A shadowy cabal of transgender activists recently held Procter & Gamble’s board of directors at knifepoint, forcing them to make their products more explicitly trans-inclusive under threat of being canceled on Twitter dot com.
That…never happened, though I can understand why you might think so based on how the media has covered P&G’s decision to remove the circle-and-cross “female symbol” from the packaging of its Always brand line of menstrual hygiene products, as CNN reported on Tuesday.
“Always got rid of their Venus logo following pressure from trans-rights groups,” wrote The Daily Mail on Sunday, while CBS News reported that the decision followed “pleas from LGBTQ activists.” Right-wing fringe blogs were even less generous with their framing, invoking the specter of The Trans Activist to paint an extremely marginalized group as dangerously powerful: "Transgender Activists Force Menstrual Products Brand Always To Remove ‘Woman’ Symbol From Packaging,” read The Daily Wire’s Sunday headline.
To read this coverage, one might think that queer activists had organized en masse to get this one corporation to stop packaging its menstrual products with a symbol that could potentially suggest that only women have periods, which would make sense seeing as how the single greatest threat to the trans and nonbinary community—after, you know, violence, homelessness, sex work criminalization, health care access, and influencers—is whether commercial packaging makes us feel valid.
In reality, none of this happened. “Trans activists” did not force P&G to change its maxi pad packaging, nor did some all-powerful “transgender lobby” pressure a global, multi-billion dollar corporation to do as it said. According to Snopes, a single teenager named Ben Saunders reached out to Always in June with concerns that the female symbol on the company’s wrappers was alienating to trans and nonbinary customers who menstruate but aren’t women. Other random Twitter users had voiced similar complaints online. Always’ marketing team responded to Saunders in October, saying that the brand will “use a new wrapper design without the feminine symbol" starting early next year.
“We’re also committed to diversity and inclusion and are on a continual journey to understand the needs of all of our consumers,” a spokesperson for Always told VICE. “We routinely assess our products, packaging, and designs, taking into account a variety of inputs including in depth consumer research, to ensure we are meeting the needs of everyone who uses our products. The change to our pad wrapper design is consistent with that practice.”
It’s true that 17-year-old Saunders is an activist, having been named Young Campaigner of the Year by British LGBTQ group Stonewall in May. (“Campaigner” is British for “activist” or “organizer.”) But Saunders did not reach out to Always on behalf of Stonewall, the organization confirmed to VICE. He does not appear to have done so on behalf of any larger group of activists, nor as part of some broader campaign to get the P&G brand to make its wrappers more inclusive. (If any such grassroots effort exists, I sure haven’t heard about it!) Saunders did not respond to VICE’s request for comment, but it feels fair to say that the British teen simply reached out to the company about a problem he had with some of its products and the company responded with a solution. It’s a pretty standard case of customer service troubleshooting. A person, who happens to be an activist, asked a brand if it would make its packaging more trans-inclusive, and the brand, likely knowing how much good press it could pick up in doing so, happily obliged. Lest this article play into that good press cycle, I’d like to note that Always was accused this week of selling substandard sanitary pads in Kenya, allegedly leaving consumers with a number of unwanted complications like rashes, burns, and discomfort.
There’s no omnipotent trans lobby bending Big Cis to its will, but the fact that media outlets, even mainstream ones like CBS News and CNN, were quick to further that narrative is, at the very least, concerning. Trans people make up less than 1 percent of the population in the United States, and our basic rights are still up for discussion at the national level. Painting us as somehow powerful enough to influence one of the biggest companies in the world is simply ridiculous—unless that’s what I want you to think? After all, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. Ha ha ha, I’m just kidding, of course. Or am I? I guess you’ll never know. Ca-caw…
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