Fact Check

An Open Letter to Procter and Gamble

Letter to a Procter and Gamble executive complains about the company's feminine pad packaging.

Published Sept. 7, 2009


Claim:   Letter to a Procter & Gamble executive complains about company's feminine pad packaging.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, April 2007]


This is a letter written to one of the top executives at Proctor and Gamble. Means a bit more to the gals than the guys.


Dear Mr. Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your Always maxi pads for over 20 years, and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard CoreTM or Dri-WeaveTM absorbency, I'd probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I'd certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can't tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there's a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? Ever suffered from "the curse"? I'm guessing you haven't. Well, my "time of the month" is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I'll be transformed into what my husband likes to call "an inbred hillbilly with knife skills." Isn't the human body amazing?

As brand manager in the feminine-hygiene division, you've no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customers' monthly visits from Aunt Flo. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control
behavior. You surely realize it's a tough time for most women. In fact, only last week, my friend Jennifer fought the violent urge to shove her boyfriend's testicles into a George Foreman Grill just because he told her he thought Grey's Anatomy was written by drunken chimps. Crazy! The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in capri pants. Which brings me to the reason for my letter.

Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: "Have a Happy Period."

Are you fucking kidding me?

What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness — actual smiling, laughing happiness — is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak girl, there will never be anything "happy" about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and KahlÃ?Â?Ã?ºa and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreens armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory. For the love of God, pull your head out, man. If you just have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like "Put Down the Hammer" or "Vehicular Manslaughter Is Wrong"? Or are you just picking on us?

Sir, please inform your accounting department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flexi-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bullshit. And that's a promise I will keep. Always.


Origins:   A popular feature on some Internet forums is a "Letters you wish you could send" category — a place where participants can blow off steam about life's daily vexations by

posting open letters to those who have irritated them in some way (e.g., "To the driver who cut me off on the highway yesterday"), without any expectations that the addressees will necessarily ever see or respond to their missives.

The McSweeney's web site includes such a feature, one titled "Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond," and it was there that on 6 February 2007, an open letter by Wendi Aarons to one Mr. James Thatcher, a brand manager at Procter & Gamble, was published. Ms. Aaron's missive has since become one of the more widely-circulated pieces of netlore, with a quick Google search on a key phrase from the letter's turning up about 12,000 entries as of September 2009 (in addition to innumerable e-mail forwards).

Wendi Aarons is a real person (a former copywriter from Austin, Texas), who did indeed write the letter that bears her name. And the focus of her complaint — P&G's packaging its Always brand feminine pads with peel-off strips extolling consumers to "Have a Happy Period" — was a genuine one:

However, the letter wasn't actually sent to Procter & Gamble, and the Mr. James Thatcher to whom it is addressed is fictional. As Advertising Age observed of Ms. Aarons' infamous missive:

One reason for its endurance may be that it subtly feeds the myth that the executive behind the campaign was a guy, one of those infamous P&G marketing suits dictating to women how they should feel. In fact, two marketing directors and a group president are among the women who have greenlighted the "Happy Period" campaign from Leo Burnett Co., Chicago, over the years.

Advertising Age also noted that Ms. Aarons has never been contacted by P&G about her "Open Letter," and that sales of the company's Always brand products don't seem to have suffered as a result of the notoriety:

"It can be a very polarizing campaign," a spokesman for P&G said of "Happy Period." But the complaints come mainly from women who prefer tampons. The original consumer insight behind the campaign — that pad users tend to feel less negative about their periods and see them as a normal, healthy part of life — appears to have been right, given the brand's growth the past three years.

Perhaps that growth could have been greater had it not been for Ms. Aarons' letter, but probably not. Brand sentiment for Always and the "Happy Period" campaign, as measured by Infegy's Social Radar social-media-monitoring system, has remained overwhelmingly positive since it first appeared in March 2007.

Last updated:   29 July 2015


Neff, Jack.   "What to Do When Social Media Spreads Marketing Myth."

    Advertising Age.   7 September 2009.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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