[Trigger warning for transphobia]
Yesterday Jezebel drew my attention to a recent "viral" video for Always pads. Why yes, it is "edgy".
The first thirty seconds is of trans* women crying. There's a woman crying on a stage. There's a drag queen putting on makeup and a wig while crying. There's another woman crying on a different stage. Imagine thirty seconds of that, all set to sad music.
The screen then fades to black, and we see:
"There are some people who'd just love to have a period."
"Let alone a happy one."
The commercial then cuts to a woman with a massive beehive hairdo sitting on a toilet, crying. She slams the door to the stall, which reveals a sign that reads "Gentlemen".
The video ends with the text:
"Have a happy period. Always."
There's a lot to discuss here. Okay, there's probably not, because it's obvious what Proctor and Gamble is doing here. Still, a quick recap:
First: The ad is quite obviously conflating drag and performance with transsexuality, which is hardly new. Once or twice I've seen folks imply that trans* women are actually men, and that our identities, like femininity itself, are artificial. Yawn.
Second: The ad is mocking trans* women for feeling disconnected an alienated from their bodies. Yes, some of us do shed tears over these things. No, we do not tend to do so in the men's room.
Third: Aside from "trans* women are laughable", the only other message the spot sends is "periods are a bitch, amirite?", which strikes me as neither original nor endearing. I mean, I talk with lots of women about their periods, and they've got all sorts of things to say, often unpleasant. However, the whole "having a period is the worst! thing! evar!" shtick strikes me as more than a bit misogynistic.
I'm not sure what any of this has to do with convincing folks to buy P&G's product.
Of course, this is an attempted viral video. What P&G desperately wants is for someone like me to get all up in the Internet pointing out the above obvious problems with this presently obscure video.
This leaves me with a choice. I can remain silent, because duh transphobia is everywhere and maybe if I keep quiet people will ignore it, or I can speak out and risk demonstrating that transphobia sells.
The problem is that transphobia kills. Ultimately, I can allow society to walk all over me, or I can face accusations that I'm humorless and angry. P&G knows this.
The thing is, I chose none of the above. I've got enough faith in society to still believe that "Transphobia! Misogyny! Buy!" isn't automatically an ace marketing strategy for a product that's bought by women and trans* people.
Furthermore, it is possible to be "viral" without being "virulent". It is possible to be funny on the Internet. There are plenty of domain names out there with offensive words in them. Yay for grabbing attention! The issue, is both how you grab that attention and what you do with it. This video misses the mark, because it's appalling, full stop.
P&G can do better. If they want me to buy their products, I suggest they do so.