In an effort to be more inclusive of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming customers, the menstrual brand Always has announced it will be removing the Venus symbol — commonly associated with the Roman goddess of fertility, and the female sex — from all of its packaging.
“For over 35 years Always has championed girls and women, and we will continue to do so,” Procter & Gamble, the brand’s parent company, said Tuesday in a statement. “We’re also committed to diversity & inclusion and are on a continual journey to understand the needs of all our consumers.”
Those needs were brought to the company’s attention throughout the year, as a number of trans advocates began urging Always to make its products more welcoming to people who menstruate but don’t identify as female.
Earlier this month, one Twitter user noted how the Venus symbol, which looks like a circle sitting on a cross, has the potential of alienating trans male clients, who could feel dysphoric when buying the brand’s products.
“We routinely assess our products, packaging and designs, taking into account consumer feedback, to ensure we are meeting the needs of everyone who uses our product,” Procter & Gamble continued in their statement. “The change to our pad wrapper design is consistent with that practice.”
The redesign has been applauded by many people online — particularly activists and advocates, who have noted how the gesture demonstrates a sensitivity to the mental health of the company’s trans and gender-nonconforming clients.
“Trans and nonbinary folks are constantly misgendered, and a gesture like this can broaden out the experiences and open up spaces for those who need the products.”
Steph deNormand, the Trans Health Program manager at Fenway Health, in Boston, echoed the idea that “female-coded” imagery can both exacerbate gender dysphoria and discourage trans and gender-nonconforming people from buying sanitary products.
“For folks using these products on a nearly monthly basis, it can be harmful and distressing to see binary/gendered images, coding, language and symbols. So, using less coded products can make a huge difference,” deNormand told NBC. “Trans and nonbinary folks are constantly misgendered, and a gesture like this can broaden out the experiences and open up spaces for those who need the products.”
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Dr. Jack Turban, a resident physician in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, approved of the decision. He told NBC News that the Venus symbol is “unnecessary,” and that the move “sends a message to transgender and non-binary people who need these products that their identities are embraced and supported by the company.”
However, there was also some dissent. The announcement attracted transphobic backlash, particularly in headlines from websites like The Daily Mail — note its history of publishing anti-LGBTQ stories — that accused the brand of bending to the will of the “transgender lobby.”
Some people have even announced they would be officially boycotting Always, and have started a hashtag — mostly buoyed by transphobic sentiment — called #boycottAlways.
But for Procter & Gamble, it was important that their customers’ needs were being met.
In a statement to Snopes, the company explained the ethos behind the redesign.
“After hearing from many people, we recognized that not everyone who has a period and needs to use a pad, identifies as female,” the statement reads. “To ensure that anyone who needs to use a period product feels comfortable with Always, we’re adjusting our pad wrapper design as a part of our next round of product changes.”
Proctor & Gamble joins other like-minded companies who have recently taken action to render themselves more inclusive to trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming customers.
In late September, the toy company Mattel debuted a line of customizable Barbies that billed itself as the world’s first range of gender-neutral dolls.
And over the summer, the ride-sharing app Lyft released a feature that allows riders to share their pronouns with drivers. Similarly, several airlines over the past year have begun making structural changes to be more welcoming to customers of all genders.
The Always design updates will begin to be seen in stores starting in early 2020.