Tampons for the Sporty Set

The latest Playtex commercial is aimed at female athletes. Check it out:



The Slate article about this ad
points out that this is a step beyond fear-based tampon ads, which centered around the horrors of using a faulty tampon while wearing white pants or walking with the cutest boy in school. That’s true, and it’s a good thing. I’m always a little hesitant to get too excited over “empowerment” ads, though, because more often than not they’re taking something that isn’t particularly empowering at all and selling it back to women as “girl power” (see Sport Corset).

So I can’t give the ad a standing ovation, because it’s still selling you crap through the whole “empowerful” schtick (you’ll also notice that the empowered women are almost all young, attractive, white, and thin). But the fact that advertising is moving in the direction of recognizing girls and women as athletes and as subjects with interests outside of being sexually appealing is a good thing. The fact that tampon ads are shifting from fear-mongering about oh-so-embarassing menstrual blood and instead claiming that tampons can make it easier for women to be active is a good thing. And at least their claims are relatively true. The Sports Corset isn’t going to make you run faster, but a tampon will sure as hell make exercising easier than wearing a pad. Of course, there are several tampon alternatives, like sea sponges and the Keeper, which are reusable and better for the environment (and your septic system). They’re also cheaper in the long run, and don’t put your money in the hands of big dudely businesses. And they’re easy to use while exercising.

This ad isn’t great, but at the very least, advertising does reflect social norms, values and desires. And if snowboarding speaks more accurately to the lives of younger women than trying to score a date with Travis does, I’d call it a net gain.


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43 comments for “Tampons for the Sporty Set

  1. January 15, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    I’m for definately voting for the DivaCup. I wish some friend, family or cleaver advertising campaign had told me about it before I was 18. DivaCup-you won’t have to change it between races at swim meets.

  2. ako
    January 15, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    I always wondered about that. How well does it work for heavy flows? Does it leak?

  3. C. Diane
    January 15, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    I tried an Instead cup once. I liked it just fine … until I had to take it out. It was caught very firmly on my cervix, and when I exerted enough force to remove it, I wound up with a Lady Macbeth moment, shall we say.

    The month I tried a NuvaRing, I had the same problem pulling that out. So it’s probably related to my very retroverted cervix. Most people I’ve talked to who’ve used either haven’t expressed that particular difficulty.

  4. January 15, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    In a way, this goes back to the early days of the tampon; the fella generally credited with inventing it, Dr. Earle Haas (about 1929, I think, but I hafta check my notes) was interested in developing a product that could allow aspiring female athletes to compete while menstruating. The 20s, with the introduction of women into large numbers of Olympic sports, was a huge decade of advancement for women athletically, and the link to the tampon seems fairly clear. It was sure an improvement over the other options available at the time.

  5. Andrea
    January 15, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    The DivaCup rocks. On most days, I only have to empty it in the morning and in the evening, which is perfect. On my heaviest day, I also empty it at noon, just to be on the safe side. I’ve never had it leak (although I’ve heard that some other people have trouble getting it to sit right). My favorite thing about it is that I never have to worry about having enough tampons, about going back to grab one from my desk before heading to the bathroom, etc. Not to mention the environmental and cost-saving benefits…

  6. January 15, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    I thought our gymnasts couldn’t menstruate or Bela Karolyi would flog them and kick them off the team.

  7. January 15, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    Maybe it’s just because I wear pads so I don’t get it — but seriously, what’s with the applicators? Why is applicator design so crucial when, you know, you could just use your fingers?

  8. Mnemosyne
    January 15, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    I actually don’t mind the “I Feel Pretty” Nike ad — I thought it was about people underestimating Sharipova because she’s pretty, and being made to shut up when she shows them that she has a powerful serve, too. (Also a bit of a sly comment on that other Russian tennis phenom who flamed out quickly because she was pretty but not particularly good.)

    TMI Alert: Though I like the idea of the Diva Cup, I don’t think it would work for me. Part of the loveliness of my cramps is that they radiate downward so I get vaginal and even urethral cramps, which makes wearing anything internal extremely uncomfortable. Luckily, Always makes very thin and very comfortable pads.

  9. January 15, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Maybe it’s just because I wear pads so I don’t get it — but seriously, what’s with the applicators? Why is applicator design so crucial when, you know, you could just use your fingers?

    Well, you can just use your fingers if it’s an applicator-less tampon. For me, applicators are more comfortable, especially on days when it’s relatively light — when you’ve had a wad of cotton absorbing all the fluid in there, and you remove it and try to insert another wad of cotton, things can be a little dry and it can be difficult. An applicator makes the whole process smoother.

