Dam that beaver

Y’know, I don’t find this offensive. It’s clever, not least in its rather pointed metacommentary on the way that advertisements for menstrual products have relied on euphemisms since forever. This ad very pointedly avoids any salacious lingering on the secondary sexual characteristics of female anatomy as well, which is more than can be said for some other ads for menstrual products. The men gazing at the woman and her companion aren’t represented as stupid either, just bemused by the unusual sight of a beaver at the beach, which is another nice change from some other ads for menstrual products.

So, what it is about this ad which has caused so many complaints to flow into the Advertising Standards Bureau? There’s been sufficient controversy for the ad to be blogged widely overseas, for instance. Is it just that “beaver” is a direct reference to the vulva/vagina? Not euphemistic enough? Would there have been the same complaints if she’d gone through her daily routines with a team of painters in tow?

Categories: arts & entertainment, culture wars, gender & feminism, health

Tags: , , ,

50 replies

  1. I believe the appropriate term is “Some people will complain about anything!” – otherwise known as the twin curse of the customer service and creative expression industries.
    I think part of the problem might be the way the woman actually acknowledges the beaver as being part of her day, rather than being embarrassed by it or ignoring it. After all, women aren’t supposed to admit we have any sexual parts. We’re supposed to be sublimely ignorant of their existence, and be completely unaware of the reason for the masculine gaze. If women start admitting they have sexual parts, well, soon they’ll be admitting they actually want sex themselves, or they can be sexually satisfied by something other than missionary position PIV sex with the lights firmly and definitely off, between a married couple. And that would never do.
    Meg Thornton’s last blog post..Steele Part 4 of ?

  2. There isn’t anything offensive about the ad. I’m sure it’s just the company whipping up a bit of guerilla advertising (if I am using the right term here?) by covertly stirring up a controversy.
    I don’t find it that revolutionary – there is still no blood!
    another outspoken female’s last blog post..fringe dwellers

  3. FDB made a good point at my LP crosspost of this: how does the number of complaints received about this compare to any complaints received about the ad for erection aid nasal spray where they guys end up playing the piano with their (implied) newly erect penises?

  4. I wonder whether women cracking jokes about their sexual organs isn’t profoundly disquieting too; because that would be women owning them rather than just wearing them for the benefit of men. I am no expert but I imagine the humor here could put a serious dent in this ad’s jerkoff potential.

  5. I hadn’t seen this before. It’s great. Best of all, she’s not wearing white.
    Mindy’s last blog post..Really? Next they’ll say that setting yourself on fire is bad for you

  6. If i remember correctly, there was also some noise a few years ago about an ad featuring a tiny kitten (aka pussy) choosing to take a nap on a sanitary pad with some line about comfort. Couldn’t see the point of the fuss about that one either – despite being allergic to cats.

  7. I had a friend who used to say “I’m on the rollerskates” to mean her period, as a reference to those daft Tampax ads where the actress skated around in white jeans.
    MissPrism’s last blog post..Some Excellent reads for Easter

  8. As it just so happens I am going to a feminist discussion group tonight and a friend there is a radical feminist and she complained about this ad.. which I don’t find offensive.. I shall ask her exactly what she doesn’t like about it tonight. Stay tuned.
    blue milk’s last blog post..Attachment parenting guilt

  9. I just don’t see the offense, unless it’s because the ad is just too damned coy.
    Duh! Women have periods. Like, get over it.
    Deborah’s last blog post..?Legal safe and rare? – what does it mean?

  10. There are so many stupid period adverts on TV. But this one is actually funny I think! I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Crazy complainy people.
    Thanks for the story – did a post about it on Dollymix: http://www.dollymix.tv

  11. It’s an overall “shrug” for me. I don’t like the “beaver” euphemism, but the ad is a little bit reclamatory, so not a big deal.
    The femme-y definition of fun/taking care of yourself is a bit of a yawn – bikini sunbathing on the beach, hair salon, painting toenails – it might have been nice to see something a little less stereotypical. I could have done without the manly-men, too. What do they have to do with the central theme of “look after your vagina”?
    But overall, a big improvement on other mainstream disposable-sanitary-product advertising, which isn’t saying much.
    Lauredhel’s last blog post..Documentary, or Fragranced Toiletry Product?

