By TERESHA FRECKLETON-PETITE
I've got my panties in a bunch over the new Summer's Eve commercials. Have you seen them?
I saw it first at the movie theater last Saturday, during the previews. Scenes of history's most powerful and alluring women from Cleopatra to Helen of Troy flashed on the screen while the narrator told a riddle about the one thing that men fight and die for. Was it money? Nope. Love? Um, no. The narrator was talking about our vaginas and insisting that the only way women could wield maximum power over men is to keep our lady parts fresh and clean. The commercial ended with the tag line Hail to the V!
Yep. Vaginas are now weapons of mass seduction. If you happen to think that the opposite sex values your brain, charm, or moral center Summer's Eve is here clue you in ladies!
In the darkness of the theater, I sat with my mouth agape, shifting uncomfortably in my seat. I turned to my husband, who looked kind of embarrassed, and we silently shook our heads at each other our secret code for when we find something tacky. My husband gets why this commercial was off; he is a marketing manager and previously worked in advertising. But really, it doesn't take a professional to see what is horribly wrong with this ad campaign. It's the 21st century and women are being told that our greatest asset is our V!
I initially dismissed the commercial as a weak attempt at female empowerment. I told myself that it would probably enjoy a limited run in movie theaters or on second-tier cable (you know, the racy channels). But “The V” just wouldn't go away. Not since Oprah introduced the term “Va jay jay” has there been such a national media obsession with vaginas; everywhere I look, somebody is talking about them and not in good, healthy ways. For sure, “The V” popped up in a Huffington Post article polling readers about the racist undertones of three different Summer's Eve commercials targeted at African-American, Latina, and Caucasian women. What shocked me more than the sexist and racial stereotypes on display in the ads were the poll results. Some 47 percent of respondents saw harm in neither the “black vagina” imploring its owner to get it good and clean before she went to the club nor the “Latina vagina” demanding its owner recognize it had more important things to do besides bear babies.
Fire up the DeLorean, because it seems that we have time travelled back to the 19th century when women and their daughters only needed to concern themselves with snagging a husband with their looks (and, apparently, a flower-scented V; the first feminine douche was introduced in 1891). Fast forward 120 years and we are still being treated as the sum of our lady parts. And that’s because, by and large, we women accept it. In an age where vaginal rejuvenation, bedazzling, bleaching, and waxing are all encouraged and companies like Abercrombie Kids are trying to dress up 7-year-olds in padded bikinis, few will bat an eye at Hail to the V!
More power to those ladies, but I'm not about to take up the battle cry and participate in selling it to our daughters.
I am, however, crying foul at Summer's Eve. First, I think the company’s commercials are ridiculously sexist propaganda disguised as female empowerment. Be clear: true empowerment comes from a strong sense of self, not the sweet smell emanating from your nether region. Second, pretty much any gynecologist can tell you that it’s not necessary and could be risky to use feminine washes and wipes. This Livestrong post gives a great overview of the causes and cures for vaginal odors, replete with links to reputable women’s reproductive health sites that say over and over again that the best way to get and keep your vagina clean and bacteria free is to wash it with plain old water. But don’t leave it to me or a Summer’s Eve commercial to give you the 411 on what to put between your legs; ask the true expert your gynecologist.
I'll thank Summer's Eve to stay out of my “V” business, and you would do well to do the same. Because it’s campaign is so not fresh.
Teresha Freckleton-Petite is a mommy to a two-year-old free spirit. The self-described progressive, urban, crunchy mama, who lives with her family in Dallas, Texas, is into composting, recycling/upcycling, swapping, and, of course, natural parenting. She blogs about living, learning and loving with her daughter at MarlieAndMe.com