Mooncups have saved me over 9 years***. The only problems I’ve ever experienced with a Mooncup have all been to do with being on public transport and not being able to remember if I’ve put it in. It is just. Excellent.
When my writing takes off and I become mega-famous, I will gladly take time off from swigging martinis and grooming puppies in my literary salon to be the celebrity face of the Mooncup. I already have THIS ad planned out.
MOONCUP TELEVISION AD
SCENE: my flat, but nicer. A buzzing party.
JK Rowling takes photos as Caitlin Moran throws hula hoops for Salman Rushdie to catch in his mouth. A selection of my mates and various celebrity guests laugh and applaud. Germaine Greer sits in a corner necking Pinot Grigio and haranguing a potplant.
Camera pans to Mooncup sitting on kitchen surface, then pulls back to wider shot of me pouring red wine into a wineglass. I wink to camera.
More applause as I rejoin party. Fade to tagline: The Mooncup. We know what you’re thinking, but this will DEFINITELY fit in your vagina.
I pitched an early draft of this treatment to Mooncup on Twitter a few months ago. They said:
@mooncupltd: It’s trickier than it at first may seem, especially without erring into cliches… Thanks for trying ; )
When you regain your senses, chaps, you know where I am.
* It is entirely acceptable for Brits to be xenophobic towards Americans on Independence Day. Ungrateful bastards.
** This cannot happen.
*** ((9 years x 13 periods) x £5) – ((Mooncups x 2) x £18) = £585 – £36 = £549