"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 5 February 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Cramping Our Style


[Trust Is Tampax]

An almost inherent giggle factor

inhibits any serious discussion

of Tampax's tampax.com, but

that's OK - the site is

laughable in its own rite. From

the quaint suggestion that

teachers make a "class

collection" of menstruation

stories (we'd like to see that

diorama) to the brand history

which celebrates Tampax's

introduction as a "new day for

womanhood," tampax.com's

intention is to create a

worldview in which Tampax isn't

just the cotton and string, but

actually some kind of benevolent

idol, complete with shrine and a

passel of acolytes. With so much

clotted self-importance floating

around, is it any wonder we got




While various cultural taboos

have kept advertising for

feminine hygiene products to a

comfortable minimum - we can

only pray that presidential

campaign spots will soon suffer

a similar fate - we're astounded

that it's taken this long for

Tampax to capitalize on its

unique position. Let's face it -

Coke, Werther's Originals, and

Major League Baseball have

expended millions of advertising

dollars to create the illusion

that their products are part of

some mystical rite of passage.

No one doubts this about Tampax.


[Woman's Work Remade]

Small Wonder, a kind of brand

hagiography, inserts the product

firmly into the body of American

history. Though we were

impressed by the numerous

advertising innovations - Tampax

were one of the first companies

to really capitalize on the

influence of the American

Medical Association - Small

Wonder has the faint reek of

missed opportunities. Where, for

instance, was the wartime

slogan: "Though he can't be

there, Tampax can."


[Come On In!]

The challenge, of course, is to

pack the tampon propaganda in

enough cottony-soft language

that it falls gently into the

laps of preteen and parental

audiences, without abstracting

the issues to the point of total

confusion. Such obfuscation is

hardly unusual. After all, no

one can safely avoid the crime

of having biological functions

without an adequate arsenal of

"sanitary" products to assure

the omnipresent goal of

"discretion." But headings like

"Understanding Stuff" only call

even more attention to the

slippery nature of the topic at

hand. Such laughable

pussy-footing as "Mom, do you

ever feel, I don't know,

not-so-fresh?" somehow failed to

render douching a standard

practice among copulating



[Tampon Dolls]

Troom, a "private" place modeled

after a preteen girl's bedroom,

borders on the surreal with its

appropriation of teen-speak: "I

was a confused puppy!" This

awkward impersonation of a

child's voice, far from moving

discussion of menstruation any

closer to the culturally or

socially acceptable, just gives

Aunt Flo the same Janus face

she's always had: shamefaced on

the one side, tittering on the

other. Indeed, Tampax's smooth

assurance that an applicator

means "there's no need to touch

the tampon when it's being

inserted" contrasts jarringly

with the suggestion that young

women make dolls out of them.


[Cool Tunes]

We found the Cool Tunes section

just as sweetly naive. Written

(we assume) for the pre-menarche

crowd, the prose, flattering the

likes of Natalie Merchant and

Oasis, flows spottily,

interrupted by fluffy

exclamations and clogged by an

apparent confusion between

personal taste and personal

history. The style conjures

images of a teen bot programmed

by a team of Sony promotional

reps and Gina Arnold. But if

Tina's gushing verbiage weren't

enough to make us reach for the

Pamprin, we were sorely

disappointed by tampax.com's

refusal to plug some more

genuinely pro-menstruation

tunes. Where, for instance, was

the review of Urge Overkill's

Saturation, featuring the hit

single "Positive Bleeding"?


[New Day]

The site may make up for this

slight hole in its coverage with

a page on toxic shock syndrome -

just what the doctor ordered

after spending some time with

Tampax. That feeling of light

headedness, we're told, can be

effectively treated - we just

have to get off the rag.

Although we're glad that we

could rely on Tampax.

courtesy of Ann O'Tate