Kotex Ad Gets Real About Periods: They Suck

Cynthia Dermody

The new TV ad for Kotex tampons (above) features a pretty 20-something making fun of those unrealistic feminine product commercials we grew up with. You know, the ones featuring women doing back flips in white spandex and riding horses in bikinis to convince us that menstruating is joyous and not a crampy and grumpy time when we're so bloated we can't even button our jeans.

"Ridiculous," the ad for U by Kotex, a new line of tampons marketed to younger women, says of those commercials, many made by Kotex themselves.

Yes, they were. Thanks for finally admitting that periods suck. But that's not the real "ridiculous" part of this.

In the original ad, the woman actor used the word "vagina." That was censored to "down under." But neither term was acceptable to some big TV networks, who refused to air the commercial for being too "frank," according to the New York Times. So Kimberly-Clark, which makes Kotex, cut the reference entirely.

I don't totally disagree. There's no reason to say the word "vagina." It's obvious to the women buying the product where it goes. "Down under" seems a reasonable and dignified compromise to make their point.

Which is why balking at the use of even that innocuous phrase only tells me what this is really, really about is some TV exec guy's hangup with menstruation.

He's the same guy who still uses the term "female problems." He's the husband or boyfriend who, when his SO asks him to go on a pad run in the middle of night, either refuses or comes home with not only pads but shampoo, batteries, nail polish remover, Q-tips, window cleaner, and a few bags of clearance candy purchased in hopes that the pimply kid at the checkout won't even notice the BIG BOX OF SUPER ABSORBANCY TAMPONS on the counter.

My husband isn't this guy, but I asked him why some of his friends feel this way.

"It reminds them of something they don't want to think about," he said. "It's a little too personal for them."

Too personal? Is it even possible to know your wife too personally? What kind of marriage is that? (At this point I wanted names and specifics, but my husband just shook his head and walked away to do push-ups.)

I can honestly say I've never understood this about some men. I wouldn't think twice about walking into the drug store to buy my guy his monthly supply of "penis wrap" or "testicle ointment" or whatever the masculine hygiene equivalent might be. I'd actually feel pretty good because it would say to the pimply kid, See! I'm with a guy! Really, I am!

But, wait, something has just occurred to me. And now I'm thinking the Kotex people are brilliant marketers. This whole thing isn't about changing social perceptions at all.

You see, these new tampons are packaged in a sleek black box. A very manly box, if you get my drift, very unlike the white and pink girlie ones that most pads and tamps come in. The type of box you'd find in a stereo store or a gas station, like that chewing gum that burns your mouth, or a quart of motor oil.

I'll bet all the wimpy husbands out there are now breathing a collective sigh of relief, and buying lots of lots of tampons.

Would your husband or SO buy tampons for you?

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