Feminine hygiene brand Libresse has withdrawn an ad campaign from various channels and explained that it was not the brand's intention to offend any woman or the community. It said in a Facebook post that it has always stood for all women and its intention is to encourage all women to embrace their femininity and full potential.
"Thank you very much for your valuable feedback. We understand your concerns and we have withdrawn a particular advertisement from various advertising channels. As an inclusive brand we value every voice, we are actively engaging with the community members who expressed their views and shared their advice with us. We are listening and we care," the brand said.
The campaign in question was its recent V-Kebaya Limited Edition range which brought to life V-Zone confidence and femininity through a modern interpretation of the Nyonya kebaya floral designs. Done in collaboration with creative agency Muma Malaysia, the brand reimagined the Nyonya kebaya chrysanthemum and peony designs with the vulva as the heart of the floral embroidery. Aiming to normalise V-Zone taboos, the brand wanted to spread a message to women that they should be proud and confident in their own skin regardless of the shape, size, or cultural diversity.
Libresse issued the statement after non-profit religious organisation YADIM Muslim Women's Council (MAYA) called out the brand for misusing an image of a woman's private part on an ad design for its sanitary products, calling it a "dishonour to women".
"To widely promote it as a motif on your sanitary pad packagings, a design on our national heritage of kebaya in your V-Kebaya campaign, and as an origami in your Know Your V campaign are also considered as an exploitation of women's bodies in advertising," MAYA's chairperson Safinar Salleh explained.
She added that the campaign "clearly undermines the dignity of women and violates the norms of decency in the Malaysian society". "Displaying the vulva motif openly on clothing, packages, bags, origami and other items, is not acceptable in our culture nor allowable according to our religious values," Safinar said.
She added that the Know Your V campaign to raise awareness about menstruation is placing unnecessary attention on the private body parts and diverts attention from the scientific explanation that the menstrual process is related to the uterus instead. "Therefore, we urge Libresse Malaysia to withdraw this promotion immediately from all channels of print, digital and social media," Safinar said.
Libresse also received backlash from another non-profit organisation named Wardah Media, which questioned why women's private parts should be openly shown and that it was unreasonable for the brand to turn the private part into something that would attract buyers.
Wardah Media also called out the brand for "promoting porn". "Can you imagine what a man's imagination would be when he sees the motif on the flowers? Other than that, it's also an insult to Malaysian women because they use the flower motif on the national outfit - the kebaya," Wardah Media said. It also called for the boycott of Libresse and urged the brand to cease the advertisement, adding that it is discrimination against women. A+M has reached out to Libresse and Muma Malaysia for comment.
Libresse's Facebook post had 478 reactions, 239 comments and 86 shares at the time of writing. Several consumers expressed their support for Libresse's V-Kebaya Limited Edition range campaign and some said they liked the creative execution. Some also praised Libresse for constantly pushing boundaries and being creative. Other netizens also thanked Libresse for considering consumers' feedback while a few said it was a shame that the brand had to adhere to a patriarchal narrative. Netizens also took to Twitter to show their support.
This is not the first time the brand has pushed boundaries in its campaigns. Libresse believes that girls are not born feeling ashamed of their bodies and their intimate areas, but rather they internalise society’s taboos that restrict their confidence in themselves as they age. In June this year, it worked with Muma to create the Stationer-V Box, a stationery holder designed to move emergency pads out of bottom drawers and onto desktops. The box has a main compartment for office stationery and a bottom compartment where emergency pads can be kept securely. In case of period emergencies, a pen can be removed from a pen hole that locks the pad compartment.
Three years ago, the brand covered the other side of the coin by educating men in its campaign "Men-struation", which sought to reframe what periods are like in men’s minds to improve understanding between women and the men in their lives, creating a stronger affinity towards Libresse in their target audience.
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