Nice style, wrong message: my disappointment in Moxie

BY NEON DAMSELFISH

I have a quandary. Here I am, at my keyboard, ready to write a rant. It was going to be of those particularly fervent ones that include a lot of outrage and a fair few generalisations that I might edit out the following day, once the vehement conviction has subsided and a tweet from a stranger makes me reconsider my entire contention, and wonder if I should have written a mild-mannered letter to my local paper instead. The trouble is, I am currently looking at a pink stripy website and instead of feeling angry (the ideal emotion for a successful rant) I just feel disappointed. Disappointment is not so conducive to ranting.

The website in question is moxie.com.au. Moxie is an Australian company that makes tampons, pads and liners. The company was started by a young Australian woman, Mia Klitsas, aged only 22 at the time. Products are now sold in Australia, the US, UK, Scandinavia and South Africa. They are also sold at my local Brunswick Coles, Safeway and IGA. As someone with neither the skills nor desire to start my own business, this seems very impressive. When I was about the same age, I was being paid $14 per hour to work in after school care. There, my achievements included accidentally setting the kitchen on fire and not-so-accidentally facilitating a large-scale jelly-fight. The latter led to so many complaints from parents that my boss felt it necessary to articulate and enforce a new rule of “food is not to be used for any activity other than eating”, thus ending an era of the annual creation of macaroni Christmas decorations at the primary school. So, long story short, Mia is a bit of an entrepreneurial rock-star and undoubtedly is more skilled than me in workplace settings.

Which is why she should know better. As much as I wish it wasn’t so, the fact remains that the current advertising for Moxie tampons is downright sexist.  I’ve seen these ads a few times around Melbourne’s inner suburbs in recent weeks. It’s a printed advertisement in pop art style. Two women are talking on the telephone, with one telling her friend that her boyfriend (or some other man) caught her buying tampons. “OMFG!” her friend exclaims, horrified. In the final panel, the first woman reassures her friend that she avoided disaster by buying lots of mints. The reference alludes to the Moxie tampons tin, the design of which could easily be mistaken for a tin of mints.

This is not false advertising: because of the shape and retro style, the Moxie tampon tins could indeed be mistaken for a tin of mints by an unsuspecting boyfriend who is presumably focussing on things other than tampon packaging. The problem with the advertisement is that it assumes that the purchase of tampons is something that should be hidden from men, which implies that it is something to be ashamed of. Worse, the ad not only makes the assumption, but reinforces the perception through reassuring women that tampon-purchasing can be easily hidden (and should be).

The reason I am disappointed is because I thought we were past this. I thought we had got to the stage where buying pads or tampons wasn’t something to be secretive about or ashamed of. It’s not something I go to particular lengths to hide, and assumed that others didn’t either. Hence, the advertisement is either out of touch with its audience, or we aren’t as progressive as I thought we were.

I understand that for some women, periods are gross, and these women would prefer to pretend that they don’t exist. But most of us will be buying tampons for a large portion of our adult lives, so pretending otherwise feels a bit oppressive to me. Pretending we don’t buy them is a bit like pretending we don’t get periods at all, which is reinforcing perceptions of shame from having a woman’s body which operates in the normal way. For young women in particular, this undoubtedly impacts confidence and self esteem, even in subtle ways. It also reinforces the idea that it is the responsibility of women to hide their “womanliness” from men, so as not to make men feel uncomfortable. Instead, we should be putting the responsibility on men to accept the reality of periods as part of everyday life, and as something amazing that enables women to have babies (and being able to grow a brand new human being inside yourself is pretty fricken cool).

I suspect that the endorsement of shame through the advertisement is not intentional. I assume that the advertisement was designed and approved without anyone in a Moxie marketing meeting saying “hang on, isn’t this a bit sexist?”. However, whether conscious or not, the message remains, and I am disappointed that Moxie didn’t think twice. The tins are indeed aesthetically appealing, and the pop art style of the ad is indeed trendy, but it would be possible to promote the brand without reinforcing negative messages that encourage shame.

