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Feb 17 2014

Hail to the P

Here at the bunkhouse we recently had the opportunity to curl several jaundiced lips at another commercial for a femininity-compliance product. The product was Summer’s Eve Cleansing Wash.

Summer’s Eve Cleansing Wash is a chemical detergent intended to scour the offensive, disgusting filth off your nasty vulva, a body part that nowadays — in an apparent campaign to permanently blow my lobe — is always and inexplicably referred to as a “vagina.” That is, unless you’re Summer’s Eve, which reduces both women and their vulvae to a thing they simply call “the V.”

“Hail to the V” is the slogan. Hail to the V? I have complained about this before (clearly to no avail); Summer’s Eve is a repeat offender. Back in 2011, their vulva detergent mascot was a talking hand — a spokesfist if you will — contorted into a suggestively vulva-like pose. The spokesfist urged women to take the “V 101 Quiz,” and then hail their “V”, and then prove their commitment to V-hailing by purchasing the Fleet Laboratories line of perfumed twat surfactants, the better to sandblast that nasty thang with some femininity-compliant consumerism. The Summer’s Eve position is that women require toxicant-infused products before they can sufficiently “love their V.”

On the notion of “loving” one’s “V” I have only this to say: picture a commercial for a product called Mystic Garden Lemon-Fresh Dick Polish where a dude in a towel caresses his own shoulder and is enjoined to Love his P.

Back to the commercial: a husband accidentally showers with Summer’s Eve V-Hailing Potion, then spends the rest of the day in a comic effort to keep the lady “V”-cooties off him by pulling cars with his teeth, mowing the yard, and chopping wood.

[An alternate interpretation is that he knows that shit’s full of toxins and is just trying to get the house in order before he succumbs to a fatal overdose of methylchloroisothiazolinone.]

Anyway, as he flops on the couch crushing a beer can, his sardonic better half says, “that was close!” He’d almost turned into a fucken V from using that detergent!

Well, you just want to hand that wife three things: 1) a radical feminist consciousness-raising pamphlet outlining the 437 ways in which she would be better off not being married to a fucking idiot gynophobe, 2) a ticket to Savage Death Island, and 3) a margarita.

But I digress.

I assert that this commercial appeals to women because it validates their secret observation that men perceive (and rightly so) femininity to be degrading. But uh-oh, it simultaneously feeds women’s self-doubt and anxiety about stinky genitals, and suggests that they themselves ought to engage in the very femininity ritual that their dude wouldn’t be caught dead doing: the purchase and application of vulva-specific solvents and perfumes to aid in their ceaseless efforts to conform to strictly defined gender roles.

Or maybe I’m overthinkin’ it and, as Rebecca Cullers remarks in AdWeek, the commercial succeeds simply because everyone can agree on the premise that “guys are dumb.” In TV commercials there is no shortage of smart, Beauty2K-compliant women characters who are inexplicably and heteronormatively attached to horrible dudes.

In an act of wild surmise, one might hypothesize thusly: advertising agencies have determined that actual women, who buy most of the crap advertised on television, identify in droves with these pretty, virtuous characters who slog through life mopping up one buffoony husband’s blender explosion after another, even as they hold down two jobs, raise the kids, and strive to achieve “glowing” skin. Why would actual hordes of women identify thusly unless they were, as a class, disproportionately stuck in relationships with morons?

Marriage is an outdated, misogynist, and unfeasible institution. More on that later.

38 comments

  1. speedbudget

    Aside from the rest of the crap, who the f*** talks to their husband and uses V in place of an actual word?

    Advertising agencies might have determined that someone like me would identify with these women, but those advertising agencies are flat wrong. I generally don’t buy products that are sold to me by telling me how disgusting I am.

  2. pandechion

    Why would actual hordes of women identify thusly unless they were, as a class, disproportionately stuck in relationships with morons?

    And then when you finally get to the other side, your friends all ask carefully how you’re doing, and if you tell them the truth–that you’ve never been better–they all think you’re either repressing your true feelings or that you just picked the wrong guy.

  3. Lalock

    Yeah, what is up with calling the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, vulva, clitoris — the entire kit and caboodle — a vagina? A couple of years ago I saw a female medical doctor on a talk show admonish the show’s audience to “trim your vagina.” An actual, degreed doctor was advising women to trim hair where none grows.

  4. shopstewardess

    “In TV commercials there is no shortage of smart, Beauty2K-compliant women characters who are inexplicably and heteronormatively attached to horrible dudes.”

