The head of the MTA says he was personally offended by ads for period underwear, but called their display in the subway a First Amendment issue.
The ads will blanket a Williamsburg subway station next month.
“They offended me,” said MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast on Wednesday following a board meeting .
“And this is about as far as I will go on the personal side. The people who are near and dear to my heart, I asked my wife and asked my daughter what they thought of them,” said Prendergast .
“That means something to me. And on a personal level, I just found parts of those ads offensive. Other parts not offensive.”
Manhattan-based company THINX wanted to cover the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn with ads for their absorbent black underwear that showed images which included a grapefruit and an egg yolk.
But Outfront, a contractor for the MTA that reviews ads for the subway, asked them to remove the egg and grapefruit as well as a reference to fluid because it said they were too suggestive.
That decision was made public by THINX and caused a flurry of criticism from women and received scathing covereage from publications like Jezebel and Cosmopolitan.
THINX CEO Miki Agrawal, who called the original decision a double standard due to ads already in the subway about breast augmentation showing fruit, criticized Prendergast’s response.
“Would it be offensive if he knew his mother bore him after that special time of the month?” she said, adding that the MTA would not have run the ads if there wasn’t a public backlash. “They are clearly okay with breast augmentation ads that show women in submissive positions.”
Prendergast also said that had concerns about how women are portrayed in subway advertising.
“Personally, and not as chairman of the MTA, absolutely,” he said.
Ansley Davenport, a 30-year-old subway rider who rides the No. 2 train in the Bronx, said that the MTA taking issue to the ads shows that gender discrimination is still rampant, even in New York City,
“This is something that over half our population experiences monthly for the majority of their lives,” she said.
“I’m sorry that my gender offends you, MTA chairman. The ads are informative, clever, and graphically interesting, which makes them superior to 99% of all ads that the transit system displays. I guess he just doesn’t want us to acknowledge in public that periods exist. Welcome to the 21st century!”
More than 30 ads about the underwear have now been approved to cover Bedford Avenue Station in a “subway domination” ad campaign starting Nov. 9.