UPDATED 10/28/15…see below.
Underwear. Not that controversial, right? UNTIL…it’s period underwear. And period-positive underwear at that. Welcome to the Thinx period panties subway ad situation. (The New York City transit system, not the sandwich company. That would be something else, entirely.)
Thinx is a hipster startup making leak-proof underwear that can be worn feminine hygiene product-free during light to medium flow days. Enjoying a recent boom, naturally, they want to keep growing by advertising to even more people. And where can you reach the most people at one time who are basically held captive with nothing to stare at besides their devices or their eyelids? The NYC subways.
But they didn’t expect the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to push back and not approve the ads (or maybe they did?). Either way, the non-approval has generated a public response the MTA never asked for and likely hadn’t expected, either.
According to Thinx HQ, Outfront Media, the advertising agency responsible for the MTA, did not approve Thinx’s ads. Instead they said the ads needed significant changes before they could be approved for the subway.
When reached for comment, an Outfront Media spokesperson told Refinery29, “We suggested changes that we felt were appropriate for the riding public and were hoping to work with the advertiser to refine the copy.”
Because using the word “period” is not ok.
During initial conversations with the agency, before Thinx submitted its proposal, a representative reportedly expressed concern that the advertisements would not be approved if they contained the tagline “For Women With Periods.” According to Veronica del Rosario, Thinx’s director of marketing, the representative was concerned that children would see the word “period” in the ad and ask their parents what it meant. When Thinx later submitted the ad with the word “period” in the copy, the agency told them they could not run the copy “as is.”
Throw “period” into the mix and everyone’s in a tizzy. Think of the children! (Blergh. In my opinion, we don’t say the word period enough. How many times do you actually say the word period out loud and mean it in a menstrual and at least somewhat positive way?)
But Thinx co-founder and CEO Miki Agrawal refuses to back down from keeping the ads as is. “We’re not changing them. We’re going to fight this until they approve it,” she told Refinery29.
While NYC is literally littered with “suggestive” and racy ads and billboards, the subway still remains rather modest, for the most part. When I first heard about the MTA pushback on ads that mentioned periods I was surprised…but also, not really. Even though there’s much more conversation around periods in the media, making female menstruation an almost “normal” topic (almost), apparently it’s still not considered suitable for public consumption, or safe enough for NYC straphangers’ virgin eyes. Ads about breast augmentation using deep cleavage or citrus are fine, of course (forget about public breastfeeding – that’s another story), but when it comes to periods, you better save that fruit for juicing. (Innuendos abound. Which is part of the point.)
Speaking of innuendos – which are of the menstrual sort, by the way – the Thinx ads in question feature a grapefruit, which is, yes, very vulva-y, and a runny egg, which is, yes, very cervical fluid-y (or menstrual blood-y – a break from the usual raspberry jelly imagery). But the tagline is “Underwear for Women With Periods,” and that’s taking it too far.
“We live in a patriarchal society,”Agrawal told Refinery29. “The period conversation makes them uncomfortable,” and that’s why “there’s such a double standard with what’s allowed to be up there.”
Alas, we may have a breakthrough.“Of course they will be approved,” said an MTA spokesperson to the New York Times, requesting anonymity because the decision hasn’t been officially announced, and sounding like we’re all dummies for getting our tampons in a twist in the first place.
OK, MTA, we’ll wait for official word. We’re on the edge of our menstrual pads.
UPDATE: Triumph! The MTA has acquiesced. “They let us keep all copy as is,” Miki Agrawal, CEO of Thinx told Jezebel. The lucky train line? The L – not on the train, but in the station. The ads will debut on November 10 at, yes, NYC’s hipster-est, Bedford Ave.
JLHC is a writer and cat-lover living and working in NYC. Her past and current exploits include running a yoga blog called YogaDork, starting a co-working space called tascbar in her neighborhood of East Harlem, and discovering that she is an extrovert in an introvert’s body (or maybe the other way around) and a fringer. She believes in questioning everything and reminding herself that nothing is a waste of time. twitter: @jenniyoga. website: jennilyncarson.com