This article was original written for wearemitu.
On the heels of October 19th’s National Period Day, one brand that has created their empire off of menstruation is changing their rule book. On Monday, Always, the brand that makes sanitary pads for women, announced that they are removing the venus symbol from all their packaging.
The Venus Symbol, a sign that consists of a circle with a cross coming from below it, has traditionally been used as a symbol representative of the female gender. But, as gender and trans issues have recently become more topical, trans activists have taken issue with Always for including the symbol on their packaging. Critics argued that the symbol worked to exclude gender non-conforming and trans men from their customer base.
“For folks using these products on a nearly monthly basis, it can be harmful and distressing to see binary/gendered images, coding, language, and symbols,” said Steph deNormand, a Trans Health Program manager, to NBC News. “So, using less coded products can make a huge difference.”
Transgender advocates are applauding Always for acknowledging the mental health concerns of their range of customers.
For many transgender advocates, this change has been a long-time coming. Just days ago, Sexuality Educator Ericka Hart racked up almost 18,000 likes and 4,000 retweets for tweeting out the statement: “Any gender can get their period,” complete with a yelling emoji.
Now, Always’ decision to change their packaging is sparking a larger discussion around the larger way period-related brands market their products.
Dr. Jennifer Gunther, OB/GYN and author of “The Vagina Bible” responded to the news with overall approval, but with a small caveat. She believes that we should all be mindful of the words we use when we’re describing menstrual products: “They are menstrual or period products, not feminine products,” she recently wrote on Twitter. She went on to say that we should all avoid calling menstrual products sanitary napkins because “having a period does not make you unsanitary”.
Not everyone approves of Always’s newest marketing move, however.
Along with conservative critics who are blasting the company for pandering to the “radical left”, there are a bevy of feminist activists who are suspicious of the timing behind this move. Very recently, Always has come under fire for the quality of its products in developing countries–particularly countries in Africa. The hashtag #MyAlwaysExperience recently took over Twitter, with women (mostly from Kenya) describing burns and rashes the products have caused.
Twitter user @kremzaroogianwho identifies as a trans man called out Always for what he believes is a “calculated move”. “It’s no accident always had this gender removal from their packaging when people started tweeting about their products in Kenya literally containing carcinogens”. Now, people who have periods have another reason to be wary of the brand that claims to “care about all women and girls”. When it comes down to it, it seems as if the brand seems to care about their bottom line more than anything else.
While, of course, the company will get push-back for deciding to gender-neutralize their packaging, they’re also smart enough to know that the future is non-binary. And the future is where their money is. For example, IBM marketing executive Andy Bossley revealed in 2018 that “millennials feel that gender is a spectrum”, while “more than half the members of Generation Z know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns”. In other words, Always probably wouldn’t have taken this step if they didn’t see it as an ultimately lucrative decision.
Latinas, of course, have not hesitated to make their opinions known about this news.
Many viewed this as the perfect opportunity to speak out about periods, reproductive health, and structural transphobia.
As usual, Puerto Rican performer Indya Moore came with their hot take:
Which is great because we should stop gendering products. Also trans men and some intersex men also experience menstruation. Removing the female symbol is a great move bc now other people who aren’t women can purchase these projects without being dysphorically/otherwise triggered https://t.co/Ca1oMMevFD— Protect Trans People (@IndyaMoore) October 23, 2019
This event sparks a larger discussion about the gendering of products at large–not just menstruation products.
This Twitter user was unimpressed with the arguments some people were posing as to why the packaging shouldn’t change:
The outrage over Always’s decision is interesting, considering that the brand isn’t even reformulating their product–they’re simply changing the packaging.
This Twitter user expressed their feelings about the way people react to violence against the trans community vs. the way they react when the Always packaging is changed:
It’s undeniable that violence against trans people is an epidemic that should be addressed by all communities much more often.
This person made an iron-clad argument as to why the venus-symbol packaging is problematic:
The Leading Menstrual Pad Manufacturer Has Just Changed Their Packaging to Include Non-Binary Customers And Twitter is AblazeAs usual, when there’s any change in society, there is inevitably a subset of people who want nothing more than to stick to their old ways.