Kotex ad causes uproar

// 15 March 2008

Personally, I don’t see the problem. I can’t say I love the term “beaver”, but I do wonder if this caused so much offense because of the direct reference to vaginas?

Comments From You

EBaezaChavez // Posted 15 March 2008 at 9:27 pm

I think its sort of cute…. and I’m all for taking care of yourself “down there”! ;-)

Anna // Posted 15 March 2008 at 9:35 pm

I’m terrible about adverts – I get highly offended by a great proportion of them (don’t even get me started on adverts for cleaning products) but I really fail to see the problem with this one.. How can people be offended by references to a vagina in an advert that’s clearly for female hygiene?

Lauren O // Posted 15 March 2008 at 10:34 pm

I wonder if there are any commercials with equivalent references to male genitalia. Something with a rooster walking around or something. This isn’t exactly equivalent, but I think it’s much more graphic and gross than that beaver, and I’m not aware of any outrage over it.

Tazia // Posted 15 March 2008 at 11:45 pm

It is guy-vocab.

Lynne Miles // Posted 16 March 2008 at 3:47 pm

I agree, Jess. Don’t like the term ‘beaver’ generally, but I had to say this made me laugh quite a lot. It’s also a lot better than those daft adverts of people skydiving/skipping/rollerskating etc.

mia // Posted 16 March 2008 at 4:04 pm

Even if the origins lie in male vocab, i will take this ad over those infuriating ads where women are rollerskating in miniskirts down a busy street holding onto a dalmation and bunch of flowers. Because, you know, thats what ‘freedom’ is.

Additionally, this ad actually appeals to a womans sense of humour. When else does that happen, other than ‘oh hahaha, look how silly the man is now that i’v tricked him into washing the dishes/ giving me his credit card/ etc’.

Lucy // Posted 16 March 2008 at 5:38 pm

I would definately consider myself in the camp of feminism that hates constant adverts trying to sell us products for that “sensititve feminine area,” i mean can you imagine a man leaping off his sofa to buy a product for his “sensititive masculine area,”?

But those view points aside, from my perspective.. isn’t this promoting a positive body image through the public acknowledgment that women officially have pubic hair? Surely the beaver refference is to pubic hair? And even if it isn’t, i’m sure that will be the most common connection made.


Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 16 March 2008 at 6:35 pm

I love that advert. For some reason when people use the word “beaver” i think of simone de beauvoir. Her nickname was “the beaver” although it doesn’t mean quite the same in French.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 16 March 2008 at 6:41 pm

I think the men standing smiling and flirting with the beaver, not the girl, is kind of disturbing.

One reason it might be problematic is the idea that your vagina should be such a central part of your identity- contrasted with the rollerskating type ads that are meant to say your vagina/ period doesn’t have to matter. It is a change of focus. I am not sure that this is a bad thing- why should we be trying to pretend we don’t have a vagina/ period anyway… but on the otherhand we don’t want to be defined by it either.

Elizabeth Pisani // Posted 16 March 2008 at 11:29 pm

I’ve been working on a book that will soon be published on both sides of the Atlantic. I was looking for an equivalent of the word “fanny” (which in the US refers to your butt, not “down there” as it does in Britain). I asked friends of both sexes in the US for a friendly word for a vagina. The very question caused outrage. “Not something we talk about.”

Was in Bangkok last week and a Thai friend mentioned her “little sister”. I quite liked that, but I’m not sure it would work so well in an ad.

Leigh Woosey // Posted 18 March 2008 at 12:11 pm

I think Kotex and their ad agency (Sydney based Brandshop, according to this) deserve thorough applause for this advert. It presents an image of the vagina that is non-threatening, lively and inseparable from the woman herself- its with her everywhere she goes. Something these comments have overlooked is that men often carry a very negative image of the vagina, disgusted at its menstrual behaviour or appropriating, shaving and fetishising it in pornography. The depiction of the vagina as a living (hairy!) component of the woman that the men are not put off by is really very progressive.

Feminist Avatar – Are the guys flirting with the beaver? Looking at their eyelines and the composition of the shots it appears they are grouped with and attention directed at the woman. They are looking slightly to the left, which is the side the woman is shown sitting on (as seen from their perspective). This leads me to another point- the woman then consults and agrees with the beaver about her opinion on the males, demonstrating that she has both an awareness and the power of veto over her sexuality.

Tazia – While ‘guys’ may also use the term, the news report Jess linked to does state that ‘beaver’ was chosen from a survey of women of the euphemisms used for their genitalia.

Jess McCabe // Posted 18 March 2008 at 12:15 pm

Really good point about the hairyness, Leigh!!!

Danielle // Posted 18 March 2008 at 10:53 pm

I was actually thinking about adverts for sanitary towels and those Tena Lady things yesterday, and wondering aloud why they are shown in such a way that no one who wasn’t familiar with them have the slightest clue about what they were for. It’s all women cycling, swimming or strutting confidently down the street. (Although there was one that invovled “ugly” knickers.)

I suppose the ads have to be discreet and tasteful, just like the products. And the women who use them.

Congrats to Kotex for challenging this! Although I still wouldn’t ever buy towels again, not now that I’ve discovered the wonderful Mooncup!

arif khan // Posted 27 March 2008 at 6:09 am



Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds