Recently, there has been another issue involving the double standards of gender. Advertisements for THINX, women’s underwear designed to absorb women’s periods without tampons or pads, were supposed to be put up across billboards throughout the New York subway. Yet, Outfront Media, a contractor for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, deemed these ads too offensive.
Just what exactly is portrayed in the advertisements that makes them so suggestive? Honestly, nothing. There are images of loose egg whites and their yolks as well as halves of grapefruits angled to look like a certain sexual organ. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek, yes, but these images represent a very real process that women have to go with.
In an MTA meeting, the chairman of the organization, Thomas Prendergast, provided some insight as to why he isn’t supportive of THINX’s advertisements.
“On a personal level, I just found parts of those ads offensive,” said Prendergast.
Excuse me? What’s offensive, exactly? Menstruation is apparently such a taboo, especially among the gender that isn’t able to experience it. We often treat this natural part of the body cycle as if it’s one of the most sensitive topics in the world only because we’re not sure what that whole monthly experience is all about.
Just what is it that makes the male perspective so uncomfortable — fear of the unknown perhaps? It’s just another part of puberty, honestly. Boys experience erections, women get monthly bleeding. As a male, I can understand the sentiment of not being sure how to react to the latter, but I wasn’t sure how to react to that first part when I was younger either. Either way, we should be able to be adults about this.
What’s worse is that these ads are very creative. There aren’t any issues regarding body representation of women — they’re simple and clean in the way they’re designed. And yet, Outfront Media’s defense for not supporting these ads is more nitpicky than anything else. For instance, the women portrayed in the ads are wearing too much skin. Many of them are in a shirt and THINX underwear — there are many more ads portraying women in a more sexual manner. These women aren’t even in any suggestive positions.
Next, Outfront didn’t like the way “Period” was prevalent across the ads. This is probably one of the most ridiculous reasons I’ve heard. These censors seem to be misunderstanding what THINX’s advertisements are for. And while they are fighting to not have these ads across the New York tunnels, there are still ads regarding condoms and breast augmentation — which happen to also use the metaphorical imagery of large, round citrus fruits — present. I don’t understand how those are any better. In fact, they seem much worse, but I digress.
“We live in a patriarchal society. The period conversation makes them uncomfortable. There’s such a double standard with what’s allowed to be up there,” said Miki Agrawal, CEO of THINX, when asked by Refinery29 Magazine about the ongoing fight to keep these ads up.
Agrawal is absolutely right. If there are ads regarding condoms or breast enhancements which seem to focus more on the male gaze than anything, it seems there’s no space for something actually interesting and innovative like being able to wear underwear with unneeded tampons or pads. Heaven forbid people try to understand where THINX and women in general are coming from regarding that.
Thankfully, the THINX advertisements have been approved. They will be covering Bedford Avenue Station from November 9th onwards. While this may be a battle won, that doesn’t excuse the complications that incited this ordeal in the first place. It shouldn’t have been that hard. This entire conflict only emphasizes the idea that unless the man is a gynecologist, he doesn’t want to deal with the natural workings of a woman’s body — except when it involves sex.
We’ve come a long way from the times when women weren’t able to vote, sure, but there are still large remnants of the patriarchal society here which won’t exactly be leaving any time soon. Honestly, I see no reason those egg yolks and grapefruits should be taken in an offensive manner. The only thing they invoke in my head, at least, is what I’m going to have for breakfast tomorrow.
David Ngo is an English and Public Health Policy double major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.