It seems the debate behind Libra‘s ad for its tampon pitting one ‘natural’ woman against a ‘transgender’ woman has riled its head once again pursuant to local demands that Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau pull the ad or risk inciting prejudice against the transgender community, who yesterday intimated that they will for the time being allow the ad to continue running.
The ad which depicts two women competitively adjusting themselves in the bathroom takes great strain to make sure that viewers understand who the real woman is (that is, she’s the one who menstruates thank you very much, and whom their product is ‘naturally’ intended for) as opposed to the transgender woman who is subtly derided and as many have argued by implication connoted not to be a legitimate woman. A connotation which has infuriated the transgender community in Australia who have to date been unable to have Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau recant and take the ad out of circulation. This despite New Zealand’s Advertising Standards Bureau agreeing to take the ad down earlier last month when it first appeared.
Despite what many in the transgender community recognize is the gentle poking fun that the ad presumes to make its underlying message nevertheless served in effect to reinforce negative stereotypes and attitudes towards the community who are fighting hard to distance themselves from an over riding culture that seeks to portray them as anything but legitimate.
Given Australia’s inclination (despite the governments pubic stance otherwise) to manifest highly contentious stereotypes (if one needs a guide one only observe Australia’s history with respect to its indigenous people and that of immigrants since the 1960’s who had to endure continuing dissent and prejudice in the community- as this author is able to personally attest to) one could possibly posit that in fact the transgenders concerns about vilified perceptions and treatment as a consequence of are hardly unfounded.
This can unfortunately be evidenced by the rise of indiscriminate gay bashings, work prejudice and an ongoing counter intuitive attitude towards those persons who do not often or immediately display what many Australians have come to understand what makes one whole or worthy of enlightened consideration. A persistent problem ever since the inception of the country despite the continual progress the government has been able to make in affecting attitudes otherwise.
In choosing to keep the ad, Australia’s Advertising Standards board held the following view:
“The ad does not demean women who do not menstruate, nor does it demean or vilify transgender people and does not vilify men who dress as woman.”
The Board however did admit that there was “no way of determining” whether the drag queen character was “representative of drag queens or transgender women.”
Offered Warren Talbot, a LGBTI Health Alliance executive:
“It wasn’t clear to me and I’m sure to the average member of the general public it would not be clear. In fact, the community at large may not be fully aware of the distinction. It is this very ambiguity which provides the potential of harm to trans women, who already battle the widespread misperception that they are ‘men’ posing as women,”
“They deserve our compassion and support, not the kind of ridicule this ad portrays.”
Yet what perhaps makes the Advertising Standards Bureau stance somewhat perverse is the stance it adopted last year. As reiterated by Fiona Jolly, the Bureau’s CEO:
“The diversity of the board brings with it an understanding of the many different community standards which relate to decisions that need to be made by the board,”
It’s perhaps interesting to note that not one of the boards 20 members has been able to demonstrate a nuanced understanding or background in LGBTI affairs.
Which poses the question is this is a situation of the transgender community being too vigilant in asserting their individual rights and a greater sensitivity to contentious or perhaps as many would wonder behind closed doors, a continuation of the parochial and often discriminatory practices of a nation too inured to the great discomfort often felt by those on the receiving end of hard to get over experiences courtesy of those who have historically had a time letting go of stark dispositions of cultural identities and individuals?