Amid the slow death of Twitter, brands—like all users—have let their accounts become bolder than ever, for better and for worse. On Monday, Tampax tweeted: “You’re in their DMs. We’re in them. We are not the same.” When fellow feminine hygiene product brand Always asked how long Tampax had the tweet in its drafts, Tampax replied, “since last period.” Get it?
But honestly, as far as brands’ attempts at humor go, this one wasn’t horrible. (It was certainly better than Burger King UK’s tweet to mark International Women’s Day in 2021.) But Tampax’s joke didn’t fly with everyone. Some users critiqued the tweet for sexualizing period products and women’s reproductive organs—which, fair enough. Others—specifically transphobes and TERFs, aka trans-exclusive radical feminists—have taken issue with the tweet’s gender-neutral language: “Who’s ‘their’?” one user tweeted in response to Tampax’s joke. “Who’s ‘them’?”
You might note that “they” and “them” can also be used to refer to multiple people—and that this joke works just as well (which is to say, a medium amount) if it’s referring to more than one person. But for transphobes on Twitter, there was apparently no choice but to get up in arms about the gender-neutral pronoun. Many cited a 2020 tweet from Tampax saying, “Fact: Not all women have periods. Also a fact: Not all people with periods are women. Let’s celebrate the diversity of all people who bleed!” And with that, they launched a hashtag: #BoycottTampax, which has been trending since Tuesday. (Some terfs also recirculated rumors from earlier this year that Tampax had offered sponsorships to influencers who aren’t cis women: Dylan Mulvaney, a trans woman, and Jeffrey Marsh, who is nonbinary.)
“#BoycottTampax is trending. 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,” one transphobe tweeted.
Another tweet that’s drawn thousands of likes and retweets as of Wednesday links to a post about Mulvaney and Marsh from June: “This is designed intentionally to gaslight, abuse and destabilise women & girls. Say NO, take your money away from #tampax and anyone else. Men, please help women in this hellscape. This affects society as a whole. #BoycottTampax #gross.”
Whether or not this “campaign” is actually effective is beside the point, but what does matter is that hateful people on Twitter decided to take the opportunity—which, I can’t emphasize enough, was created by a tweet riffing on a MEME—to further marginalize trans women and other people who get periods who do not identify as cis women. This is particularly disturbing in the aftermath of the shooting at a queer nightclub in Colorado Springs on Saturday. The anti-trans critiques of Tampax fixate on the brand supposedly “abusing” women and girls by acknowledging the objective reality that trans and non-binary people menstruate—but these attacks are based on a dangerous, escalating ideology that also accuses queer and trans of “grooming” children by merely existing.
I am not a big defender of brands, generally—though for the record, I think their joke was fine: tampons are in you, and there’s nothing particularly sexual about it. But #BoycottTampax is not about the brand; it’s about harassing trans people. This may be one of the stupider right-wing outrage campaigns we’ve seen recently, but on Elon Musk’s Twitter, it certainly won’t be the last.