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April 1, 2010 / Anna Louie Sussman

Tampons and vaginas – American and Rwandan women face taboos

A story from a couple of weeks ago in the NYT noted that tampon manufacturers have shied away from using the word “vagina” in their advertising, and even the innocuous (and juvenile?)-sounding “down there” was apparently too insiduous for TV stations.

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 Times’ story seems to address a topic the Onion addressed over a year ago, in a story entitled “Renowned Hoo-Ha Doctor Wins Nobel Prize for Medical Advancements Down There.”

Meanwhile, in Rwanda, a similar taboo has prevented a discussion from even taking place around the lack of tampons and pads that women need so they can, you know, function and do things like get to school.  The story, printed last week in the New Times, a Rwandan paper, notes that 18% of women surveyed in 2007 missed school or work due to not having sufficient pads or tampons during their menstrual cycle.

These articles make me strangely nostalgic for a Theater Arts class I took when I was at Brown where several of my classmates wanted our presentation, which was intended to be about Yoruba rituals, to involve our all-female group to burst out of a paper vagina and throw tampons at the rest of our classmates.  At the time I was fiercely against this proposal, but in retrospect, maybe what seemed like a self-indulgent stunt was actually a prescient, much-needed cry against this societal taboo?

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One Comment

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  1. rationalrepublic / Apr 10 2010 8:02 am

    Surely around 50% of the population knows this area intimately, and it would seem that this is also the intention of the other 50% (I’m going to assume that lesbians count as double against gay guys). Jokes aside though, it’s a shame that our society is so enamoured with, wouldn’t you know it, shame. It’s about time that we took a cold, hard, realistic look at the world around us and decide whether our current course is the sensible one.

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