Catherine Dehdashti

Catherine Dehdashti
Eagan, Minnesota, USA
May 02
Catherine is a freelance writer--and the world's worst soccer mom--living with her husband and two kids in Eagan Minnesota.


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APRIL 8, 2011 12:26AM

Kotex ad was a launch pad to different “tween talk”

Rate: 21 Flag

By Catherine Dehdashti

The envelope caught my eye in the stack of otherwise trash-can destined mailers. Satin black, with stars, hearts, and the word “tween” blazed fuchsia across the front. I have a tween girl, I thought. Then I saw other words: “U by Kotex,” and below that the return address for the Kimberly-Clark company in Fort Worth, Texas.

Suddenly, I got it. And I don’t mean “I got it” the way Margaret Simon did in “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” Judy Blume’s classic adolescent menstruation novel. I mean “I got it” because I’ve been through this routine before.

At my first prenatal visit, I’d filled out a card agreeing to receive free infant formula samples, along with “other exciting offers.” Marketers have been tracking me and my then-fetus ever since. They know that my child is 11 years old now, and they also know the fetus turned out to be a girl—a girl who likes to buy clothes at Justice for Girls.

Some of the clothes at Justice for Girls have stars, hearts, diamonds, and swirls on them. And quelle surprise, there are similarly fun designs printed right on the U by Kotex Tween pads the mailer promoted. Thanks to Kotex, my kid can now wear feminine hygiene pads to match. When she needs them, that is.

The ad warned me and mothers of far younger girls of the urgency: “The time for the talk might be sooner than you think. Girls are getting their periods younger than ever.” I opened the flap, only to be further advised: “Some girls get their period as young as 8.”

A funky font in a swirly cloud asked “She’s ready. Are you?” (You’ll have to imagine the heart dotting the question mark.) The mailer implored me to not procrastinate. I should pick my day now for the talk and put it on my calendar so I’ll stick to it. A photo of a mother and daughter having pizza at a restaurant, and another of a mom whispering into the ear of her smiling daughter inspired quality mother-daughter time, sponsored by Kotex. The ad promised online videos, tools, and tips to help with the talk at

I typed in the web address on my laptop. The first video featured three women including a doctor having “chick chat,” as Kotex called it, around a coffee table. Another video showed perfect model-like tween girls talking about getting their periods.

These online “tools & tips” put me on alert to the possibility that my daughter could be “traumatized” if she started bleeding and didn’t know why (and presumably, if she didn’t have the right designer pads in her backpack or bathroom cabinet).

A $1-off coupon on the mailer beckoned me to buy a supply of the uniquely patterned U by Kotex Tween pads. It hadn’t been so long since I’d fallen for Disney princesses on the Huggies disposable diapers, also made by Kimberly-Clark. Could it be time for designer menstrual pads?

We had actually—well, sort of—had the talk a while ago, and it didn’t go like Kotex depicted. I had tried to talk while my daughter held up her hand and snapped “Stop! I know already!” She didn’t smile brightly like the girl in the photo whose mother whispered the secrets of Eve into her ear. No, my girl rolled her eyes and then tried to escape. I asked if she had questions, but she refused to ask any. I finally put some white pads in her bathroom, gave her a book about puberty, and decided “the talk” wasn’t for everyone.

Unless any fashion police come to inspect our feminine hygiene supply, I’m confident that my strategy preemptively averted the crisis Kotex tried to scare me with. But the U by Kotex Tween campaign did help me initiate another important talk with my 11-year-old. Our next talk was about being a wise consumer.

I even took my daughter out for our talk, just as the Kotex Tween campaign suggested. We didn’t go for pizza like the models in the ad; we went shopping (and not to Justice, quelle dommage). As she tried to escape the feminine hygiene products in the drugstore’s Aisle 5 for the less embarrassing hair products in Aisle 4, I kept her just long enough to compare prices.

