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NYC subway ads about women’s periods are scandalizing commuters

It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
By Jenni Avins
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

“There’s a one in 12 chance you are on your period right now,” announces one ad for a new campaign by underwear maker Thinx. “Yet we rarely discuss menstruation outside of whispers from woman to woman.”

This new campaign, currently plastered throughout New York City’s subway stations, is helping to change that. Another Thinx ad, which I saw in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, clarified in a Wes Anderson-worthy font that periods are the “shedding of the uterine lining.” A third featured a painterly, pink, peeled grapefruit.

Cool! I thought when I saw it. Periods are all over the place!


Others seemed to agree. In the same subway station, a man took a photo with his phone. “I love this!” he exclaimed in a German accent.

Thinx’s campaign is clever. It not only promotes absorbent undies, but associates the brand with a progressive de-stigmatization that’s long overdue. In the US, many of us grew up watching Antifreeze-blue liquid being poured onto pillowy maxi-pads in commercials that were clinical, weird, and detached.

Thinx’s ads, on the other hand, which are strategically placed at downtown and Brooklyn subway stops frequented by young creative types, make talking about our periods look, well, cool.

Many are still uncomfortable with that. The ads were originally rejected by Outfront Media, which controls media space for New York City’s subway station. (That decision was obviously overturned.) On Nov. 12 TimeOut reported that CMT, the company overseeing commercials on taxi TV, rejected the ads as well. (CMT has not responded to Quartz’s inquiry. We’ll update this post if they do.)

And it’s not just institutions: When I posted a photo of the ad to Instagram (which has been known to censor periods), I was surprised to learn that at least one female friend took offense at the images. They made her feel like a sacred process was being objectified, she said, and the cracked eggs and grapefruits looked gross.

But at least now we’re talking about it. A menswear designer and writer I follow on social media commented that his girlfriend “LOVES” the products: “You should check them out.” And I was still talking about it when I got to the office, where it gave me and a male co-worker occasion to reminisce about the episode of Blossom when her sidekick, Six, marveled at all the sports and activities depicted on a box of tampons and pronounced them “better than camp.” We laughed about it.

I haven’t tried Thinx yet, but I like that their ads have got periods out in the open. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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