Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) had Tampax withdraw an ad for tampons as it said it caused widespread offence.
Eighty-four people complained about the televised ad, which had a mock chat-show format where two women discussed the problem of nearly three-quarters of women who find tampons uncomfortable because they are positioning them incorrectly. They aren't inserted far enough. They and the fake audience agreed that women needed to "get them up there" - and apparently Ireland reeled in shock.
I interviewed Orla Twomey, the CEO of the ASAI, last Thursday and she said while the ad didn't cause grave offence and wasn't found to be demeaning to women, contain sexual innuendo or be unsuitable for children, it was found it did cause widespread general offence and so had to be taken down or amended.
Asked how 84 complaints in a population our size constituted widespread offence, the ASAI said lots of ads get only one complaint, and only seven all year got more than 60, so 84 "was a lot".
Eighty-four people out of our population of over 4.9 million is 0.0017pc - which by any standard of basic maths is a statistically insignificant number. That the ASAI is comparing levels of complaints between ads as a 'measure', rather than assessing the number of complaints based on population, shows a deeply flawed approach in how it assesses these things.
Comparing the Tampax ad to another ad that got one complaint might make it look like a lot. But the truth is neither one complaint nor 84 complaints shows that offence was widespread. Indeed, even if they took 'widespread' to be 1pc of the population - and arguably that's still a ridiculously small number - they'd still need 49,000 complaints for even that tiny proportion of us to be upset.
But that isn't the biggest issue. If an ad had a same-sex couple in it and there were 84 or even 84,000 complaints, would that mean it should be taken down? Or a mixed-race couple - would that be OK?
If enough people are offended by something - even if it says more about their prejudices than about the ad itself - should that ad be removed? No, of course it shouldn't. And this is no different.
Periods have long been seen as dirty, hidden, even shameful. Women are viewed largely by society (which views life through a male lens) as sexual objects. Anything that disrupts that view of our bodies is considered distasteful. So pert boobs in a wet T-shirt competition? No problem. A woman breastfeeding her baby in public? Disgusting! Hairless pudendas on PornHub? Hell, yes! An ad about periods? Ugh! Gross!
If our bodies are on display for the purpose of titillation, society is absolutely fine with it. If we talk about our bodies in a non-sexy way then we are roundly shamed for it - and we always have been.
Shaming women - that favourite pastime of misogynists everywhere (who can be men and women, by the way) - should be no more acceptable to us than racism or homophobia.
If the ASAI refused to take down an ad with two gay men in it - and Orla Twomey told me that they would indeed refuse to do so should 84 complaints come in about it - they should have refused to take down this, too.
These complaints haven't come in isolation. It's no coincidence that the ad was pulled here, the country where we also had the marriage bar on working women, no legal contraception, no access to abortion, no divorce, no crime of marital rape, for decades after other western democracies had abandoned such practices.
We may have repealed the Eighth Amendment but shaming women remains part of our culture. Deep within our national psyche, women, women's bodies and women's sexuality are seen as a kind of dirty secret. Something to be whispered about or lusted over maybe. But not something that allows women to see their periods normalised on our TV sets - heaven forbid.
The ASAI, whose board is three-quarters men, also says tampon ads shouldn't be on when young children are watching TV but as girls often get their period as young as nine, who is this really protecting?
I spent 20 years working as a doctor. Women's health was one of the biggest aspects of my job - but from their teens to their 90s women would come to see me completely mortified about their own bodies. They wouldn't know the name for anything or even the basic anatomy. "Down below" and "women's problems" were the most common descriptions for anything regarding their sexual or reproductive health. It was like we were all colluding in one giant mystery about what went on in women's pelvises. And at some point we have to say: "Enough!"
Periods aren't dirty or unclean. That's a primitive view. They're a fact of life for half the population who menstruate regularly for up to a quarter of the time.
Do we really want to foist this shame on our daughters? And disempower them from being comfortable in their own skin?
There's only one reason why this ad offends: it's because we find talking about women's bodies outside of a sexual context uncomfortable.
It challenges the view that we are actually people and not just something you ride. Women are shamed by society but the real shame is how society treats women. Telling us over and again in ways small and big that there's something dirty about us.
This decision by the ASAI is wrong. Simple as. There was no widespread offence: it was a tiny number of complaints. Even if there had been more, an ad that goes out daily in other countries without issue, and that informs women in a normal and casual way about their bodies and their periods, should not have been removed irrespective of any amount of misogynistic whining.
The ASAI should reverse this decision now and apologise promptly to the women of Ireland for this grossly insulting mistake.
If you agree with Ciara, you can send boxed tampons to Newstalk, Marconi House, Digges Lane, Dublin 2, and she will present them to the ASAI as a protest. Afterwards, they will be donated to a period poverty charity.