  10. Jess
    January 15, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    I agree with Jill–an applicator makes things smoother when it’s dry.

    Nowadays I use a DivaCup and am never going back.

  11. Bridgetka
    January 15, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    This is a hilarious rant about menstrual product advertising and packaging.

    “And while I was there I witnessed perhaps the most pathetic pandering to a woman’s insecurity about Period Odor I have ever seen. A doohickey attached to the shelf that contained pull-out coupons. But these were not just any pull-out coupons. These were little mini-advertisements for some new and festive variation on the same old cotton/nylon rag, a version that now thoughtfully allows concerned women to choose from two available smells – something springtimey and something rainy fresh.

    That’s right, we had scratch-and-sniff advertisements for a product that’s just going to be kissing your gorilla salad. That’s the perfect thing, says I. If I ever want my pussy to smell like an old woman’s potpourri spray or a new-age hooker’s douchebag, I will certainly keep that product in mind.”

    “I finally located a product I thought would do (these companies change their packaging and drop products every month so it’s senseless to settle on a brand) and realized that its major selling point appeared to be “quietest pouch!” Complete with a touchable sample applied to the outside of the package, in case you need convincing.

    Because God forbid your cats should hear you changing your she-diaper at 3 a.m. and think that you’re opening a package of kitty-treats. So I took them home, cursed and snarled until the perforations-that-weren’t forced me to gut the package like a deer carcass, and I tried out the “quietest pouch” which was indeed so whisper-silent that if I were a ninja, and I was bleeding vaginally, I would accept no other brand.”

    “My husband thinks they should take it one step further and create cartoon characters, like Tony the Tiger or Cap’n Crunch. I suggested they should use caricatures of real-life people . . . like a cartoon Bloody Mary holding her severed head. His suggestion was the best. Bloody Bill Anderson, that grim figure of the American West.

    I can just see the commercials now.

    “When you’re ridin’ the rag . . . ride with the best! Dancin’ girls and preachers’ daughters alike agree: use Bloody Bill’s Pads! Available in two delightful scents: poison sumac and gunpowder. Now with blood gutters!””

    And I second the reusable cups. It was awesome visiting my in-laws over Christmas and not having to stuff two dozen pads in my suitcase.

  12. January 15, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    I use the DivaCup and I’m also never going back. I had some roommates moving in and out of the house recently, and things got into such a mess that my DivaCup somehow got lost from it’s normal storage place in the bathroom. I ended up having to use a pad for a day, because I didn’t notice it missing until my period started, and god, I can’t imagine how I put up with pads for years!

    I don’t know how it’s even possible but I don’t even get cramps anywhere near as bad when using the DivaCup as I do with pads – maybe because I’m less aware of being on my period (I honestly forget it’s there sometimes) and so I’m not psychosomatically inducing cramps? I don’t know, but it’s awesome.

  13. JenM
    January 15, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    About 15 years ago there was a tampon (or pad?) ad where a girl was doing karate, kicked her leg straight at the camera so you could see her crotch/unsoiled white pants and give out a big martial arts yell. I wouldn’t have noticed the commercial except it made a friend of mine roll over laughing. I guess that commercial combined the shame/athletic factor in one message?

    According to my dad (high school teacher, semi-retired) he says the girls are pretty much unfazed/unashamed about announcing they have their period and need a bathroom pass. And then he tells the guys who are uncomfortable “oh get over it if you get married or have daughters you’ll have to buy them (tampons) at the store.”

    A friend of mine with a really heavy periods (bleeds through the Super tampons AND a pad) uses one of those cups and she loves it. I stick with tampons, prefer the applicators and agree with C. Diane – the NuvaRing would be sooo much easier if there was something to remove it.

  14. January 15, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    I love my Keeper and Insteads, but I wish I could get more use out of them – anything internal makes my cramps worse, and my vag gets tired of having stuff in it after a day or two. Anyone else have this issue, and how do you deal with it?

  15. January 15, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    JenM, to be fair to that ad, one of the reasons my Sensei started allowing students to wear black gis is that he noticed the girls being too shy to properly fight when we were on our periods because of the white pants. It was stupid of us, I suppose, but we were 14 and shy, and the simple solution of allowing students to wear black gi pants pretty much solved the problem.

  16. ako
    January 15, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    A friend of mine with a really heavy periods (bleeds through the Super tampons AND a pad) uses one of those cups and she loves it.

    Sounds perfect for me then. That’s exactly my problem.

  17. zuzu
    January 15, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Maybe it’s just because I wear pads so I don’t get it — but seriously, what’s with the applicators? Why is applicator design so crucial when, you know, you could just use your fingers?

