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Tampon-Makers Can't Mention the V-Word. Period.

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Guardian: An advertising campaign for tampons is rejected by US television networks for daring to include the word vagina.

For years, advertising for tampons and "sanitary products" have been shrouded in nebulous euphemism. So what happens when a US tampon-maker drops the coy messaging and goes straight for the jugular (so to speak)? Its ad gets banned by the major US television networks for mentioning the word vagina.

Even when the company substituted "down there" for vagina, two of the networks still wouldn't run the ad, so the company was forced to drop the idea altogether. That provoked Amanda Hess, author of The Sexist blog, to observe: "Now, the commercial contains no direct references to female genitalia - you know, the place where the f*cking tampon goes."

An executive for Kimberly-Clark, the owner of Kotex, notes that US TV networks have no such compunction about references to "erectile dysfunction" in prime-time ads for Viagra and Ciallis.

The New York Times reports that the campaign - produced by the advertising agency JWT, part of WPP - for tampon brand Kotex was "a bit too frank" for US television:

Merrie Harris, global business director at JWT, said that after being informed that it could not use the word vagina in advertising by three broadcast networks, it shot the ad cited above with the actress instead saying "down there", which was rejected by two of the three networks. (Both Ms Harris and representatives from the brand declined to specify the networks.)

"It's very funny because the whole spot is about censorship," Ms Harris said. "The whole category has been very euphemistic, or paternalistic even, and we're saying, enough with the euphemisms, and get over it. Tampon is not a dirty word, and neither is vagina."

The amended ad shown above, "How do I feel about my period?", has a series of images parodying the stock images used in sanitary product advertising, and concludes: "The ads on TV are really helpful because they use that blue liquid, and I'm like, oh, that's what's supposed to happen." The ad debuted on US television this week.

Things are different in anything-goes Britain, where the makers of the Mooncup product have a website entitled

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25 comments so far | Post a comment now
Gail Cooke March 21, 2010, 9:16 AM

To be honest, tampon commercials are hideous anyway…must they start mentioning v-jays? We all know the relevent details, we don’t have to have vagina sprayed all over the airwaves. If they want to get into details why don’t they just mention blood soaked cotton shoved up our vaginas then? Would that make feminists happy? I don’t mind the vacuous references thank you very much.

Jordan M. March 21, 2010, 11:31 AM

Gail you are a very stupid person. If you have can’t handle hearing the word vagina(not “v-jay”) it’s your problem not the rest of the world.

Why is it okay to talk about erectile disfunction, herpes, and sex in general in commercials but vaginas are dirty? Even swear words are perfectly acceptable for use on television, yet dumb people become disconcerted over use of proper terminology.

Isn’t this like back when my mother was a young woman going through puberty and getting her period for the first time that women were told that cramps and pain and the realities of periods were all in their heads and if they just “bucked up a little” they would be just fine.

Only, now people to pretend that some women don’t have vaginas. What a great fantasy land they live in. No pain, no cramps, no periods. No women who are sometimes disabled by the effects of that three to ten days a month or whatever.

Amanda U March 21, 2010, 12:37 PM

Alright ladies…say it with me- “vagina!”. I do not have a “vajay”, and I suppose anything below my nose is a “down there”, but seriously, we all have VAGINAS, what is the big deal? I don’t know what a vajay is, but I certainly would think twice about shoving a dry wad of cotton in one.

Anonymous March 21, 2010, 2:54 PM


Gail Cooke March 21, 2010, 3:48 PM

Anonymous: Women who have their heads so far up their vaginas they can clip their fallopian tubes with their teeth. That’s who cares.

smoore March 21, 2010, 7:21 PM

yall are so funny

Gail Cooke March 21, 2010, 10:53 PM

Smoore:’re right :)

seolace May 6, 2010, 10:08 AM

Nice post, thanks for writing!

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