    This applies to all patriarchal art forms, including films, plays (Medea onwards) and novels as well as TV commercials.

    As Nancy Astor, first woman to sit as an MP in the UK Parliament said “I married beneath me. All women do.”

  5. quixote

    I feel more and more stupid. First, I didn’t even know that depilating the entire pubic area was now a thing. Then I didn’t know that vagina had become a collective noun for all body parts “down there.” Then I didn’t know that the current correct euphemism is “v” instead of “down there.” And now I’m wondering what happened to soap. Did we stop using soap while I wasn’t paying attention? Is that why we need detergents? (a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methylchloroisothiazolinone”>Methylchloroisothiazolinone? Are you kidding me? They use that on boat hulls to destroy even biofilms, in other words every last sign of life.)

  6. josquin

    This commercial is just annoying on so many levels. Both the man and the woman are idiots – he for having his masculinity threatened by a so-called “feminine product”, which is supposed to be hilarious but in fact is actually hateful, and she for calling her vulva etc. her “V”, and last but not least for buying some weird chemical stuff to wash her delicate “V’ when soap and water does just fine. In these commercials, a woman’s genitals are both disgusting – needing a special site-specific cleaner – and daintily fragile , needing something somehow more “gentle” than whatever soap you use to wash your body. Plus the whole “smart capable woman married to a clueless moron” trope is just tiring and insulting to women. Just like the video of the guy attacked by women, all you have to do is reverse it to realize how screwed up it is. (handsome sensitive smart capable guy married to useless lazy oaf of an idiot woman, and everyone finding it charming and adorable – yeah, I’m not holding my breath waiting for that one.)

  7. ew_nc

    I’m so glad I gave up regular TV several months ago. That means I’ve been spared from too much exposure to the tired old long-suffering woman malarkey. Summer’s Eve is an awful company, and they can take their V and shove it up their A.

    Is it just me or didn’t Our Bodies, Ourselves put this issue to rest some 40 years ago? I can’t be the only one who remembers learning that the vagina is a self-cleaning organ. And isn’t pubic hair kinda supposed to be there? Isn’t its purpose to trap dirt and prevent it from getting into more delicate tissue? It can’t be that Nature took care of protecting a woman’s body without boat cleaning chemicals, could it? Nah.

  8. Cyberwulf

    Isn’t the latest thing that you aren’t supposed to shave/wax your genitals because you can end up with broken skin/ingrown hairs which facilitate the spread of STDs?

  9. gingerest

    Ha, like any of us Commentarians know or care what the latest thing in Compliance and Beauty Ultimatum Shifting Regulations is.
    It is frightening that misanthropic, sexist, racist, fear-mongering, status-quo-promoting advertising works. But golly, it sure does.

  10. Lidon

    “Summer’s Eve is an awful company, and they can take their V and shove it up their A.” That was perfect, ew_nc. And yes, I too remember learning that the vagina is self-cleaning and so doesn’t actually get “dirty” up there. On a slightly different note, I think I’d pay to see a dick polish ad.

  11. Ashley

    Twisty what is the website you published some years ago where you can look up your beauty products to find out which toxins they contain, if any? It’s a different one than the one linked here, I believe. I’ve been meaning to ask and this post brought it to mind. If Summer’s Eve has that much crap, I can only imagine what other stuff has.

  12. Bushfire

    When are all we blamers gonna meet up at Spinster HQ and film our own TV commercials and put them on Youtube?

  13. Ruby Lou

    The approved sanitized term for female genitalia is ‘V’ now? So does that mean we no longer have to deal with ‘vajayjay’? See, this is why I need this blog. To me, crotch spray for women had always been just another example of the tedious extremes to which purveyors of useless consumer crap will go. I glossed over the woman-hating implications of such a product, obvious though they are. I do that a lot, because there is so much stuff like this, the reality of it makes me numb with repulsion.

    What really blows me away is that removal of hair from the female pubic area is now required feminine grooming. And women comply with this, because men apparently find it sexually appealing for a grown woman’s public area to look like a little girl’s. Creepy.

  14. Lab Rat

    @Lalock – No, you have to trim your vagina, or it just keeps growing down your pantsleg, and you could trip over it. Safety first.

    @quixote – Yes. Soap! Even in our laboratory compliance training, they tell lab workers not to rely on hand santitizers and antibacterial soaps. Because it turns out good old fashioned mechanical scrubbing is still the best way to remove bacteria from skin.