  12. Wow, she actually seems to LIKE her beaver. No wonder people are upset! Aren’t we supposed to be deeply ashamed of “down there”?

  13. Tracee Hutchinson in The Age went off the deep end, claiming that:

    This ad said loudly — and apparently proudly — that women are nothing more than vaginas on legs.

    That must be a record-breaking performance in the annals of the Missing the Point Olympics. The beaver in the ad is not meant to be a woman, the beaver is meant to be the woman’s cute furry friend who’s fun to be with.

  14. There’s nothing wrong with femme-y but supersaturation can turn you off it quite quickly
    Agree about the ads generally – those print ads about breast cancer that have just a pair of breasts and no woman attached are as bad

  15. Getting back to my previous comment, the woman I mentioned above didn’t like the attempt to reclaim “beaver” which she sees as porn talk.

    <em>blue milk’s last blog post..<a href=’http://bluemilk.wordpress.com/2008/03/19/attachment-parenting-guilt/’ rel=”nofollow”>Attachment parenting guilt</a></em>

  16. If you think this (demonstrably icky) ad is about women’s liberation, you’ve got rocks in your head.

  17. What do you find icky about it, Brett?

  18. It’s icky in several ways. It’s based on and encourages the deeply held view that menstruation is something ugly, i.e. it needs to be dammed. And secondly, it gives the wrong message physiologically about what needs to happen to menstrual blood, i.e., it needs to flow, not be dammed.
    Sheesh. What planet do you people live on?

  19. Are you by chance confusing dam and damn? Damming menstrual flow is what menstrual products literally do, be they cups, pads or tampons. Are you advocating some radical move to zero intervention? That would make a fetching advertisement to be sure.

  20. Tampons and sanitary pads do not dam. They absorb, like a sponge.
    The notion of menstrual blood being dammed within a women’s body is nonsencsial, potentially dangerous and misogynist. Why not just inject concrete, that would dam real good.

  21. I’m officially lost, Brett. First you say that this ad is offensive to you because menstrual blood shouldn’t be “dammed”, then you say tampons don’t “dam” a period.
    I guess what we really need around here is more men telling us what to do with our vaginas. Thanks for being That Guy!

  22. Incoming clue-stick Brett: Something can both absorb fluid and form a barrier preventing the egress of backed up fluid. Hence the barrier layer of pads.
    I’m having a flash-back to the time Emma Tom said that the stories of women dripping menstrual blood onto Muslim men were clearly false because menstrual flow could never be that heavy. I laughed and laughed. I guess you have the excuse of not being in possession of a menstruating uterus but quit speaking from a position of ignorance.

  23. Sorry to double up but I thought Brett might like to know that contrary to his implication, it is the excessive absorbency of tampons that has been linked to the development of Toxic shock. Totally dry vagina=teh bad.

  24. Maybe Brett thinks that these are magical little cervix-corks?
    That, and he has never cooked food, worn clothes, used soap, worn a condom, taken medication, had surgery, sat in a chair, or taken motorised transport.
    L “or had a converation on the internet, the most unphysiological activity of all” H

  25. Dams do not absorb fluid. To dam blood in a woman’s body can cause toxic shock and led to death. So “dam” is completely the wrong word here.

  26. Brett, what product are you talking about? Tampons and sponges are associated with toxic shock syndrome, cups are not, and none of them block the egress of menstrual fluid from the uterus.
    You said that this ad is an ad for a “dam” product, then you said tampons aren’t dams by your definition – you’re not making any sense.
    Start presenting clearly delineated reasoning and some actual evidence, if you want to be taken seriously.

  27. On a river, a dam stops the natural flow of water. It contains it in one place. The dam does not absorb the water. Comparing a tampon to a dam is quite obviously wrong and stupid. It is not a dam. It is a sponge, an absorbent material. Implying that menstrual blood is dammed or sbould be is also dangerous. And I believe misogynist.
    Menstrual blood needs to leave the body, not be dammed inside it, like river waters are dammed. Hence using the word “dam” in relation to dealing with menstrual flow is wrong, misleading, potentially dangerous and misogynist.
    It beggars belief that this needs explaining or that any reasonably intelligent adult, male or female (I am female) should not see the underlying misogyny of using the word “dam” in this context.
    Incidentally, I would also emphasise that ads for tampons are completely unnecessary. It is all about branding and commercial competition. And of course, like most if not all advertising in relation to women, it demeans women, deliberately in this case, by once again drawing attention to women’s cunts and thus objectifying and sexualising women and girls. And it is all so unnecessary because these are are everyday, non-luxury, largely indistinguishable products.
    But, heh, why miss an opp. to snigger about and ogle women’s sexy bits at the same time as associating them with something that needs to be “dammed”.

