About half of the human population is a female, and almost all of those female humans will have a period at some point in their lives. Yet despite the fact that it’s an astoundingly normal and routine occurrence for millions of women across the globe, there is an immense stigma surrounding menstruation -- reaching as far as places like the New York City subway system.
Thinx, a company that produces “alternative menstrual products” -- i.e., panties with an anti-microbial lining that absorbs period blood as you go throughout your day -- is trying to place their ads on the subways, but according to Thinx CEO Miki Agrawal, they’ve been told that even mentioning the word “period” is a red flag -- no pun intended. Outfront Media, the advertising partner of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, has sent the Thinx ad campaigns back to the “review process” after stating that the images and text were inappropriate.
“The most uncomfortable, taboo thing you can possibly talk about is a woman’s period -- but every man is here because of it, every woman is here because of it,” Miki told MTV News in a phone interview. The superhuman creative force behind Thinx – as well as the bestselling book “Do Cool Sh*t” -- has set out to shatter the stereotypes that women’s periods are dirty, unclean, or in any way taboo.
“We live in a culture where women bleed and men don’t, and we don’t want to talk about it -- we don’t want to hear about it.”
Miki says that during an early phone conversation with Outfront, she was told it would be “inappropriate” for a nine-year-old boy to see the ads and ask questions. Images featuring a cracked egg and a pink grapefruit were rejected for being “too suggestive” -- despite the counterargument that breast augmentation ads are a regular feature on the MTA.
"If it’s perfectly acceptable to feature advertisements subtly shaming women for their bodies’ appearance," argues Agrawal, "how can you possibly tell me that it’s 'taboo' to even just print the word 'period'?"
“If you look at the entire twentieth century, there have only been three innovations in this entire industry. 1931: The tampon was invented. 1969: The adhesive strip was added underneath the pad. And in the eighties, we got the menstrual cup, which still hasn’t found its way to the mainstream. Of course there are still leaks and stains and issues – because no one is talking about it, no one is innovating.”
Not only do the panties seem to be an incredible innovation in period technology, but the ad campaign itself is a breath of fresh air in the world of menstrual products marketing. We’re used to seeing tampon ads featuring twirling women in white pants or small cups of blue liquid poured onto pads. These, on the other hand, feature smiling women wearing comfortable, sexy panties alongside text that simply reads, “Underwear For Women With Periods.” Its no-nonsense minimalism is exactly what makes the campaign so playful (and even chic!), making it that much more perplexing that the ads would be rejected as “inappropriate.”
“We’re still fighting the MTA, but they’re facing a lot of pushback from the public, a lot of angry tweets. We’re a small startup, we did everything ourselves, and we have an incredible creative team who really crushed it with these ads. We’re still waiting to hear back, but we’re hopeful that the campaign will be allowed to run.”
In a statement to Mic.com, Outfront Media has said:
Together with our transit partners, OUTFRONT Media makes every effort to assist advertisers in creating campaigns that are both effective and appropriate to the transit environment. This is the approach that was followed with respect to the advertisements proposed by Thinx. No copy was ever rejected and the current copy is still in the MTA review process. We suggested changes that we felt were appropriate for the riding public and were hoping to work with the advertiser to refine the copy.
While there is basically nothing good about waiting for the subway, spying these ads underground might just change our tune. In a culture overrun with sexist images and ideas, it’s about time to share the spotlight with an incredible company that just wants people to be able to have a shame-free period.