Feminism

TERFs Lose Their Minds Over Disposable Menstrual Pad Wrappers

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Transcript:

I’m sad to announce that women have been eliminated. All of them. Even me. Cause of death? Menstrual pad marketing decisions. Goodbye, cruel world.

This news comes to us courtesy of Julie Bindel, an apparently quite prominent feminist in the UK, and you know what that means: there’s like an 80% chance she hates trans people because TERFhood is like a fucking bacterial infection over there. It’s as if Andrew Wakefield once did a since-retracted study finding that transgenderism causes autism and feminists there just fucking believed it and now we have to deal with them. It’s exhausting.

Sure enough, Bindel, named after the handkerchief on a stick that hobos carry their harmonicas in, writes in the Telegraph that Always, the maker of “feminine sanitary products,” is removing the Venus symbol from their packaging. They’re also pledging to print on each package that there is no such thing as a woman anymore, and that biological sex is a lie.

Oh hold on wait, no, I got that wrong. It’s just the first thing. They’re removing the Venus symbol from their packaging.

I was really confused by this because here in America, this is what Always pads look like. It’s pretty plain. Always logo, green, an innocuous pattern in the background. The pads themselves are just wrapped in plain paper that used to sound like a jet engine when I was in high school and had to unwrap one in the stall while my friends snickered outside by the sinks. No Venus symbol. 

I’ll be honest, the only photo I had was this one showing a venus symbol on the throwaway wrapper around the pad and I couldn’t believe that was all there was to it — this symbol MUST be super prominent on the UK’s packaging or else it wouldn’t be this big of a deal. So I looked around to see what other horrible outlets were saying, and I found that the Daily Fail (only horrible rags think this is a big deal, if that tells you anything) had a video of an “Always ad (that) features old logo before Venus symbol removed”. Here it is.

I have watched this ad nine times and I still have no idea where the symbol is. Over on The Metro (again: rags) they have two photos: one of the exterior packaging which again, I cannot tell has any Venus symbol, and the other is the singular piece of trash with one venus symbol on it. So that’s it! That’s what the TERFs are upset about. 

Again, this is by no means a common pad design. All the ones I’ve ever used have been yellow, or green, or blue, maybe with a subtle texture. I can’t believe that all this time, for like 25 years, I’ve been using a product that made me less of a woman because it didn’t have a Venus symbol on it. Oh, tragedy! For real: this symbol isn’t like a beloved logo that has been around for decades is suddenly being torn away. “Oh no, my great grandmother used the Always pads with the Venus symbol on it, and her mother before her, and her mother before her throughout my family’s generations. How dare you remove this heirloom from us.” No. It’s just a pattern on a fucking menstrual pad that probably hasn’t even been there for very long.

Here’s something that I guess makes me a little different from Bindel and the other TERFs clutching their pearls: I don’t actually need a product to be coded with what society has determined to be “female” in order for me to buy and use it. I don’t need my disposable pens to be “for her.” I don’t need my earplugs to be pink, or my beer to be for “chicks” or for my M&Ms to be pink, or for my microscope to be…actually that microscope is really cute, I do want that. 

But it used to be when hardcore feminists like myself saw those things, we’d point out that it’s pandering and only serves to reinforce tired stereotypes about women. Hell, when Gillette put out the “Venus” razor I thought it was the grossest thing ever because the commercials implied women were too stupid to use shaving cream. Then I used it and it was pretty nice and eventually I stopped using shaving cream all together because hair conditioner is better and cheaper but my point stands: you can’t just brand something “feminine” and sell it to me without me being annoyed that you are commercializing a stereotype about me. You also can’t brand something as “feminist” without annoying me because you are belittling and cheapening my own deeply held beliefs about ethics and human rights. 

Bindel whines that trans activists have made “wholly unreasonable” requests that companies immediately capitulate to, but is that true? Is it unreasonable to politely suggest that they drop a symbol that only refers to one sex, when many trans men require products to deal with their menstruation? And was P&G’s capitulation “immediate,” or were they already planning to update their packaging as they do almost constantly, swapping out designs and refreshing colors with new seasons? And have they been thinking for awhile now how the younger generation of consumers are more interested in buying gender neutral products?

Because P&G aren’t the only company to notice this. Thinx are (truly amazing) undies that prevent periods from leaking out, and when they started they used gendered language. Trans men pointed out that they’d LOVE to use those products, so Thinx started selling more designs and using more inclusive language. Somewhere a TERF may have felt like less of a woman but I, as a cis woman and user of these products, was absolutely fine. It didn’t affect me in the least. And somewhere else, a trans men felt more comfortable buying and using a product that would make his life substantially better. So I like it! More inclusive language makes everyone happier, and I can be a guilt-free consumer.

Meanwhile, a company changes the pattern on a menstrual pad and Julie Bindel loses her fucking mind, saying they are “eliminating any mention of the female sex.” Like the next time I go to buy tampons it’s going to look like a classified document with black boxes all over it where “FEMALE” used to be.

Bindel also takes the time in her important screed to complain that “terms such as “pregnant women” and “breastfeeding” are now transphobic.” That caught me off guard so I looked into it and it turns out Bindel is a fucking moron. Sorry, I mean “a fucking moron woman.” Referring to “pregnant women” is only transphobic if it’s a group standing in front of you that includes at least one pregnant trans man. If you use the term to refer to all pregnant people as a whole, it’s mostly just a little wrong. If you do that to generalize while talking about women’s issues, it’s probably not a big deal. If you do that to specifically exclude pregnant men, then yeah, it’s transphobic.

“Breastfeeding” is not in any way transphobic and no serious person believes it is. It may be a word some people don’t like — everyone has breasts but breasts have been coded by our society to be female and sexual, which is why some men may be embarrassed to contract breast cancer. Maybe some men with breast cancer would prefer to call it something else. In the same way, maybe some men and women might prefer to not use a word that is coded as both female and sexual when nursing their children (which both (cis!) sexes can do, by the way). So they say “nursing,” or “chestfeeding.” If you ask someone if they’re breastfeeding, no one is going to call you transphobic. Probably because they’re too busy wondering why the fuck you think it’s your business how they are feeding their baby. Like, if they are a close friend and it comes up in conversation great, but at that point you probably know whether they have a problem using the word “breast.” 

After recently losing a war over whether or not a nice theater would put in some bathrooms that make everyone feel welcomed, British TERFs have officially run out of problems. Best of luck to Bindel and her trans-hating friends in this trying time when they are subjected to the inhumanity of purchasing menstrual pads that are not printed with a pattern they find sufficiently celebratory of their femininity.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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3 Comments

  1. I would SWEAR that this exact thing has happened at least once before. My tricksy memory tells me I even saw it here, to the point I was wondering if this was a repost or update to an existing story. I guess there is so much British TERFiness to go around that it all blends together.

    Ah well. Good on Always, at least.

  2. Honestly, I’ve used Always products for years and never noticed any Venus symbols at all.

    I will always (no pun intended) be grateful for the package inserts in Tampax boxes that diagrammed the female reproductive system and explained the biology of menstruation. I never learned this as a captive in a religious school.

    Some people get their knickers in a twist over the stupidest things. Maybe TERFs should fight climate change or fascism or anything worthwhile, but of course they will continue to be pains in our asses.

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