New Zealand Tampon Ad Labeled Transphobic
A new advertisement for New Zealand tampon company Libra has drawn protests because some say it discriminates against transgender people. The ad depicts two people in a bathroom competing to see who is the “real girl.”
The spot, which ends with the slogan “Libra gets girls,” shows the competition ending when one character pulls a tampon from her bag; the move comes after both characters furiously put on makeup in an attempt to appear more feminine. Negative criticism of the ad began appearing on Libra’s Facebook page, where the ad was posted.
Agender NZ, an organization that supports the New Zealand transgender community, called the ad “blatantly transphobic.”The group’s president, Cherise Witehira, said many in the transgender community were outraged by the ad, which Witehira called “extremely offensive because it’s pretty much saying the only way you can be a woman is to get your period. … Obviously we can't menstruate. However, we identify as female.”
The actor in the ad, Sandee Crack, says it reflects the “honesty about the life of a drag queen.” Crack said he wanted to be in the clip because he wants to encourage more acceptance of drag queens and gay men in New Zealand society.
While Sandee Crack is an actor in drag and not a transgender person, he said he believes the ad is not offensive to the transgender community:
Unfortunately, a small portion of the trans community have chosen to view the ad as a personal attack on their fight to be viewed as equal women within society. … I never felt for one moment that I would be depicted as a trans woman, nor do I believe that I have been.
Libra has since apologized for the ad:
Libra regrets any offence taken to our recent tampon advertisement. It was never intended to upset or offend anyone. Independent research was undertaken and the advertisement was viewed positively during that testing. Libra takes all feedback very seriously, and in response to this, we will immediately review our future position with this campaign based on the feedback received. There are no further advertisements scheduled in New Zealand. The advertisement has not aired in Australia. The advertisement was placed on Facebook however this has also been removed.
Crack’s argument doesn’t seem to hold up, though—if his character is meant to be read as a man dressed in drag and not transgender, why does the scene take place inside a women’s restroom? What seems more likely is that Libra was trying to make fun of both men in drag and transgender people—by implying that they are the same and that neither are real women.
Dahlia Grossman-Heinze is a reporter-blogger for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @salvadordahlia.