15 March 2023

Should a trans or non-binary person be the brand ambassador for tampons?

| Zoya Patel
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transwoman holding sanitary products

Transwoman Jeffrey Marsh was a brand spokesperson for sanitary products. Image: Instagram.

Being a feminist, progressive, small ‘l’ liberal is rarely without its moral quandaries, but the past few months have been especially challenging when it comes to gender politics.

On social media, in the news, and in conversations with like-minded friends, everyone is talking about the same thing: whether or not trans women’s rights are eroding the reality and identities of cis women.

It’s a complicated space to engage in, especially if you’ve always been an ally to trans and gender-diverse people. Everywhere I look, women speaking out about their own feelings around these issues are accused of being transphobic – even writing this now feels a little dangerous.

The trigger for a lot of the debate is the re-emergence of a story from last year when a tampon company sponsored a non-binary influencer, Jeffrey Marsh, as a paid ambassador for their product.

Marsh does not menstruate, and the move frustrated many cis women. I can understand why.

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I assume the community-minded company felt they were doing something politically progressive by sponsoring Marsh – celebrating gender diversity and being an ally to LGBTQIA+ communities. But the fact remains that tampons are products used by cis women and non-binary and trans people who menstruate.

By sponsoring Marsh, in my opinion, the company was just virtue signalling for clout, and in the process, frustrating their actual customers who felt alienated by being told about their experiences of menstruating by someone who has never been through it themselves. If they had sponsored a trans or non-binary person who actually used tampons, I would have had no issue whatsoever.

Now, if you feel this is trivial, I get that. Personally, I don’t care who brands sponsor for what because advertising doesn’t influence my decision-making very much, and I choose my brand of sanitary product based on what works for me.

However, having existed in the world as a woman and endured societal revulsion towards our bodies, and menstruation in particular, it does feel a little weird to me that we’ve gone from the old ‘blue liquid instead of blood’ advertising of the past to just cutting out uteruses all together and not featuring a menstruating person at all.

But more importantly, the backlash and the backlash-to-the-backlash say something meaningful about ‘allyship’.

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As the conversations about the tampon ad have evolved, cis women have also pointed out that many don’t want to have to give up gendered terms like breastfeeding for ‘chestfeeding’ or women for ‘womb carriers’ (I’m not making this up, these are genuinely being considered and touted by medical institutions in the US and the UK). There is no resistance to non-binary or trans women using gender-neutral or inclusive terms, but cis women equally want to reserve the right to use gendered terms when referring to themselves.

This seems uncomplicated to me. Everyone should have the right to be referred to in the way that matches their identity. Medical staff should be able to simply ask if there are preferences and use them accordingly. Gender-neutral language can be the default to avoid misgendering people and adjust based on the individual patients’ needs. Supporting trans and non-binary rights doesn’t have to be to the erasure of cis women’s experiences.

Yet, Marsh and other activists of their ilk have pushed back against women who raise this point, saying we’re inherently transphobic and gatekeeping womanhood.

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Here’s how I see it: cis women have been trans allies throughout history. Feminists of all genders have driven support for and stood with trans people in recognising how gender equality can only exist if all gender identities are acknowledged and treated as equally valid.

But allyship should go both ways. Just as cis women are adjusting and understanding that there are experiences of gender outside of the binary, so should trans women appreciate that their experience of womanhood is not the same and can’t ever be the same as cis women’s. That doesn’t mean it’s less valid or authentic – it’s just inherently different. That isn’t transphobic – that’s an acknowledgement of fact. It shouldn’t have any bearing on the ability and rights of trans women to access medical care, resources, to be treated with respect and dignity, and to be able to live in the world as the women they are.

Unfortunately, the way these conversations unfold online rarely leaves space for nuance and only deals in absolutes – with us or against us, always in agreement or else transphobic. Even trans people who have spoken out against Marsh’s sponsorship or supported cis women’s reactions to losing all gendered language have been called transphobic.

Undoubtedly, I’ll be criticised on those lines too, so let me state clearly that I am 100 per cent in support of the right for every person to live authentically as the gender they identify with, and I specifically 100 per cent support trans, non-binary and gender diverse people to access the resources and services they need to do so.

I’ll always stand up for and with trans women and gender-diverse people, and equally for cis women and men wherever there is discrimination or injustice. I hope we can see the conversation shift to empathy and understanding on all sides.

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Jeffrey is not the right person to be the brand ambassador for sanitary products, he was born a male at the heart of it so has never menstruated, how is making him ambassador actually relatable? Answer, it isn’t. Find another brand that is more relatable, and someone who has had a period.

GrumpyGrandpa3:52 pm 26 Feb 23

Those of us who are more conservative, always knew that when the demands of the progressives filtered through into the real world, there would be pushback, horror and disbelief.
Transgender athletes were fine, until they started winning competitions ahead of those who were historically classified as women. Everything was fine, until an intact trans wanted to use the women’s bathroom, and so on.

As for preferred pro-nouns, I’m sorry, but forgive me if I don’t know in advance whether an individual chooses to misuse grammar.