    Because people don’t like to touch their own genitals. I had a roommate who would freak when the only tampons in the house were my applicator-less o.b.s. She just couldn’t deal with putting her fingers anywhere near her vagina. I never did ask her if she masturbated, but I suspect not.

    I recently switched to the Diva Cup after pulling tampons from my dog’s butt one too many times. I like it, though it’s a little weird to get the hang of it.

  18. January 15, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    About 15 years ago there was a tampon (or pad?) ad where a girl was doing karate, kicked her leg straight at the camera so you could see her crotch/unsoiled white pants and give out a big martial arts yell. I wouldn’t have noticed the commercial except it made a friend of mine roll over laughing. I guess that commercial combined the shame/athletic factor in one message?

    Okay, maybe I’m just squeamish, but I don’t understand how not wanting your white pants to stay unsoiled plays into shame. Removing blood stains is a pain in the ass and doesn’t even fully work most of the time (which is why virtually all of my underwear is now black). Plus, bloodstains are gross, period (…heh). If I bled all over my white tank top cuz I cut myself, that would be both unpleasant and fairly disgusting. While I think things like Kotex’s no-noise pad wrappers, so other women in the bathroom won’t know you have your period, are completely stupid, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of our periods, or not talk about them ever, or whatever, I do personally find periods kinda gross and think that is very consistent with my feminist mentality. Yeah, it’s a natural body function. So’s peeing, and that’s also kinda gross. Blood is gross! I recoil if I make my gums bleed a bit from brushing my teeth too hard.

    …Sorry, that got kind of long-winded. But I keep hearing that the patriarchy is the only reason anyone ever finds periods gross, ever (not so much here, more on a feminist LJ community I used to read) and… no.

  19. ako
    January 15, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    Sorry, that got kind of long-winded. But I keep hearing that the patriarchy is the only reason anyone ever finds periods gross, ever (not so much here, more on a feminist LJ community I used to read) and… no.

    Yeah, there’s a happy middle ground between merrily embracing bodily fluids dripping out and staining your clothing, and a horrorstruck “Someone might suspect I’m menstruating! Oh, the shame!” I mean I’ll walk into a store, buy nothing but tampons, carry them to a male cashier (if he’s got the shortest line), and buy them where everyone can see, but I still don’t like reddish-brown stains on my clothes.

    And for me applicators are just more comfortable. The sad thing is I love those horribly environmentally unfriendly plastic ones that tampax makes with the rounded plastic head.

  20. JenM
    January 15, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    When I read Jill’s post my first thought was “oh wait, there was that commercial a long time ago about karate that Jill wouldn’t have seen and it was more about the athletic angle.” As I was posting about that I thought “well was it about freedom of movement, or being ashamed about menstrual blood, hmm?”

    When I saw the ad my reaction was “that’s odd, how many girls have to worry about their period and karate kicks?” This was in the mid-80’s, ‘burbs of San Antonio Texas – not too many girls I knew doing martial arts.

    I agree that blood stains are not fun no matter if you cut yourself cooking, have a nosebleed, or bleed through a tampon. I don’t know why menstrual blood gets a special status as if it didn’t cause extra laundry time.

  21. January 16, 2007 at 12:00 am

    The issue isn’t that advertisers are creating a fear of bloodstains on your clothes. That sucks. The issue is that advertisers use that in their commercials as the primary reason to buy their products, and they aim it at teenage girls — i.e., if you don’t use Playtex Tampons, you might be walking down the hall with a really cute boy and your tampon will leak EVERYWHERE! Truth is, avoiding messy pants in front of high school McDreamy is not the primary reason most women use tampons; most women use tampons because they’re a comfortable way to absorb menstrual fluid because (duh) most women don’t want to bleed all over themselves and their clothes.

    Yes, blood stains are no fun. But have you ever seen a commercial which suggests that getting a nosebleed will make you forever a high-school leper, so buy this brand of extra-soft tissue or else the boys will never like you because your icky blood is everywhere?

  22. prairielily
    January 16, 2007 at 12:02 am

    ako, I used to like the plastic applicator too, because the cardboard ones scratched me. I also poked myself with my nails a few times with an applicator-less tampon.

    Anyway, I switched to the playtex beyond tampons. It’s cardboard, but it’s rounded, and I personally find I always leaked a little with tampax. (Different shape, perhaps?) It’s not really that I’m ashamed, but when there is leakage, I hate walking around all day first feeling all soggy at first, and then like it’s all hard and crusty when it dries up. (I’m usually out all day, so I don’t get to go home and change.)

    Bridgetka, that was hilarious. I wish I was a menstruating ninja!