  28. Brett, you seem to have manufactured your objection to the ad from thin air – the ad never uses the word “dam”. Not once. I used it in the title of the post, simply to make a pun, because I like making puns.

  29. You seemed to have manufactured your endorsement of the ad from thin air, Tigtog.
    Ever heard of Vance Packard?
    Oh and to add to the numb idiocy, none of the feminists here seemed to have noticed or remarked on this ad’s representation of the vagina, with its nasty, inconvenient flowing fluid, as a separate thing, nay a furry beast even, known for its sharp claws and teeth.
    Of course this scenario, i.e, a flowing, bloody, sharp-toothed cunt that is separate from its pure, innocent, clean host fits in perfectly with the idealised disemobodied civilised female human whose principal aim and purpose is to sexually please aroused males.
    The lack of a critque or even basic awareness of the role of advertising in a capitalist society, which feminists understood very well at least half a century ago, is the most noteworthy and it must be said depressing thing to be noted in the comments of everyone here.

  30. Brett, the beaver has a smooth and attractive pelt, and is imbued with sufficient protections from nature that other creatures generally don’t try and stop it from doing what it wants to do.
    What’s not to like?
    P.S. Read Vance Packard long ago. Suggest you read some Lacan, some Eco and some Barthes.

  31. Last try.
    Brett, when you’re talking about “damming menstrual flow” being unphysiological and causing toxic shock syndrome, what. product. are. you. talking. about?
    p.s. If you think there’s no criticism on this blog of corporatism, consumerism, advertising, and the patriarcho-industrial complex and how it treats women, you might want to read, oh, the past 24 hours or so of posts first.

  32. There are no products that dam menstrual flow, Lauredhel. That is the whole point. Tampons or pads do not dam menstrual flow. Therefore saying “dam that beaver” is ridiculous and dangerous.
    I didn’t realise (until tigtog pointed it out) the ad itself didn’t say “dam that beaver”. Perhaps this was because the voiceovers had a childish, sing-songy, chanting quality that I couldn’t be bothered to fathom. I thought it was in the ad, though not watching ads on principle, I didn’t bother to replay it after viewing it once.
    However, tigtog DID use the word dam, as a suitable (she asserts) pun and commenters here continue to assert the crazy notion that damming menstrual blood is what tampons (in the case of this ad and its product) do and presumably think that this is a good thing.
    Finally and underlining all the above is the sad fact that you completely miss, ignore or it seems most likely do not understand the essential political points I raised about why this product is being advertised in the first place, why women’s cunts must be identified with something cute and non-human, separate from a woman’s body. It is a patriarchal and misogynist construct.
    It is a monumentally idiotic, unnecessary and sexist piece of advertising and yet you don’t see it.
    Wow. If that is what Lacan et al has taught tigtog, then there seems to be some problem in the transmission…or something.

  33. Brett, if my menstrual fluid is not leaking from my vagina onto my clothing, then my menstrual fluid has been dammed (yes, by an absorbent product). Temporarily, not in such a way that it is retained permanently within my body. That is the point that others have been trying to make about your immensely silly arguments about “damming” that were never part of the ad’s claims, anyway.
    All that my “endorsement” (your claim) of this ad contained in the post was that I didn’t find it offensive (unlike various complainers to the ASB), and thought that it included some metacommentary on euphemisms. That was it. Never said that I thought it was the best ad ever, just that it was better than most other ads that I’ve seen for menstrual products: at least the woman is represented as finding her vagina fun and nothing to be ashamed of. Also, menstrual fluids are not presented as nasty or shameful – the absorption products to make handling menstrual fluids more convenient are portrayed as something perfectly suitable to present as a gift in a public place. So, mildly positive and overall a shrug. The company wants women to buy their products rather than a competitor product, and their advertising doesn’t actually offend me. That’s it.
    Finally: frankly, your arguments about a cartoonish beaver made to look as non-threatening as possible being equivalent to portraying cunts as wild scary things with teeth strike me as such ludicrous hyperbole that I can’t take you seriously.

