Libra tampon ad – Trigger Warning for transphobia, transmisogyny, cissexism

This Libra tampon commercial uses cissexism to market its product to cis women. It portrays two women – presumably one cis and one trans – as engaging in a competition over beauty (or perhaps femininity). While neither could win through applying make-up or straightening their clothes or hair, at the end the cis woman triumphantly holds up a tampon and the caption “Libra gets girls” comes up. It seems that what the two women are competing for is the status of “womanhood,” which in this case is automatically equated with “femaleness.” Even though the trans woman may be every bit as feminine as the cis woman, she doesn’t experience menstruation and is therefore disqualified from winning the competition since, according to Libra, she isn’t “really a girl.” Butler, however, states that “if gender is the cultural meanings that the sexed body assumes, then a gender cannot be said to follow from a sex in any one way” (10). Moreover, Delphy states that “biologists see sex as made up of several indicators which are more or less correlated one with another… So in order for sex to be used as a dichotomous classification, the indicators have to be reduced to just one” (62). In the commercial, the only indicator that seems to matter in determining sex/gender is a person’s capacity to menstruate. Yet we know next to nothing about the trans woman’s body and biology – she could have many other female indicators of sex, such as high levels of estrogen and progesterone and a vagina and she already has a female phenotype (or in Fausto-Sterling’s words, “cultural genitals”). Moreover, many cis women may not menstruate for reasons such as hormonal birth control, high stress, illness, and infertility – would they not be considered women (or at least be less feminine as a result) also? This commercial may succeed in making cis women feel more feminine but at the cost of degendering many other women, both trans and cis. This makes sense when viewing gender as relational as Butler does, however, because womanhood and femininity are portrayed as a limited resource, one that cis women who buy the product will get to share in at the expense of others.

Works Cited:

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1999. Print.

Delphy, Christine. “Rethinking Sex and Gender.” Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York, NY: Basic, 2000. Print.

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