tickle me pink: “Too Many Dicks” and tampons marketed as lipstick
Thanks to Reel Grrls for posting a link to Anita Sarkeesian’s remixed video “Too Many Dicks.” Sarkeesian is a social justice activist and has assisted various movements in reaching out to communities through media – be it photography, web design, or video recording. She is currently a Master’s student at York University and her focus is on “representations of race, gender, sexuality, class and ability in pop culture as well as fan cultures and online participation.” The remixed video “Too Many Dicks” (embedded below) is a critique of video games’ ultra-violent and patriarchal imagery and narratives – which tend to emphasize – even valorize – traditional notions of hyper masculinity. You can follow Sarkeesian, watch her videos, and peruse her list of resources at Feminist Frequency.
The next bit involves Kotex’s ad campaign for their latest line of period-related products called U. Peter Alilunas, a media studies scholar who analyzes gender politics in marketing campaigns over at Manvertised, posted the NYT article “Rebelling Against the Commonly Evasive Feminine Care Ad.” Aiming for the 14 – 21 demographic, U’s ads mock Kotex’s own ads for menstrual products shown last year – you know the ads that paint women’s menstrual cycles as heavenly (“have a happy period” type ads – involving dancing, laughing it up with friends, and wearing way too much white as in white pants and white skirts). Below is one of the new ads titled “Reality Check.”
In keeping with this reality check, Kotex created an online forum for U by Kotex – in which they’re asking for girls and women to submit their own menstrual ad spoofs as well as offer their own stories about their periods, all in the hope of exorcising the “weirdness” associated with female bodies and periods. The NYT article points out that Kotex has run into censorship issues with these new ads. Apparently some networks refused to run Kotex ads that used the word vagina (for reals?!!), and they opted for the vague term “down there” as a way to circumvent this issue. Kotex also has a string of ads in which a female pals around with a beaver, as in the animal – which serves as a visual metaphor . . . well for her beaver (another reference to”down there” for anyone unfamiliar with the animal-ish equivalent for this area).
While I appreciate Kotex’s desire to be transparent about the marketing of feminine hygiene products, I think it’s important to remember that they are still selling a product first and foremost. I enjoy the sarcasm displayed in the ad above, but I wince when Andrew Meurer, the vice president for Kotex’s parent company Kimberly-Clark, explains the packaging for U by Kotex: “‘This has been an institutional type of product, with products that are white and light blue and boring, and what we have is a variety of bold lipstick colors in each pack,’ said Mr. Meurer, of Kotex. ‘What we like to say is ‘We’re taking the category from institutional care to personal care.'” Equating feminine hygiene with make-up won’t win me over, especially when the latest issue of Bitch Magazine (no. 46) featured a piece on a cosmetic highlighter that is meant to be used “down there” to get your “beaver” all pretty in pink (seriously, not only can your vagina be too droopy, or hairy, or smelly – but now it can be the wrong color?!). Really people menstrual products (be it Diva cups, pads, or tampons) are a necessity, and I don’t need mine to be glamorized, bejeweled, or to even smell all flowery and perfumy. Save all the money you spend on lipstick-ish packaging and commercials and make the products more affordable and green.
One last thing. Before we give Kotex too much credit for their new U campaign, let’s remember that Sarah Haskins and her “Target Women” videos have been mocking female-aimed products for a while now. And that this SNL mock commercial for Annuale – a birth control pill that limits women’s menstrual cycles to one a year – exists.