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People Are Not Happy With Motrin's #WomaninProgress Ad Campaign

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Update: Motrin has removed the video featuring Katherine’s story from its ad campaign. “We created this video as part of an ongoing effort to pay tribute to women who overcome adversity. The intention of sharing Katherine’s personal story was to offer inspiration to others,” a spokesperson for Johnson and Johnson, Motrin’s parent company, told The Mighty. “After hearing comments about the video, we now understand that it did not communicate this intention, we’re sorry, and we have decided to take it down.” 

In February, Motrin unveiled its #WomaninProgress ad campaign. Now, two months later, the campaign, which centers around weekly videos of women who are “transforming their painful experiences into progress,” is stirring controversy for a video featuring a woman living with endometriosis and infertility.

The video shares the story of Katherine, a woman who, after difficulties getting pregnant, is diagnosed with endometriosis – a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found outside of the uterus – which can cause chronic pain and infertility among other symptoms largely affecting quality of life. Following her diagnosis and infertility, Katherine, in the video, explains, “I’ve never felt pain like that in my life,” to which the video responds with a stat “More than half of all women see pain as a setback.” Later, after Katherine explains the emotional pain she faced managing her infertility, the video asks “What if pain can also be progress?”

On Thursday, the ad began to spark negative feedback from women in the endometriosis and infertility communities, with many calling the ad “tone deaf” and “offensive.”

“What if my husband and I are just infertile without having endometriosis? How am I supposed to turn that pain and heartbreak into ‘progress?” One commenter wrote. “This is the most tone deaf and hurtful advertisement I’ve seen. If I want to be told how much a woman’s worth is based on motherhood, I’ll go to church. Thanks.”

“As a therapist, I’m appalled at how this commercial downplays the emotional, mental, and physical drain chronic pain can have on a person. Pain is valid. Someone is not less of a woman for dealing with their chronic pain,” another shared.

Those commenting on the ad also say it promotes stereotypes about endometriosis, also known as “endo,” a condition for which the “gold standard” treatment is surgery with an excision specialist, and not over the counter pain relievers.

“Just curious, did you do any research on this disease before making this ad?” one commenter asked in the comments of the Facebook video. “Endometriosis is debilitating and this advertisement is the opposite of validation in a world where endo sufferers fight to be heard and helped on a regular basis. Motrin doesn’t touch the kind of pain that endo causes, and adopting a beautiful child is not a cure for any disease. This ad is just another piece of misinformation on a serious and insanely common disease.”

The video has since amassed more than 100 comments from women criticizing the drug maker. Some women, many of whom shared their own stories of living with and managing chronic pain with the brand, have asked Motrin to end its campaign and apologize to the community. “This is one of the most insensitive, uninformed commercials I have ever seen,” one woman shared. “In my opinion Motrin owes the endometriosis community a huge apology!!!”

Others thanked the brand for trying to raise endometriosis awareness, but said the company’s message is misguided. “I would first like to say thank you for recognizing endometriosis as not many big companies have yet. BUT as a woman suffering with endometriosis for the last 17 years, this is absurd!! #1, Motrin WILL NOT help infertility and #2, Motrin WILL NOT help the terrible pain that comes along with endo.”

Following feedback on its Facebook video, Motrin appears to have removed the video from its Facebook timeline as well as its YouTube page. Comments for all of the videos on the YouTube page have been turned off.

Katherine’s story is not the only journey featured in the video campaign. Other stories include Jessamyn, an aspiring yoga instructor who faced bullying and self-esteem issues; Hayley, a stunt actress who fractured her spine; Kelli, a sports agent who pushed past sexism and Alyssa, a single mother who managed during financial hardship. Katherine’s story is only video in the campaign that has drawn negative feedback.

Originally published: April 11, 2017
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