I’m honestly not wishing to personally offend anyone who may fit into any of these evolving categories, but where organisations and business groups think that they need to engage in gender, sexual fluidity and other more radically progressive issues, they disconnect from the majority of people.

Ironic that Albo (presumably a straight man) has trotted out at the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras as self-proclaimed ambassador while the radical feminists are crying foul over this lol.

GrumpyGrandpa10:06 pm 26 Feb 23

Albo is simply looking for photo opportunities.

I must agree with Zoya. This is a disgrace. I am a woman. I am not a womb carrier, I am not cis and I am not impressed. First, women are punished with taxes on sanitary items and now we cop a man who has never had a period or the associated cramps and pains. Give me a break. Things have gone way too far.

Zoya, thanks for writing about this!

It’s not trivial. This almost obsessive desire to repurpose girls and woman as support humans that exist only to validate others is not progressive, and frankly disturbing how many people and organisations are culpable in it.

True alleyship is recognising and acknowledging difference (horizontally) and appreciating the diversity of difference. It should be mutually beneficial to both communities.

Alleyship is not expecting a women and girls to be consumed and coopted to such a degree that setting a boundary, speaking in respectful terms or disliking offensive content suddenly means you are a bigot and worthless. That’s not a movement that centres women’s needs and interests…. quite the opposite!

Yawn! The transphobic word thrown about inappropriately – yet again. This issue is NOT about trans rights. It is about women’s rights. And yes, trans women are women too; but they have not experienced menstruation. Your comment comes across as yet another person, born with male privilege, telling women how to be women. A trans woman is an inappropriate ambassador for menstrual products because they will not have experienced how uncomfortable some products are and they will not have experienced the public shaming and humiliation women experience if their sanitary product fails them (as many do) and, shock, horror, they are seen with blood on their skirt or trousers.

I identify as a non tax payer

Capital Retro6:06 pm 24 Feb 23

What brand tampon do you buy?

Cis like cyst? Who came up with that label…

Not everyone believes there is a difference in gender and sex. The 5% are dictating how the other 95% are allowed to think and feel.

This will just mean that specialst womens thing are now required to be offerened to everyone, resulting in higher costs and ultimately less provided.

the romans… cis is a prefix meaning ‘this side of’

How does ‘this side of’ relate to gender?
It only makes sense as a weakly linked word opposite trans.
Without ‘trans’ it wouldn’t make sense.

Cis is not used in the same context anywhere else in the English language.
How does Cis translate to other langauges?

The label of TERF being thrown about recently is becoming distressing and shows a poor understanding of what feminism is about – in fact it’s becoming yet another way of silencing women. Feminism has always been about recognising there are different women (case in point some women will become mothers; some wont – both are still equal females.) There is room under feminism for trans women; but the current processing of tying yourself in knots trying not to exclude trans women from every discussion is just ridiculous. The only way it can be done is to completely shut down experiences only people born with female genitalia & reproductive systems experience. This is denying women their own stories.

You have to like it otherwise you’re transphobic.

I don’t give a damn about who is a brand ambassador, as the choice tells more about the company wisdom (or lack of it) than about anything else. It informs us about who the company thinks is the best ambassador and we can all choose whether we believe in their promotion or not. No need to get nickers in a twist about their choices. Really, who cares about their marketing campaign? It will either work for them, or not.

However, to call a woman a womb-carrier is both insulting and stupid. Women are much more than that. It’s almost as bad as calling a women a vagina. Only an idiot would call women womb-carriers. No woman would seek to reduce other women to this singular status. There is much more to being a woman than having a womb.

Additionally, women without wombs are still women in every sense of the term. To exclude women without wombs eg those who’ve had hysterectomies is ridiculous and patently inaccurate.

Chest feeder? Really? You feed with a breast, not the chest. These terms are ridiculous.

I’m not sure why Zoya links these issues.

What is the role of a brand ambassador? To merely champion, or to champion through experience?

I would not use a product that has not been tested and used directly by the person marketing it. I’m not going to ask a male for his experience and recommendations on tampons. It’s like a bald person marketing what the best hair shampoo is.
The term ‘cis woman’ is very offensive to many females. 98.5% of people are born either female or male (except for a very small percentage of people, around 1.5%, who are born intersex or hermaphrodite).

The “cis” in cisgender originates from Latin, which means “this side of”. Of all the things to find “offensive”, this is probably the most perplexing. It’s a term that, when used correctly, is the exact description of most people. I ma not have stumbled across every usage of the word, but I’ve never seen it used an insult, only as a way to clarify that someone is not trans. Choosing to be offended by that comes across as childish. And I thought that it was the hardcore lefties that were supposed to be the precious snowflakes choosing to be offended by everything…..

It’s hilarious to watch “progressives” eat themselves over issues like this. Who would’ve ever thought that the tactics used by proponents of identity and victimhood politics would end up being used against themselves with ever more ridiculous claims in a race to be ever more extreme.

It’s not like this was predicted and expected by those who’d consistently argued against it. LOL.

Agree. It’s offensive to females. Males don’t menstruate.

Capital Retro9:05 am 24 Feb 23

You can always determine when Zoya is contributing again by just reading the headline.

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