  23. January 16, 2007 at 12:26 am

    My sister, being a teenage girl, was suckered in by the Playtex Sport tampons. The thing that creeped me out the most? The design of the box has “SPORT” in big letters… over three silhouettes of skinny girls in dresses dancing. How is that even remotely sporty?

    I personally like applicator tampons because I’m not terribly flexible and have really stubby fingers, which makes it very hard for me to get a tampon far enough in that it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall out. Plus, I admit, I prefer not having blood all over my hands when I go to button up my jeans.

  24. CScarlet
    January 16, 2007 at 3:13 am

    Another cheerful support bit for the Divacup!

    It never leaks if it’s in properly! Sometimes I do put it in in a hurry and am really glad for the pantyliner I have as security against my own clumsiness (and also the few minutes it takes to get up and wash out the cup before it goes back in!) because it will leak if it’s pinched or tipped or whathaveyou. I also had trouble putting it in the first few times- but a little water based lube really smoothed things along. And from a health point of view- the Divacup, unlike the tampon, doesn’t absorb your natural vaginal fluids and lubrications. It keeps things at equilibrium, as it were. Unpenetrative sex is a go, as well! :)

    I hated tampons exactly for the dry reason- by the end of the day I couldn’t use them, they wouldn’t go in, and it hurt too much. The only thing I have against pads is the awful feelings of A) sneezing B) laughing too hard and C) standing up after sitting for an extended period of time. Yeeuurrghhh.

  25. January 16, 2007 at 3:50 am

    Yes, blood stains are no fun. But have you ever seen a commercial which suggests that getting a nosebleed will make you forever a high-school leper, so buy this brand of extra-soft tissue or else the boys will never like you because your icky blood is everywhere?

    Hee. Point taken.

    The ones I really don’t get, as mentioned above, are the kotex no-noise wrappers. Not wanting to let your crush in on the vagaries of your monthly flow is at least an understandable fear. But not wanting to let other women–probably strange women in public restrooms–know that you have your period? Bizarre. Also, a waste of money.

  26. VK
    January 16, 2007 at 7:51 am

    For me, applicators are more comfortable, especially on days when it’s relatively light — when you’ve had a wad of cotton absorbing all the fluid in there, and you remove it and try to insert another wad of cotton, things can be a little dry and it can be difficult.

    In the UK, Tampax briefly did tampons that came with lube for easier insertion on drier days. They were fabulous, but vanished after about a week. :(

  27. Anne
    January 16, 2007 at 10:03 am

    Because people don’t like to touch their own genitals. I had a roommate who would freak when the only tampons in the house were my applicator-less o.b.s. She just couldn’t deal with putting her fingers anywhere near her vagina. I never did ask her if she masturbated, but I suspect not.

    Uh, that’s not true for everybody. My reasons for liking applicators have nothing to do with squeamishness about my own genitals. I just don’t want to get blood on my hands.

  28. January 16, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Another bit of praise for the DivaCup:

    I haven’t had to buy tampons or pads in, oh about 3 years. it’s the perfect solution for cheap and lazy individuals such as myself.

  29. January 16, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Here’s a slightly depressing thought: if I had started using my Diva cup twenty years ago instead of five, I would have over a thousand dollars more in my savings account. And that’s given a pretty modest $5 per month for tampons and pads.

    I wonder how many bags of bloody garbage I accumulated in fifteen-plus years of sanitary supplies?

    I wish that Diva cups and Keepers were advertised more widely. I know of very, very few women who’ve ever tried them that weren’t completely won over by them. I can’t help but think that their ads would be better than even the best of the tampon ones, too.

  30. January 16, 2007 at 11:53 am

    I like tampons, but I have pretty light periods (24-48 hours) so I’m easy to please. I do know that I’m just not responsible enough for something like a diva cup. I’d lose it or leave it somewhere that it would molder or something. And I’d rather face that fact about my habits than create yet another biohazard in my bathroom.

  31. elektrodot
    January 16, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    shit, i must be a weirdo but i love pads and have never had a problem doing anything in them (cept swimming but then i just dont wear anything, and have found that it doesnt even get on my swimsuit cuz water holds it in somehow). tampon attemps have always been messy and uncomfortable. the diva cup sounds interesting but since its internal, id probably have the same problem id have with tampons.

    “The ones I really don’t get, as mentioned above, are the kotex no-noise wrappers. Not wanting to let your crush in on the vagaries of your monthly flow is at least an understandable fear. But not wanting to let other women–probably strange women in public restrooms–know that you have your period? Bizarre. Also, a waste of money.”

    my thoughts exactly. when i saw the commercial id always think, gee i guess theres a lot of unisex bathrooms nowadays or something cuz otherwise i cant imagine why other women would care your on your period.

    i commend the people that have no problem putting things in there on the first day of there period…god, i cant even imagine it.

