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Penny R. pointed us to one of the more bizarre advertising campaigns I have ever seen.  This campaign, by Tampax, is in the form of a story featuring blog entries and short videos.  The story is about a 16-year-old boy named Zack who suddenly wakes up with “girl parts.”  He goes on to narrate what it’s like including, of course, his experience of menstruation and what a big help Tampax tampons were.

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Some highlights from the blog:

He develops an ambivalent relationship to his new “girl parts,” much like girls.  The plot doesn’t involve a sexist “I might as well kill myself” theme.  Nor does it take a creepy sexual turn where he “explores” his new body.   Instead, he is kind of matter-of-fact about it, a little weirded out, but sometimes he thinks there are nice things about his new parts.

His character is unthreatening (not too masculine or aggressive) and having girl parts involves the development of other feminine traits, like cooking, weight gain, fashion issues, and crying.  Oh, and bitchiness.

His girl parts give him a whole new perspective on what it’s like to be a girl and he now really sympathizes with the ladies. Cramps are like “five rounds of ultimate fighting.”  He also suddenly finds himself a feminist of sorts defending women’s rights:

Seriously though, in some cultures women are forced to leave the house when they’re having their period. That is so unfair! The guys who came up with that stupid rule totally deserve to wake up with girl parts and see how they like sleeping in the garage when they’re menstruating.

He gets nervous about going to the prom, especially because he’s on his period and is preparing to wear an all-white tuxedo.  Success!  He writes:

For prom, I wore an immaculate white tuxedo, a pink tulip and a white Tampax tampon. Actually, the tulip color was more of a mulberry or a rose sachet. And it smelled exactly like honey. Really nice.

Tampax is featured several times throughout the narrative. As he prepares for his second period ever, he writes: “Well, it’s been 29 days since I got my first period and had to sneak into the girl’s room for some Tampax. Those things really saved my butt.”

Here is a 12-minute video chronicling his experience from the website:

Okay… so… what!?

Is Tampax trying to draw the attention of (straight) girls to their brand by offering up a nice, harmless-seeming, cute boy? Do they think that cute boys commiserating with girls will send their customer base into a frenzy of puppy love and lead them to buy Tampax? I mean, Zack is totally crush-worthy!

Debbie, at Body Politic, has a more critical reading. She argues:

This detailed, complex, and surprisingly sweetly executed marketing campaign is just yet another way of making men’s bodies and experiences more important than women’s … to sell things to women.

In other words, in making menstruation something that men experience, it is transported it into the realm of Important Experiences That Humans Endure, thus making women feel important and validated.

In any case, it’s fascinating. What do ya’ll think?

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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