U By Kotex Ads Change the Conversation

Featuring ads that sarcastically criticize the typical woman-dancing-in-a-white-gown-in-a-field-of-daisies tampon commercials as well as “social experiments” where an actor in a store asks his fellow men for help picking tampons, the “U By Kotex” campaign raises a lot of great questions: Why are periods enshrouded in prudish secrecy? Why do men see them as horrifying? Why do the commercials seem to hide the fact that they are even talking about vaginas?
The answer lies, perhaps in Judith Lorber’s belief that gender is the tool which men use to maintain control over all our social institutions in order to make them “reflect men’s interests” (Lorber 137). Even in tampon advertising the male outlook reigns supreme and the jury is in: periods are gross.
It’s refreshing to see the campaign targeting teenagers in such an honest way but it appears that Kotex is only willing to indicate the issue, not work towards its resolution. The taboo word “vagina” is still never used, the products are never discussed explicitly, the speakers are still conventionally thin, white and beautiful while purporting to be the down-to-earth “everywoman.” Kotex needs to move past the social, feminist armchair critique and into being the company that revolutionizes the way we talk about and view periods.


Lorber, Judith. Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. Estelle Disch, ed. 4th ed. 2006.

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