So Summer’s Eve has a new marketing campaign for their line of “feminine” washes and deodorants called “Hail to the V!” And, just to be clear, that “V” is for vagina! If you visit their website you can take a quiz to “ID the V” and get your hands on a “Vagina’s Owner’s Manual.” In case you thought this was some kind of corporate altruism, you can also learn more about Summer’s Eve’s products which, after you take the quiz and read the manual, you will know you need to keep “Lady V” on the right track!
Wait! I think I’m hallucinating so I hit the refresh button… No, this is for real. In a world of sub-par sexual health education I’m all for some public knowledge sharing about women’s reproductive health. And in a world that denigrates women and routinely uses “pussy” and other vaginal references to indicate somebody’s lack of courage or general inferiority I am all for shouting out and offering a big up to the vagina. But this campaign is neither educational nor complimentary; it’s sham. A sham masquerading as education, homage, honor and respect.
Take their commercial “The V” for example, in which a properly ambiguously female and European voice-over tells us “It’s the cradle of life. It’s the center of civilization. Over the ages and throughout the world, men have fought for it, battled for it, even die for it. One might say it’s the most powerful thing on earth!” First, it sounds like the marketing team for Summer’s Eve just finished reading some of the vintage works of Brother Cleaver (All Hail the Power of the Pussy!!!). Second, the honor that Summer’s Eve asks us to bestow upon our All Mighty Vagina is that of cleanliness and not just any cleanliness but one that smells like a
“Delicate Blossom” or “Morning Paradise.” In other words, your “wonder down under” stinks and you need to fix it! This, of course, panders to the same old ideas that the vagina is inherently unclean and its processes are also unreliable and suspicious. Bringing to mind “dirty” words like discharge, yeast, bacteria and menstruation. Of course, they do offer a scent called Naturally Normal but who the hell said all our “normals” smell the same. Not to mention the very idea that you can somehow bottle and sell normality!
Finally, to call “it” the most powerful thing in the world and to talk so romantically about its supposed influence and power ignores the very real ways women find themselves marginalized and made vulnerable at the site of “it”. How women access adequate health care, navigate sexual assault or the threat of sexual assault, the right to have an abortion, the right to have a baby all demonstrate the ways in which the mistreatment of vaginas has nothing to do with how clean they are but with where they are situated in the matrix of power, privilege and disadvantage. But this commercial, this campaign would have women believe that all we need to do is tap into the Power of the P, most quickly done through washing it with Summer’s Eve, and, like Beyonce says, we could run the world! Pause…Side Eye! So yes, let’s talk about what it means to recognize, honor and respect our vaginas! But let’s not allow that conversation to be tethered to the sale of products. Let the conversation be about what feels good, what feels right, what feels necessary and what feels healthy. Until then, as my homegirl Tiffy Rose said when she saw these commercials, “Hail to the Naw!” Summer’s Eve, you can keep your faux celebration of my vagina right along with your overly-perfumed washes, spray deodorants, cleaning towelettes!