Women’s Health Marketing Embraces Misogyny in the Name of “Awareness”

Washington City Paper

Posted by Amanda Hess on Mar. 24, 2010 at 09:31 am


A spindly, beautiful woman is extended on a chaise lounge in an immaculate ruffled dress. She is paging idly through an antique book when a floating trail of sparkly light interrupts her reading. She follows the glow up the staircase of the manse and into a room marked by fresh roses and enchanting music, where she twirls luxuriously and pets her own hair. A shining perfume bottle appears, suspended in the air. It turns magnificently to reveal its label: “CERVICAL CANCER.”

“Maybe it’s unfair to get your attention this way,” a narrator admits. “But nothing is fair about cervical cancer.” When it comes to marketing products related to women’s health, anything is fair game—as long as your sexist tropes are dispatched in the name of “awareness.”

The frilly cancer awareness ad is produced by GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company behind HPV vaccine Cervarix, an alternative to Gardasil that was approved by the FDA last October and is already in heavy use in the UK. The premise of the new ad is that it’s unfair to lure women into cervical cancer awareness with shiny things—but cervical cancer awareness is so important that it just doesn’t matter how offensively sexist that premise is.


Sexist advertising and a dangerous product – anyone have any more questions on the motives and agenda behind Big Pharma and the HPV vaccines?


Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.