Tampax ad row shows need for ‘mature conversation’ about women’s bodies

Call for national strategy on women’s health as Senator tells of experience of miscarriage

Tampons & Tea: Tampax’s TV ad can’t be shown again in its current form following an ASAI ruling.

Tampons & Tea: Tampax’s TV ad can’t be shown again in its current form following an ASAI ruling.


Ireland needs to get over the near hysteria that ensues whenever there is mention of the “nitty gritty” of bodies and bodily functions, the Seanad has been told.

Labour Senator Annie Hoey said “we need to have a mature conversation about women’s bodies” as she referred to the controversial Tampax tampon TV advertisement where complaints that it was offensive were upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI).

The House was also told about the need for a proper strategy on women’s health and fertility.

Fianna Fáil Senator Erin McGreehan spoke about her experience of suffering a miscarriage which she described as “one of the lowest points in my life”.

She stressed the need for a national strategy to deal with endometriosis, a disease affecting thousands of women in Ireland but which is ignored as “only a bad period”.

Highlighting the “unwarranted response” to the Tampax advert Ms Hoey said she would not weigh in on the quality of the ad.

“There’s all sorts of ads I think are ill-advised” she said “but we don’t necessarily take them off the air”.

A total of 84 complaints about the ad were received and complaints described it as offensive, crude, vulgar, unnecessary, embarrassing and grotesque.

Ms Hoey said: “We need as a nation to get over the near hysteria….. whenever we get down to the nitty gritty of bodies and bodily functions”.

She told her colleagues: “I’m not going to go into a Kumbaya circle about when I had my first period” but she criticised the ASAI’s ruling that the advert was unsuitable for children.

She said it was “problematic” that somebody needs to be over 18 to see such advertising when they might have been having periods from the age of nine.

The Drogheda Senator said the advertising did nothing for the period poverty that exists in Ireland or globally where women and girls do not have access to safe, hygienic sanitary products.

Ms Hoey said the Dáil and Seanad had passed motions around period poverty “which shows we can actually have a relatively mature conversation about periods and needs of people who have them”.

Ms McGreehan called for the development of a property strategy on women’s health and for a debate on fertility.

Ms McGreehan said there are couples up and down the length of the country struggling with fertility financially, physically and emotionally.

Speaking about her own experience Ms McGreehan said “struggling with fertility issues and miscarriage was one of the lowest points of my life and there is nowhere to turn for professional help”.

Ms McGreehan, a Taoiseach’s nominee, said she suffers with endometriosis where tissue that normally grows inside the uterus instead grows outside.

She described it as a “cruel debilitating disease” which can take up to nine years to have diagnosed in Ireland and in this time “your condition is getting worse, your entire body crippled underneath this condition”.

“Today I am pain free. Last week I stood in here feeling like I had daggers swinging around inside my stomach. But I am one of the lucky ones because I was able to stand here, I was able to go to work.

“I’m not addicted to painkillers and do not have suicidal thoughts. And that is the case for so many women in this country. They are ignored.”

She said they are pushed aside because they are told “it’s only a bad period,” when “it’s a crippling disease” and the women affected need to be looked after.