Hail to the…Naw!

22 Jul

Summer's Eve Hail to the V logoSo 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

Picture of Summer's Eve Feminine Wash in "Delicate Blossom" for Sensitve Skin

What exactly does a "Delicate Blossom" smell like anyway?

“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!


15 Responses to “Hail to the…Naw!”

  1. Convo_girl July 22, 2011 at 9:01 AM #

    Oh wow. You all seriously have an issue with the Summer’s Eve commercial? I mean talking about discharge, sexual assault and disadvantage sells lots of feminine wash. This article is another example that some of us feminists need to get a sense of humor and stop finding offense in certain things. Most of your posts are spot on. This one? not so much.

    Seriously, what does a feminist commercial for such a product look like? Oh, let me guess. It’s a 45 minute lecture on women’s rights, bodily integrity and disadvantage. Yeah right.

    Anyway,I enjoy the blog. I’m proud to be a feminist but this ivory tower analysis completely misses the mark for me.

    • Angel H. July 22, 2011 at 10:37 AM #

      Seriously, what does a feminist commercial for such a product look like?

      Actually, there wouldn’t be such a product because vaginas are naturally very clean. How can a self-proclaimed feminist not know that?

      • Ari (@ari_WISCslob) July 22, 2011 at 2:21 PM #

        ^ What she said.

      • lescub July 29, 2011 at 7:00 AM #

        yep! I’m there wit you. looking for a dirty body part… the mouth!

    • s mandisa July 24, 2011 at 2:24 PM #

      Totally missing the point. Im not a crunk feminist, Im a black feminist from New Orleans, who is down and supports wholeheartedly the CFC.

      The advertisment is just another example of benign misogyny. Its patronizing to tell people with vaginas (because not all women have vaginas or all people with vaginas are women) that something is wrong with their vaginal smell, when in actuality most vaginas have a natural, pungent aroma. It wasnt meant to smell like flowers or baby powder, etc. Furthermore, these products often cause vaginal disfunction, such as bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections and can even make you more prone to contracting an STI by removing vital “good, protective bacteria” and/or making the skin/tissues irritated and sensitive.

      What seems to be the issue is that you dont see anything wrong with feminine wash or the commodification of vaginas by corporations who are not actually concerned with healthy vaginas but in patholigizing them so as to sell more and more of these products we dont need. So, my question to you is why are you ok with this?

      Lastly, I am a youth organizer and sexual health educator-have you ever had open, non-judgmental conversations with 13-18 year olds about “vagina: truths and myths?”. not ivory tower at all!!! what I learned about vaginal smell and the dangers of douching, feminine washes, etc came from one of the most amazing street outreach workers around, not an academic or health care professional. Im just sayin.

      • Convo_girl July 25, 2011 at 3:18 PM #

        If the REAL issue is the products and an overall lack of clear basic health information then doesn’t that reinforce my frustration that the commercial, as patronizing at it might be, is really a non-factor?

        Is there a campaign underway to take them off the market, label them according to their public health harm, or educate women not to buy them?

        I will admit that I was under the impression that mild soaps and cleansing gels, like the SE products, were okay for exterior cleaning if used gently. I’m still not entirely sure that mild soaps are completely off limits.

        Anyway, I’m not here to pick a fight. My frustration is that some of the feminist criticism can be bit over the top, too academic and not always constructive. I think that was my reaction to this post.



  2. T. July 22, 2011 at 10:12 AM #

    I first saw this advertisement during the Harry Potter movie. I was so appalled! At that moment I felt like everyone in the theater thought that the V was a dirty part of the body. I’m pretty sure it made a lot of the audience uncomfortable as well, because everyone seemed shocked by the commercial. I feel like the commercial is so man centered as well. It’s neither helpful to the self-esteem of women or educational.

    • zomelie July 22, 2011 at 11:31 AM #

      I, too, would have been shocked. Completely inappropriate to show in that venue.

  3. What a horrible advertisement.

  4. zomelie July 22, 2011 at 11:29 AM #

    Funny how the almighty vagina was doing all that before society saw a need to clean it up. I think I’ll show mine some love by letting it be.

  5. porschia July 22, 2011 at 7:49 PM #

    CFC, I appreciate ya’ll! This kind of writing puts me at ease.

  6. Key July 23, 2011 at 8:22 PM #

    Have you seen all the commercials for this advertising campaign? Some are racist as well. There is the latina vagina that starts speaking “spanglish” when she gets excited and the black “sistah girl” vagina that slips in a little ebonics for effect.

    Why can’t vaginas just be vaginas?

    • Angel H. July 25, 2011 at 2:50 PM #

      Why can’t vaginas just be vaginas?

      Best Comment EVAAARR!

  7. s mandisa July 26, 2011 at 7:56 AM #

    @ Convo_girl:

    These commercials are a part of the problem,not the entirety of it. They perpetuate the myth that are vaginas are dirty and in need of cleansing.

    There has been much organizing around this. Some of the most invisible of it is having conversations and educating young people with vaginas about knowing their bodies, what a normal smell for them is, how to detect if something’s abnormal, natural products (like probiotics) that can help grow good bacteria, etc. I have also seen and help organized campaigns in local stores communities to have more holistic products for vaginal care than SE and Masingel (lets not even get started on douching!!!…) I find this more effective than spending energy to bring down SE, but I would support any efforts to do this.

    To me, its not about engaging in argument, but conversation that flushes and holds all of the nuances wpeeps is bringing when calling this out.

    Much love.

    • convo_girl July 30, 2011 at 8:21 AM #

      IMHO, if feminists are going to chastise SE in the media and on blogs, I think the public health message trumps the artistic merits of the ad campaign. Also, i think there’s plenty of merit in actual policy change that labels these products. I’m not speaking about “bringing down SE” at all. I just know that conservatives, for example, have been working for decades to discredit condoms and birth control. I would certainly encourage feminists to consider actions like this that might result in policy and structural change. There are plenty of orgs that could do something. Guess I’ll put this on my to do list.

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