I think Moxie can do better, particularly as a company that explicitly promotes itself as supporting and empowering young women, including teenagers. If one of those teenagers tells a friend that her boyfriend saw her buying tampons, an empowered friend might say “OMFG, it’s a total non-issue. Here, have a mint.”

Neon Damselfish is a zoologist and a project manager but sadly cannot breathe underwater. She has a weekly current affairs program on community radio and a blog, Much Too Tangible.

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About IsBambi

IsBambi is an administrator for feminaust. She is also a young woman excited about all things to do with feminism, skiing, British TV, dogs called Trevor and cycling. In addition to trying to do too much at once, she enjoys empowering young people and dragging men into the feminist debate.

5 thoughts on “Nice style, wrong message: my disappointment in Moxie

  1. I was just thinking about this today and agree totally. My initial reaction in reading your post was to realise I have shame about buying tampons, but for a different reason, and shame is not a productive feeling in this case.

    My shame is not because of any period ickyness, but because I normally use a keep cup. In the same way as I would have been embarrassed to be seen buying disposable nappies. When I buy them I feel like explaining to everyone that this isnt what I normally do, I am normally more environmentally aware but then I realise that it is more normal to buy disposable things then reusable. The gender of the person watching me doesnt matter.

  2. Hi,
    Great post. I’m aspiring to work in the advertising industry and seeing this as the second blog post about poor advertising for tampons today is great food for thought about stupid advertising. This is the first I saw http://vagendamagazine.com/2013/07/the-period-tin-you-never-knew-you-needed/#comment-28439

    It’s nonsense, part of life as a man with females is knowing she has a different sexual and reproductive system than you and appreciating she will be using menstrual products at certain times.

  3. I like the mint tin thing .. Not just hiding it from guys but gals that don’t know what the hell they are . Me having my period is a personal thing and I rather not have someone give me an odd look for getting heavy flow . I use to be a cashier and I know you can tell people being moody cause they bleeding . It’s just something I’m not ready to shout out to the world in fact I still try to avoid the tampon and condom asle .. And I’m 27 . I’m not saying me on my rag is a big deal and my BF buys me pads and tampons and will even stand in the lane with me holding them .. I just like the discrete container and the compact of the tampons so don’t hate on moxi cause you want to shout to the world your bleeding from your vag . I like that they are simple and eco friendly and easy to use and travel with . They fit just about anywheres and I don’t have to worry about noisy wrappers or weird plunger objects going in my body . And having my cat run about with a bloody applicator . That’s gross . So maybe don’t rant on a great product cause you think women aren’t empowered … It’s not the 1940’s anymore it’s 2016 . Build a bridge and get over it . Kids don’t need any help of confidence they getting pregnant and shit and having tv shows about it .. Maybe they should make condom ads and shit more inspiring and not so compact .. Or hidden in wrappers and colors . Stop over thinking about something that absorbs your menstation blood and making it = to girls and their image .

  4. Hello!

    Thank you for the lovely (and also the not as lovely), feedback…

    I like to think that we really ‘broke the category mould’ so to speak by being the first brand in the local market that took a REAL approach to personal care – we’re not about running on the beach in white pants whilst we have our periods – periods can be painful and super annoying and I’m yet to meet a woman who looks forward to hers – so it has always baffled me that for so long advertising about personal care was so unrealistic and out-of-touch with how women feel and act today.

    As a business and brand, we are un-apologetically feminine and are certainly not concerned about what our male counterparts think about our time of the month. This particular ad was part of a greater series of ads out at the time – it is by no means meant to be serious, it’s actually a complete p*ss take on the whole category. This whole notion that we should be ashamed/embarrassed of our periods, or ultimately, what it means to be a woman, is completely mental to me – hence the ‘dig’ at the category with the archaic 1950s style ads. Sorry to hear that you felt it didn’t come across that way. But our intention was by no means to offend or have other women disappointed in us.

    Mia

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