Fat- and Period-Shaming Collide in Easily the Year’s Most Offensive Ad Aimed at Women

Got that 'jam donut' feeling?

Fat-shaming and period-shaming in a single commercial? J. Walter Thompson Melbourne has managed it, with predictably bad results, in this spot for Unicharm's SOFY BeFresh Pads. The ad is titled "Ugh Moments"—and it inspires just that reaction.

First, let's talk about the fat-shaming. In the opening moments of the spot, we see a woman receive a calendar notification indicating that her period is about to start. Drama of dramas, she has chosen—poorly—to wear white shorts.

Then the ad really rolls into the good stuff: A clearly disgruntled doppelganger, who is several sizes larger than our protagonist (because it's her fat, angry, period-self!), grabs her handbag and derides her for failing to adequately plan for Period Day, given that it comes at the same time each month.

The larger girl is meant to represent bloating. But it's hard not to cringe when everything bad starts happening to this walking and talking allegory—a living symbol of fat-shaming. By the end, our original heroine, saved by SOFY BeFresh, literally leaves her counterpart in the dust: Behind her car as she cheerfully drives away.

The ad also plays on other stereotypes, like the one that depicts women as monstrously unstable, irritable and emotional on their periods—a portrayal that has led to backlash against numerous brands. Naturally, there are still those who insist this characterization is funny and true—people who don't mind perpetuating the too-easy narrative of women as crazy bitches who require a wide perimeter during their monthly lady-times.

But we have to remember the context in which this ad appears: Women around the world are still fighting to combat a stigma that keeps young menstruating girls out of school and mired in shame. And locally, during the Republican debate, Donald Trump recently suggested that Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked him tough questions only because she was menstruating. The ugly combination of all this makes it a lot harder to LOL at an ad that, on top of everything, is aimed at women.

In an emailed statement to the Sydney Morning Herald, Unicharm said it "unreservedly apologizes to anyone who is offended." Meanwhile, the ad remains up on YouTube.

If it really wanted to express regret, the brand could have gone a step further, like pledging to fight period stigma or improve sanitation in places where it hurts young girls. Or it could alter the spot to provide a more balanced portrayal of menstruating women, starring the second actress, who, despite the stereotype-laden script, did a strong job depicting what remains a personal hindrance for active women.

Because let's be real: Some ladies—like me—do have it bad. I mean, I get vomit-inducing cramps. But plenty of my sisters sail through period time with nary a symptom. And even on mild days, a super-special pad or tampon doesn't really alleviate much suffering. Otherwise, for avoiding that nasty sat-on-a-jam-donut sensation, these pads have you covered.


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@rebeccacullers Rebecca Cullers is a contributor to Adweek.