A Tampax ad featuring a fake chat show host giving out advice on how to use tampons has been causing some people pain. Cramps, you might ask? No, more like moral pain, according to the kerfuffle the 30-second TV spot has caused on social media. It has also generated 84 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI). ASAI upheld one of the grievance issues raised and recommended that the ad should not run in the same format again. This has led to some passionate online exchanges as well as a conversation in the Today studio between 2FM broadcaster Louise McSharry’s and Sarah McInerney.
Sarah played a partial audio clip of the ad at the start of the segment, with the actor playing the host shouting her advice about the safest way to position a tampon. In addition to the line “You gotta get them up there, girls!”, the full TV version contains a visual demonstration of how the Tampax product is specifically designed to achieve this. Louise said she remembers complaints about the ad emerging on Liveline a while back and that a couple of different views were expressed on the show:
“Their main complaint seemed to be, ‘Well, how would you explain it to children?’ Well, equally there were people ringing up, people ringing up who were saying that ads like this would have been great when they were learning how to use these products.”
Louise’s own view is that the complaints and the ASAI advice to pull the ad in its current form are ridiculous. She thinks the “Tampons and Tea” ad could help to clarify misunderstandings people can have for years on end about the correct way to use tampons:
“I know women who used tampons wrongly for 20 years, or thought that they didn’t work with their body because we don’t have these conversations. I think that the kind of panic over 84 complaints when we live in a country of millions and remove an ad is ridiculous.”
Louise says that while she’s not crazy about the ad itself, she appreciates the message contained in it.
“I don’t love it. I like the information. I don’t particularly like the ad.”
Being a parent of a toddler, body issues come up all the time, says Louise. She says her 3-year-old often asks questions as he follows her around, including into the bathroom, something familiar to a lot of parents of small children. Sometimes the questions might relate to periods and period products. For Louise, it’s important to give her son honest and age-appropriate answers to questions which naturally arise:
“If I just clam up and don’t give him information, he’s going to think something bad or scary is happening. So what I do whenever my kid asks me any question, is I tell him the truth. Age-appropriate truth. And to be honest, when I’ve tried to have this conversation when he asks me, he usually gets bored about 30 seconds in.”
Louise says it’s important not to see menstruation as a taboo “sexual” topic and that both boys and girls could benefit from calm, informed discussion on the topic:
“We would all function better as a society if we were just more open about this stuff.”
Silence on the topic of periods leads to silence on the issue of access to hygiene products for people with limited incomes, Louise says. For her, there is a significant equality aspect to this story:
“We ignore the fact that there are women who live in homelessness who don’t have access to these things. We ignore the fact that people in direct provision don’t have access to these things appropriately. These are really important factors of women’s lives and we need to start having the conversation so we can address more important, in my opinion, aspects of it, which are about the real inequalities.”
You can hear more, including the statement from Tampax on the ASAI view that their ad had caused “widespread offence” in the full chat between Louise McSharry and Sarah McInerney here.
If you want to read about the complaints made to the ASAI about the Tampax ad and which of them were rejected and which were upheld, go here.
Listen to Louise McSharry on @rte2fm Saturday and Sunday mornings 9-11.
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