  34. Fair enough. I find your obtuseness puzzling, naive and deeply apolitical.
    But then you are entitled to your views.
    I won’t be back to such a silly, crass blog that is devoid of any sort of critical thinking, takes sexist ad at face value and thinks the advertising industry is a benign force, even enabling women’s liberation! Guffaw!
    And you said you’d read Packard, a man even, who wrote about all this way back when?

  35. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Brett.
    Pretty astonishing that all it takes to be accused of viewing the advertising industry as benign is mentioning that one particular ad is not especially offensive.

  36. Capitalist co-conspirator! Bad Feminist! Speaking for myself; I am in a permanent state of offense and high dudgeon but I take Sundays off to rest.

  37. I take all weekends and public holidays off.

    *scrambles to hide archives*

  38. Perhaps Brett needs a fainting couch? I’ve got the smallest one in the world right here (I suspect sie’s got hir own pearls, clutching for the purpose of, already):

  39. Why wasn’t Brett disemvowelled?
    I would have done that

  40. I’m having a flash-back to the time Emma Tom said that the stories of women dripping menstrual blood onto Muslim men were clearly false because menstrual flow could never be that heavy.


    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Brett.

    Pushing a door that says PULL will do that.
    Pavlov’s Cat’s last blog post..Consumer overconfidence

  41. I’m having a flash-back to the time Emma Tom said that the stories of women dripping menstrual blood onto Muslim men were clearly false because menstrual flow could never be that heavy.


    Well yes, even if she’s had well controlled menstrual flows so far, she’s got a surprise coming when she becomes perimenopausal, eh?

  42. Unknown Troper:

    Why wasn’t Brett disemvowelled?
    I would have done that

    I don’t disemvowel simply for dissent. Brett skated close on the personal abuse front however.

  43. Humour-impaired feminists with a brain rule.
    This ad blatantly says that for a woman to get men to look at her, and like her, she should “take care” of her vagina the same way she “takes care” of herself. It depicts the tampon brand as being the equivalent key to “success” for her vagina as a manicure, wearing skin tight clothes, preferably a bikini, on the requisite skinny bod. The reward: to be perved on by hot young upright men while she playfully lounges – spreadeagled – at their feet.
    There’s not one aspect of this dismal ad that relates to the actual use and purpose of tampons, until of course the end, where women are supposed to infer that the hairy, burrowing rodent with notoriously sharp incisors is a cool euphemism for their vaginas.
    Totally. Fucked. Tick
    Misogynist. Tick
    Sexist. Tick.

  44. I disagree that the ad is blatantly about seeking male approval – she seems to be fairly indifferent to their gaze, and since when is sitting with your ankles together “spreadeagled”? As I said above, I also don’t agree that the beaver can only be viewed as a negative caricature of female genitalia, because beavers are very widely viewed positively (cute, strong, feisty, good engineers) in popular culture.
    Sure, as was also mentioned above, the ad still caters to all the femme consumerism stereotypes, so is hardly a feminist manifesto. Sexist? Mildly. Misogynist? Just don’t see it. Offensive? Not to me.
    I’m happy to agree to disagree. Dissent which avoids personal abuse (or near-abuse such as implying that those of us who aren’t offended by this ad don’t have a brain, as feminc just did) is always welcome.

  45. Hello everybody,
    Apparently that idiot who thinks he knows better than women do about how to handle menstruation has gone away. But anyway, I thought I’d just point out that tampons do not cause Toxic Shock Syndrome. Not changing them often enough and letting them rot inside you for twelve hours or so may.
    And I wish YouTube hadn’t taken down this video, I would love to see it.

  46. What’s offensive?
    Lets say that “fruit bag” was a common and well-understood term for the male genitalia. To the point that when anyone said “fruit bag”, male genetalia is the first thing you’d think of.
    Let’s say that there was a product to clean the smeg from under your foreskin. It’s natural, you know, for smeg to accumulate there.
    And lets say some particular brand of smeg cleaner did an ad where this bloke was cleaning and rinsing a fruit bag. On TV.
    I’m sure some people would find it, well, just mildly offputting.

  47. Paul that fruitbag commercial sounds hilarious.


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