Libresse, a feminine care and hygiene brand owned by Vinda, has pulled a campaign in Malaysia that featured images of vulvas (pictured above) on its sanitary product packaging interpreted into flower motifs. The V-Kebaya Limited Edition Range, which launched in early September, is inspired by Nyonya-style kebaya outfits and executed by creative agency Muma Malaysia.
Deenie Ong, marketing manager for the brand, said in a release during the launch of the campaign:
"At Libresse, we aim to create a world where women can live the life they want by breaking V-zone taboos, and that begins with knowing and loving the V-Zone... Let's normalise V-Zone taboos in an open, positive and respectful manner by encouraging women to embrace this beautiful part of their body, together."
However, a statement by Safinar Salleh, chairperson of Yadim Muslim Women's Council, sparked a backlash on social media last weekend. The statement reads:
"To misuse an image of women's private part on the advertisement design of your sanitary products is a dishonour to women. This promotion clearly undermines the dignity of women and violates the norms of decency in our Malaysian society."
Salleh went on to urge Libresse to pull its campaign immediately. The statement drew attention to the campaign and the brand released a statement on Friday (Sep 17) that it has withdrawn the ad from various channels. An excerpt of the statement reads:
"We have always stood for all women and our intention is to encourage all women to embrace their femininity and full potential. As an inclusive brand, we value every voice and we are actively engaging with community members who expressed their views and shared their advice with us. We are listening and we care."
Following Libresse's decision, many on social media—including politicians and celebrities—defended the brand and slammed Salleh's comments.
Are you offended? Because I sure am not. https://t.co/wqZ2em0ipA— dyana sofya (@dyanasmd) September 18, 2021
I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again: Libresse is the only brand in Malaysia that doesn’t sugarcoat menstruation. Their ads and campaigns are educational and creative. Period. https://t.co/pIZ0izwdlS— 24601 (@saraahhzulkifli) September 19, 2021
This statement just makes me want to buy @Libresse_MY- illustrating female menstruation products w *shockGASP* visual allegories for female genitalia is— Tehmina Kaoosji (@TehminaKaoosji) September 18, 2021
Save this energy for addressing teen pregnancy & baby dumping, child marriage, CSE for students AND problematic teachers pic.twitter.com/HBKRlwWfem
Libresse did nothing wrong. pic.twitter.com/2rsDMBTSYk— mentally hilarious #AntiTaliban (@TerryDieHeiden) September 19, 2021
In the past, Libresse has always been one to push the boundaries of traditional marketing around feminine care products and is one of the first few brands to feature real blood in its campaigns. In a 2018 Malaysia campaign called Men-struation by BBDO, the brand tries to defy conventional notions of what constitutes manliness by attempting to educate men about periods and women’s bodies. This UK campaign, also from 2018, features objects such as coin purses, seashells, and fortune cookies standing in to represent vulvas in a fun musical medley.
One of the brand’s most iconic campaigns, Womb Stories, used interesting animation styles to showcase the journeys of two women: one who decides not to have children and another who struggles to conceive and faces the trials of IVF and miscarriage. Also featured are a character who has endometriosis, an older woman going through the menopause and a girl who gets her period for the first time. The 2020 campaign, created for the UK market, went on to win four Cannes Grand Prix.