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New Zealand tampon commercial pulled for being “blatantly transphobic”

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New Zealand feminine-hygiene company Libra appeared to know they were treading on sensitive ground with their controversial new Libra tampons commercial, having aired previous buzzed-about spots of questionable taste. The new ad has spurred on many in the LGBT community to raise objections to what they view is the ad's "transphobic" message, centering around the capacity to menstruate.

The commercial, which became a lightning rod for outrage after being uploaded to Facebook on December 21, features a blonde woman and a drag-queen character freshening up in a public bathroom, and getting cattily competitive while doing so. The blonde woman is seen as the tacit "winner" after pulling a Libra tampon from her purse, as her transvestite/transgender foe walks away "defeated," to the tagline, "Libra gets girls. Love Libra." 

Spearheading the criticism of the ad was Cherise Witehira, president of Agender NZ, who said:

"It's extremely offensive because it's pretty much saying the only way you can be a woman is to get your period. Obviously we can't menstruate. However, we identify as female."

While some viewed the critics as overreacting, the emotion was palpable on the Libra Facebook page on Monday, with one woman, using the name "Bex Alphabet," writing:

"I don't think I've been so disgusted or offended by a tampon advert before (and let's face it, most of them are terrible). Shame on you Libra. Not only is this a terrible, cruel reminder to people who might struggle with their gender, but also an insult to all women — how dare you imply we are that competitive and spiteful over a godamn period? So glad I don't buy your products."

Libra heard the invective loud and clear, removing the ads and issuing an apology. They got their attention, but, one wonders, at what price? Does a veiled insult of women who've gone through menopause or hysterectomies really seem like a smart marketing plan? Sexuality and the cultural construction of gender are both deeply divided battlegrounds, but cruelty should be a conversation ender.