    @Lidon – Dick polish! Ha! Although I would recommend the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

  15. Comradde PhysioProffe

    Well, you just want to hand that wife three things: 1) a radical feminist consciousness-raising pamphlet outlining the 437 ways in which she would be better off not being married to a fucking idiot gynophobe, 2) a ticket to Savage Death Island, and 3) a margarita.

    And a taco! In relation to the “moron lazy hapless filthy dude in your house” archetype, I have always assumed that it is propaganda designed to normalize something that is actually quite terrible and, most importantly, unnecessary. Because if women realized that instead of accepting “moron lazy hapless filthy dude in your house” as something inevitable to chuckle at while cleaning up after him, they should jettison the fucker, it would cut into sales of femininity compliance accoutrements.

  16. Margaret

    Here’s seconding our Comradde with the propaganda hypothesis. The sloppy man/neat woman trope has been normalising sick relationships like that as “normal, you can’t hope for better and you’re an idiot if you think you can change this”. But, having a dude-free living space myself I can confirm there is better. Much better. Fabulously better.

    Plus, this trope makes us feel like we should be inordinately thankful for a dude who does his share and should heap praise upon him for doing what any decent person ought. The woman must Always Be Grateful for Basic Decency and not act it’s expected as a baseline thus putting undue pressure on the fragile fucker To Be Perfect. When he shrinks our wool skirt down to doll size we must be show appreciation for him trying to do the laundry. The mess, the filth, the waiting to see who weakens first to clean it up sums up many a real life cohabitation story.

    I also think of Hi and Lois as propaganda normalising lazy alcoholics. To have our culture make these tropes look normal lowers the bar to an unacceptable level but, guess what, most of the people I know actually live it one way or another. They recommend and reflect this sad waste of female life and time.

    There is better, and I wholeheartedly recommend Comradde’s idea to “jettison the fucker”!

  17. Twisty

    Or “DUMP HIM”. When I was a rock star I noticed that the large empty space on the front of my 4×12 speaker cabinet required a slogan, so I put that on there. I was so rad!

  18. Banhorn

    Summer’s Eve is just going to have to wait. I’m spending all my beauty expenditure budget on Dove deodorant, since I need touchably smooth armpits.

    The absurdity…it burns!

  19. Lizzy

    Ha! Well, I loved this ad! I woke my husband up after I saw it to give him the play-by-play! We both laughed. We both know people like this. We both ARE people like this. No, I have never used a product such as this and I’m not likely to either. Still, this ad’s version of femininity was not soft scents and rose petals behind a veil of shame. It was a woman watching her husband spin himself into a frenzy (hysteria?!) and not striving to bolster his ego after a rough day of his own making. Now why does she have the product in the house, what does she see in him — I don’t know. But I found the ad — dare I say it? — refreshing. BTW, I didn’t know the brand name of the product until I read this post! I learned a lot today, thank you!

  20. Shelby

    That was arguably the most offensive ad I’ve ever seen. And I’m old and I’ve seen some pretty fucked up ads. I can’t quite believe it’s authentic.

  21. ILoveMyLabrador

    Lizzy: in my view, this ad’s message that: “Women! Being you is degrading!” is probably worse than the usual TV ad message: “Women! Comply with these rose petal beauty standards!”

  22. Twisty

    Yeah, and as Rebecca Cullers said (in the aforelinked AdWeek post), the woman character isn’t even the star of her own vulva bleach ad.

    But it’s no secret that dudes are the driving force behind, and the entire reason for, vulva bleach, so I guess it stands to reason.

  23. polarcontrol

    Or, “dump him YESTERDAY”.

    http://sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4623

  24. Lizzy

    @ILoveMyLabrador, so interesting, I didn’t take the message to be “Women! Being you is degrading!” at all! Yes, that’s how the man reacted (cooties!) but the woman had the last word. The turnabout was interesting and funny to me. The woman watches this performance and doesn’t feel degraded in the end, just annoyed! I’m never going to defend the company (as I said before, I couldn’t have told you the brand until after this blog post) or the product, but I’m generally on board with spoofing gender insecurity. Ask me again in ten years!

  25. marisorigin

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought using douches/vulva bleach messes up the pH balance in your lady parts, leaving one prone to yeast infections? Just one more reason to avoid this horrendous shit!

  26. gingerest

    Well, the woman had the last word, except she was still partnered with a man who thinks being a woman is transmissible and catastrophic.

