Pitfalls

This tampon commercial is taking a lot of heat.

I should say: this transphobic tampon commercial is taking a lot of heat. There is a lot of focus on the rights and ethics concerning transsexuals these days and it doesn’t always leave a lot of room for humour or attempts at humour. Here in Denmark transsexuals are still considered mentally ill and just recently a Danish blogger caught the same wave of indignation that is now washing over the tampon company.

Homotropolis is on the beat as always but maybe a little fast when it comes to labelling the much debated video. When the headline of a post states that “transphobic commercial demanded off the net” it’s not really leaving a lot of room for reflection. What would be constructive would be to talk about why this commercial comes off as transphobic, rather than just rage, label and start collecting protest signatures.

In my opinion the commercial could have been hilarious if not for a couple of small missteps:

Despite attempting to describe a humorous situation there’s a tension between the two ladies in the video. Tension and conflict. It sets the stage for a winner and a looser. An unpleasant situation and also a confusing one. Unpleasant because the lady on the left is clearly being antagonistic, as though she has something to prove. Confusing because the other actor is swinging between looking very uncomfortable and then getting into the contest.

The most serious pitfall though is a small choice of looks. Choosing first to use a woman that people on sight identify as transgender and then selecting an outfit that amplifies her aggressive behaviour is, in my opinion, the root of the problem.

Imagine if this video had depicted a girl and her good friend in drag. They are having a good time at the party and head to the ladies room where they, laughing as friends does, have their little contest (and then perhaps change the slogan to “your secret weapon”). Situation defused.

The main issue is simply that the actor in question looks too much like a woman (as opposed to a drag who looks like a guy dressed up as a kind of woman-monster) and that this sets the stage for an unpleasant conflict. I can understand why transsexual women watching this feel offended. I imagine it must be like a short film describing their everyday struggle for recognition… except that they are cast as the villains and loose as villains are prone to do. Simplified even more the message is: you are not a woman and you never will be.

 

I don’t believe this was the intention of the commercial. Simply because it seems to me that the agenda is to sell tampons, not participate in a larger debate about gender. Intention is, to me, important. It is the factor that decides if I react with indignation or temperance. I do not think outrage is all that constructive so, again, watch this – talk and think about it rather than giving in to the knee jerk reaction to shoot it out of the sky.

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3 responses

  1. Liam

    You’re totally right – anger over issues like this is worthless unless we use it to educate. You can’t just tell people “Don’t do that” – you need to help them understand why they shouldn’t.

    January 5, 2012 at 00:11

  2. Thank you Liam. That was the point I tried to get across.
    Also: explaining why they should not do it remains ineffective if you don’t also define what “it” is. Which usually leads me to write these things. It’s a kind of thinking process on digital paper. As I write I discover just what it was that felt “wrong” in the first place.

    January 5, 2012 at 04:43

  3. Pingback: Girlyscouts « Insomniac Nation

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