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Not Buying It- Libra consumers have their say

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Contributor:
Samantha Lee
Samantha Lee
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UPDATED* Sometimes you see an ad which just makes you go...”Excuse me?”

Merrily Twittering away last night, someone I follow made a comment about an offensive Libra ad. Trusting their unimpeachable opinion as to “offensive”, I checked it out here (click Tampons Drag It.)

The ad is for Libra tampons, and features a woman doing her makeup beside a stereotyped transgender woman in a nightclub bathroom. They look sideways at each other, then start competing with mascara, lip gloss etc and arrive at a stalemate. Who is going to win- who is the most “feminine”? The tension builds until -aha! The woman pulls out a Libra tampon pack. The transgender woman walks away; she has obviously lost.

This ad in a grand feat of mulit-tasking manages to insult cisgender women by portraying them as competitive, bitchy and non-inclusive, as well as transgender women both by depicting a highly stereotypical drag queen and because, as my Twitter friend pointed out “I guess if you don’t bleed, you’re not a girl.”

By insinuating that if you use tampons you are somehow more of a female Libra is a perpetuating an outdated image of women. In mainstream media (or any media) this is not okay, especially as this ad seems deliberately designed to get a few cheap “laughs.”

Libra advertisements have fallen foul of viewers before; attracting the notice of the Advertising Standards Bureau in 2010 (remember the ninja armour one?) and 2006 (when the male buyer was comparing the product to his crotch size.)

The main reason I wanted to highlight this ad is to acknowledge and commend in a public forum the female, male, cisgender, non-cisgender people who are all standing up and making some noise about the negative images and stereotypes this ad has.

Both Libra’s Facebook (you don’t have to “like” to comment) and Twitter pages have been inundated with comments. The video of the commercial on YouTube has also received a lot of comments. They range from "I'm really disappointed by your transphobic advert. The amount of makeup, the adjusting of a bust and the use of tampons aren't the measures of a woman" to "If you "get women" why don't you make a campaign that is inclusive and celebrates differences and diversity, rather than encouraging women to compete and find validation through achieving a certain physical ideal." At the time of writing there has been no response from Libra on Facebook, Twitter, or their website.

We do, unfortunately, live in a world where we are bombarded daily with the idea that a women’s value lies in her beauty, youth, sexuality- and where labels are a fact of life. We are sold products because we buy into media stereotyping- The Girl Next Door, The Good Housewife, The Good Mother, The Bad Girl, the Nerdy Chick. The “Proper” female.

It’s not just Libra who indulges in lazy stereotyping- most advertisements do. It is an easy way to understand the product, find "your" label in the advertisement and define your need/want for the product in relation to the stereotype. Ads are comprised of the wants and needs of the company’s target market, and the makers are very clever about incorporating these into the ad so a “cheap laugh” plays into the fear of not being “enough” like the stereotype- so you buy the product.

The sad thing is that Libra, a proponent of students having “an educated and balanced” outlook towards the health of their bodies, and who has developed a “free downloadable puberty, health and relationship education program” for use in schools, had an opportunity through the advertisement of their product to generate a sense of female empowerment, friendship, solidarity, inclusiveness- something worth educating people about! Instead they chose a transphobic, stereotyped storyline in order to sell their product.

It is great to see consumers holding the companies they buy from to account- documentaries like Miss Representation highlight the fact the labels perpetuated by advertising need to be challenged. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” says Marian Wright Edelman, who founded the Children’s Defense Fund.

Libra consumers definitely know what they don't want to see. The Miss Representation site suggests using the hashtag #notbuyingit to call out offensive/sexist behaviour or products in the media- I think I’ll be using this today.

“Libra gets girls,” proclaims the tagline at the end of the advertisement. Not this time, it seems. But if they need some idea along the lines of inclusiveness, solidarity, positivity and female empowerment, their Facebook and Twitter comments may provide a few thoughts.

*UPDATED: Libra have now responded here. Great to see that they have reviewed this ad and have taken the initial articulate, well-considered and non-aggressive comments of their consumers seriously (and within a relatively short-time frame). Let’s hope that other advertisements (and other companies who have been watching this unfold) take into account that while stereotypes are the prevalent way to sell a product, the people who have to deal with the results of the stereotype on a daily basis aren’t always going to find it amusing.

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