On Al Gore’s internet, every week is Shark Week, and this time around, the chum just so happens to be Tampax.
A social-media firestorm ignited when a Monday tweet from the tampon company’s Twitter account was branded “rapey,” “grotesque,” and “peak patriarchy” by scores of users who united behind the hashtag “#BoycottTampax.”
But others defended the tweet, accusing some of its critics of being transphobic, particularly those who used the hashtag as a launching pad to slam old Tampax posts using inclusive language.
Confused? Exhausted? Already fully migrated over to Mastodon? Us too—but let’s surf this crimson tide together, shall we?
Here’s how it unfolded:
Tampax, the Procter & Gamble-owned tampon brand, came under fire after a Monday morning tweet that said: “You’re in their DMs. We’re in them. We are not the same.” Surprisingly, it was not the use of a three-year-old meme format that drew an initial wave of condemnation, but rather claims that the joke humiliated, objectified, and sexualized young girls and women.
“Peak patriarchy: a company making women’s products insults its entire customer base and thinks this is OK,” one user responded. “You utter creeps.”
“Well done for sexualising tampons. I’m sure the growing male fetishism market will love this shit,” another wrote. “You are fucking disgusting. Glad I’ve never used your terrible products.”
“Good to know you think women’s bodies and the endemic levels of men’s choice to rape us is just a big joke,” another user seethed.
“Can women and girls ever get a break from the incessant perversion of our bodies and lives?” someone else lamented.
Further activity on the Tampax Twitter account served only to infuriate its detractors further, with the brand declaring shortly after that it “refused to let twitter shut down before we shared this tweet.”
When Always, a sister brand also owned by Procter & Gamble, quickly appeared in its replies to ask, “how long have you been saving this one,” Tampax wrote, “since last period.” And in response to a follower’s delight at stumbling upon the tweet just minutes after it was sent out, Tampax paired a winking emoji with the quip: “better early than late.”
Several users bashing the brand took the opportunity to resurrect a Sept. 2020 tweet from Tampax about period diversity. “Fact: Not all women have periods,” the brand’s Twitter account had written. “Also a fact: Not all people with periods are women. Let’s celebrate the diversity of all people who bleed!”
“#BoycottTampax is trending,” one critic tweeted on Tuesday, attaching the 2020 post. “Already there for me after this post previously came out. All humans are ‘people that bleed,’ only female humans experience periods & we deserve humanizing words…those words are women & girls. If some reject those words, it doesn’t change reality.”
That kind of language—excluding transgender and non-binary people who experience menstruation but do not identify as female—was widespread through the #BoycottTampax tag. “Who’s ‘their’?” one user demanded, in response to the pronouns used in Tampax’s DMs tweet. “Who’s ‘them’?”
Also rife in the tag were vitriolic barbs directed at social media influencers Dylan Mulvaney and Jeffrey Marsh, who identify as transgender and non-binary, respectively. Mulvaney and Marsh had no direct link to Tampax’s Monday tweets, but claims from earlier this year that they had both received tampon-company sponsorships were quickly revived and shared.
One user claiming to be a clinical psychotherapist retweeted a transphobic post from June about Mulvaney and Marsh’s links to sanitary product companies, adding, “This is designed intentionally to gaslight, abuse and destabilise women & girls. Say NO.”
(Though Mulvaney claimed in March to have received a partnership offer from Tampax, it is unclear whether this was true, or if she accepted it. Marsh, who has been a brand ambassador for inclusive period brands This is L and The Phluid Project, has never been sponsored by Tampax.)
Spokespeople for Tampax did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment.
Still more users flocked to flood the #BoycottTampax tag with support for Tampax. Some decried the critics as “TERFs,” shorthand for trans-exclusionary radical feminists, a cohort with transphobic beliefs. Others sought to point out more productive targets for their anger.
“Imagine deciding to #BoycottTampax, not because they are owned by P&G who test on animals, exploit workers and trash the environment, but because the person running their social media made a joke,” one user commented.
“Of course, the real scandal here is that period products should be free and universally accessible,” activist Charlotte Clymer tweeted, “especially in schools and workplaces, and yet… they’re not.”