  32. January 16, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    You know what I hate? Those new pads with wipes in them, they annoy me for reasons I can’t articulate. Also, the existance of scented tampons. Itchy city folks.

  33. Moi
    January 16, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Can I say that I don’t really seen what the sport corsets have to do with the tampons, exactly. They seem to be pretty different.

    Though I can say that the link made me feel like a bad feminist for enjoying the feel of proper corsets. Blech.

    (Though these divacups, ect, sound very interesting. When they give you “The Speech” about periods, ect in health [I’m a sophomore, so I get it once a year] they only ever mention pads or tampons. In fact, before discovering these sites for a research paper on feminism, I didn’t even know alternatives existed.)

  34. January 16, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    The ad still speaks of “protection”. Protection of what?

  35. Frumious B
    January 16, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Instead is fucking awesome, b/c you can wear it while fucking and not make a mess. for those of us who like our sheets the color we bought them, that’s an awesome feature.

    I think leakage of internal menstrual products is a function of biology as much as of insertion technique. Instead and the Diva cup and most tampons all leak with me. my doctor says my uterus is tipped backwards, although that doctor is a quack, but if she’s right, that’s probably my problem right there. anyone who has chronic leakage problems might just have to face that fact that that is how she is built.

  36. Luna
    January 16, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    I get the soft wrappers. As in, I get why people want them. (I’m a Diva cupper myself – no wrappers!)

    I have an 11 year old daughter who is quite uncomfortable with her changing body. She most certainly does not want her friends knowing if she has her period. They’re curious 11 year olds and ask questions that she doesn’t feel comfortable answering. So she loves the quiet wrapper.

    There are lots of people with issues. Enlightened feminists don’t have a problem with people knowing they’re menstruating, but a good lot of people do. Many of us grew up with a lot of shame wrapped around that area, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to allow people to live in their comfort zones.

  37. Elf
    January 16, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    …don’t put your money in the hands of big dudely businesses.

    Yea, cause if a woman ran the business, it would fail (a la, Hewlet Packard and ousted CEO Carly Fiorina)

  38. January 16, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    As opposed to the millions of male-run businesses who have also failed?

  39. January 16, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Frumious, could you indulge me with a little TMI and tell me how exactly you make that happen? I don’t know if I have an oddly-angled vagina or it’s not as spacious in there as it should be, but Instead sure hasn’t helped me have intercourse. It is handy for oral sex, though.

  40. amaz0n
    January 17, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Fruminous (and other knowledgable folks):

    I think leakage of internal menstrual products is a function of biology as much as of insertion technique. Instead and the Diva cup and most tampons all leak with me. my doctor says my uterus is tipped backwards, although that doctor is a quack, but if she’s right, that’s probably my problem right there. anyone who has chronic leakage problems might just have to face that fact that that is how she is built.

    Tampons don’t leak for me, but the Instead cup sure as hell does. Like, bad. I’ll have underwears full of blood five minutes after I put that thing in. Is it likely that I’ll have the same problem with the Diva cup? I’ve been thinking about buying one, but after my experience with the Instead cup, I’m thinking that I don’t want to waste my money.

  41. Alexandra Lynch
    January 17, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    I love the Instead cup. Now, I can’t wear it for the first day or so because my body is cramping and being very violent about having anything internal there. (To the point of giving me horrendous diarrhea.) So I wear a pad for the first two days or so and then go to the Instead cup when I’m just quietly bleeding like a stuck pig.

    and yeah, it’s not that I’m ashamed of being female or of having my period, cause, well, that’s life, but I do NOT like the fact that the blood is not like normal blood. It stinks. So I wind up keeping baby wipes in my purse to wipe myself down between cup changes, and take two or three showers a day. This is not a personal illusion. My husband has commented on it. And I don’t like smelling like that.

    I’d be all for getting into the wonders and raptures of my moontime if it didn’t involve lots of clots and stinking blood and me feeling like I’m being gutted. I’m sorry. There’s no way I can spin that that makes it fun.

  42. car
    January 19, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    I have a Mirena and I don’t have periods at all any more. I don’t miss it a single bit. In fact, I’m astounded that bc pills still come with an off week – haven’t they done enough testing to be fairly sure that there aren’t any extra side effects from being on it continuously? The only reason for the off week in the first place was to simulate a “natural” cycle. I say avoid them if you can. Spending a couple of days each month cramped up in bed, barely able to move, has never been my idea of fun.

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