The Tween pads, with their brightly colored wrappers and box, were $3.84 for 16 ultra-thin pads (24 cents each). Another selling point is that they are sized right for little people, so there is also less material. But the package was nearly double the price of a similar package of plain white Kotex pads costing $2.86 for 22 pads (13 cents each).

The tween years are short. My 11-year-old is already tiring of shopping at Justice and has begun dragging me into real teen stores where the lights are too low to judge the quality of the clothes and the music is loud enough to drown out thoughts of frugality. But if your feminine hygiene company can start building your loyalty as early as age 8, they are smart enough not to stop at 11.

And they haven’t stopped at age 11. U by Kotex has just announced its partnership with Sex-in-the-City costume designer Patricia Field and a “Ban the Bland” contest in which anyone over age 14 can enter her (or his, quelle horreur!) own pad design.  The winner will work with Field to finalize a design that will reach store shelves. They already have colorful wrappers for all ages similar to the Tween line, but soon all ages will be able to put even more chemicals and dyes directly between their legs.

The company wants to make me think that being so bold and assertive about menstruation will “empower” my daughter and the next generation of women, so it has appealed to my love of art and design, and to my desire to keep my child happy. Kotex says that your period doesn’t have to be boring (“why do pads look like bandages lol” types of messages are plastered across the website), and they’ve created a splashy, fun campaign that does not forget to insinuate that I’m a prim and prudish bore for calling it out, and that my daughter should be embarrassed if she wears plain white pads that “look like bandages lol.”

The U by Kotex Tween campaign, along with the “Ban the Bland” pad design contest is so distractingly artsy that it’s almost hard to remember the three things I hope my daughter will let me tell her about buying the needed products.

Those three things are 1.) Nobody is going to see the pad except for you, 2.) You aren’t going to spend much time looking at it, and 3.) The stars, hearts, and diamonds pads aren’t going to protect your white pants any better than the pads that cost half as much. The princess diapers didn’t.

Catherine Dehdashti is a freelance writer—and the world’s worst soccer mom—living  in Eagan, Minnesota

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I remember that whole "have a happy period" marketing blitz. Uh-huh...c'mon on over here where I can reach tender body parts with my nails and say that.

Having moved beyond the need for their products, I can say that for me, a happy period is NO period.

r. for reminding me that even though sparkly vampires are wtf, sparkly mini pads are even more so.
This is really well thought-out and written, and omg - true.
Well written, cogent, and funny. Good post - thanks!

It's so about marketing ME, a girl can't even have a menstrual period without needing overpriced sanitary napkins with cheaply made and mass marketed "design". Good fucking grief.

I do not envy the young. I do not envy anyone raising children in this scummy environment of corporate dominated tackiness, illogic, ignorance and consumer driven amorality. pass the barf bag.
I totally agree. Consumer skills are way more important than the brand name on anything, including sanitary napkins.
It's good to be old. And what FM said, it's exactly what I always say. :-)
Enjoyed this much. And seconding FM's comment.
Nicely written. Welcome to Open Salon!
Creepy that you received that kind of mail. I'm sick of marketers getting up our collective rears. Bunch of nosy pencil pushers, lol

FM says it best. Great writing and welcome to OS!
Great post...I hadn't heard about these designer pads before. "Marketers have been tracking me and my then-fetus ever since." That is pretty spooky, & just imagining the millions of mailings sent out each year...sounds like maybe the marketing industry hasn't heard of global warming yet...
This push to develop brand loyalty on feminine hygiene products among young girls has been going on for at least 40 years--if you remember your Judy Blume correctly, The Talk at school is given by a representative of a "Private Lady," a fictional sanitary pad company. Later, when Margaret and her friends go to the drugstore to purchase these products, they decide AGAINST buying any Private Lady brand products because the presenter annoyed them;).

That said, there IS a difference between brands, and sometimes the extra cost is worth it--but the only way to find that out is through personal trial and error. It isn't always a matter of fancy wrappers...
This is reason #2 it's great to be male.