When the Thinx underwear company, which makes special panties that women can wear on their periods in lieu of pads or tampons, wanted to put ads in New York City’s subway stations, MTA turned them down. The subway has seen other and far racier ads for things like breast augmentation and cosmetic surgery, so when the period panties’ ads weren’t accepted, it seemed there was really only one reason: the MTA thinks periods are, well, icky.
Thinx’s CEO, Miki Agrawal, spent three years designing and creating the underwear, and she has a clear-cut opinion about why MTA turned her ads away: “We live in a patriarchal society. The period conversation makes them uncomfortable, and that’s why there’s such a double standard with what’s allowed to be up there,” she says.
By denying the placement of the ads, the MTA is also denying Thinx’s access to the 5.5 million people who use the New York City subways. Agrawal says that her company is “well within the guidelines” of the MTA’s advertising standards, and that there is no other objection to the proposed ads except that periods make people feel weird.
The ads themselves are pretty simple, even minimalist: the yolk of an egg peeks over the edge of a box; a peeled and halved grapefruit sits quietly on a pink and red background. There’s nothing gross or revealing in them, and Agrawal astutely points out: “You can use a grapefruit to represent breasts, but you can’t use them to represent another [part of] female anatomy?”
It seems now that Thinx and the MTA have reached a treaty over the ads, specifically about the use of the word “period” (because the word is obviously the worst part!). An MTA spokesman spoke with The New York Times and said that “of course [the ads] would be approved.” The ads are allegedly still “under review,” meaning they weren’t actually rejected altogether in the first place, but no official word has been released yet.
Of the ads Agrawal says, “We’re not changing them. We’re going to fight this until they approve it.”
So get ready, MTA travelers: you may be looking at grapefruit a bit differently soon.