Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Birth Control and tennis?!

Very interesting column by Elizabeth Toledo today of Camino PR... see below:

Birth Control at Wimbledon

July 6, 2008 ·

“The patch is a small, flesh-colored square that is barely noticeable.”
- Web MD

The Williams sisters were riveting on the tennis court Saturday. I completed a record number of miles on the elliptical machine because I couldn’t stop watching their Wimbledon match (and the TV only works if you keep peddling).

Serena Williams and Venus Williams were joined by Billie Jean King and Martina Navratolova, who cheered them on in the stands. Aside from the amazing athletic feats they have all logged, the social prejudices they challenged have paved roads on which, to some extent, we have all traveled. Billie Jean King “proved” that women and men were equal, Martina Navratolova heroically advocated for LGBT equality, and the Williams sisters broke racial stereotypes in tennis. As if all that awesomeness wasn’t enough on center court, there was Serena Williams wearing the birth control patch in full view.

Media accounts claims that the Williams sisters were conceived after their father hid their mother’s birth control pills, creating two successful unintended pregnancies. Although their mother was resistant to the idea of more children, he had already hatched a plan to raise world class athletes.

When King first graced center court birth control was banned, and when Navratolova reigned advertisements about birth control were still banned from the airwaves. It wasn’t until 2000 that the first birth control brand aired television commercials. Ortho advertised its birth control pills and also now is the only pharmaceutical to manufacture the patch.

This weekend Serena Williams put the patch visibly on the front page of the New York Times. When Ortho first introduced the patch they described it as “flesh toned” and advertised its discreet design. After objections from many women whose flesh is not light beige, the company changed its description. They now describe the patch as “beige”, and claim they don’t produce other colors because beige “best maintained its appearance over the 7-day wear period”. It’s hard to imagine exactly what dye challenge exists at Ortho.

Bandaid has been one of the major marketers of “flesh tone” over many decades, but over the year’s they upgraded their marketing to avoid the term “flesh”. Back in the 1960’s Crayola renamed its “flesh tone” crayon “peach”. In fact Crayola now sells “multicultural crayons” which are intended to represent the flesh tone of people around the world, which apparently is black, sepia, peach, apricot, white, tan, mahogany, and burnt sienna. I never got the multicultural crayons as a kid, we had the sensible-sized crayola box though we all longed for the massive box of crayons with the built in sharpener. I didn ‘t even realize I ought to be buying multicultural crayons for my kids and now I fear they are beyond crayolas. I am determined to get some this summer, however, so I can find out which crayola color matches my skin.

It’s a bit ironic perhaps that the most famous user of the patch is a far cry from the “flesh toned” standard that Ortho had envisioned. Makes you wonder if, in retrospect, Ortho wishes desperately that they had invested in a multicultural branding initiative in the early patch advertising days.


Marissa said...

If their father really hid their mother's birth control pills, that is some serious contraceptive sabotage, a sign of an abusive relationship. The Williams sisters are amazing athletes, but that does not justify their father's power and control issues.

alibee said...

word. bandaid has moved into the clear, and so have other hormonal patches.