  27. Notorious Ph.D.

    Because I’ve been on hiatus myself, I’ve only just noticed that you’re back! And sure enough, I came upon… “a product called Mystic Garden Lemon-Fresh Dick Polish” and quite literally spewed a bit of coffee on myself.

    Totally worth it.

  28. Twisty

    Ha!

  29. gracemargaret

    When I first saw this ad I actually thought the guy was all revved up with energy because of how awesome the product was (I wasn’t paying very close attention, the tv was kind of on in the background). I thought, how weird…presenting a woman’s product as a good thing? For guys??
    Of course I was wrong.
    He was e-masculated by it, duh.

  30. emilybites

    This whole thread makes me laugh alone, without salad. You folks are awesome.

  31. Wilted_Lettuce

    At least the dude is Dudely Beauty 2K Compliant, unlike so many examples of the Hot Babe Married to Schlubby Moron trope, which I always took to imply ladies, despite your self denying efforts and heroic luck in your quest for Beauty 2K Compliance, you still don’t deserve a better prize than the basic sub-average dude model. Because basic dudely value trumps all.

  32. Cyberwulf

    Nonono, Wilted_Lettuce, we ladies must be attracted to What’s On The Inside, lest we reveal ourselves as shallow bitches. Meanwhile we must be Beauty 2K Compliant, because Men Are Visual Creatures.

  33. Noel

    Applause, Cyberwulf!

    Seen this one. Trash. Like the rest.

    For the longest time I could not understand why, and I mean why in FUCK, if men found us so gawddamned stupid, vacuous, worthless, useless, pitiable and generally uninteresting, they nevertheless spent so much of their time and energy doing everything in their power to be as up in our business as possible.

    Then I discovered the concept of ‘projection’, and it all became clear.

    Men hate THEMSELVES, project that onto women-folk, then blame them for it and the attendant consequences thereof.

    Fun.

  34. Morag

    “Men hate THEMSELVES, project that onto women-folk, then blame them for it and the attendant consequences thereof.”

    Noel, this is how I understood Solanas’ thesis in her SCUM Manifesto (with the stuff about the Y chromosome being thrown in just for kicks).

  35. Mildred

    “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought using douches/vulva bleach messes up the pH balance in your lady parts, leaving one prone to yeast infections? Just one more reason to avoid this horrendous shit!”

    YES! This stuff is SHIT. If you read the ingredients it is not less detergenty than regular body wash.

  36. Bushfire

    Men hate THEMSELVES, project that onto women-folk, then blame them for it and the attendant consequences thereof.

    MRAs provide countless examples of this phenomenon every day.

    @emilybites I got the “without salad” reference! Thanks for the laugh.

  37. mybodyisacage

    I have never understood why everyone except for blamers think that vulvas, clits, etc smell repellent and therefore gay men gag at the very thought while straight/bi men will stick their schlongs in but not want to get closer while no one I’ve ever met has commented on the odor of the peen. Obviously it’s the same misogynist plot that teaches us we are so gross that unlike men we need makeup, that we all enjoy being degraded sexually, that we’re only lesbians because we can’t “trap” a man, and that we all go apoplectic for babies, chocolate, diamonds, and high heel shoes. What depresses me is how many women I encounter who agree with this stereotypical gender crap pushed by society and the mass media. Does media create awful gender stereotypes, reflect them, or both? And why can’t I convince people that I genuinely dislike all of these things and am not just trying to “stir up controversy” and “be deliberately contrarian against the fun of being a girl?” (Yes, this comment made me gag). I do blame the p, not individual women, but is still disheartening to see how many of them think I am scary for my opinions, or else think I am lying about them.

  38. mybodyisacage

    I have never understood why everyone except for blamers think that vulvas, clits, etc smell repellent and therefore gay men gag at the very thought while straight/bi men will stick their schlongs in but not want to get closer while no one I’ve ever met has commented on the odor of the peen. Obviously it’s the same misogynist plot that teaches us we are so gross that unlike men we need makeup, that we all enjoy being degraded sexually, that we’re only lesbians because we can’t “trap” a man, and that we all go apoplectic for babies, chocolate, diamonds, and high heel shoes. What depresses me is how many women I encounter who agree with this stereotypical gender crap pushed by society and the mass media. Does media create awful gender stereotypes, reflect them, or both? And why can’t I convince people that I genuinely dislike all of these things and am not just trying to “stir up controversy” and “be deliberately contrarian against the fun of being a girl?” (Yes, this comment made me gag). I do blame the p, not individual women, but is still disheartening to see how many of them think I am scary for my opinions, or else think I am lying about them.

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