I’m tired of brands trying to get a bigger slice of this pie—the pie being my vagina. On Tuesday, WWD reported that Combe—the parent company of Vagisil, which if you remember from the commercials, claims to stop vag-related itching and odors—bought a majority stake in Sustain Natural, which WWD describes as “a five-year-old brand that focuses on natural and sustainable tampons, condoms and other sexual health products.” This is all to show that the CEO of Vagisil, Keech Combe Shetty, meant it when she said two years ago that she was “bullish on vaginas.”
According to WWD, the move is indicative of a broader trend, inspired by the blunt advertising campaign Thinx mounted a few years ago. There’s a lot that’s familiar in the story: brands shifting the “conversation,” breaking so-called “taboos,” and the general sense that consuming “feminine personal care” isn’t just a trend, but an act of feminist empowerment. (Indeed, WWD notes that Cindy Barshop, the woman behind a “revagination spa” that offers vaginal steaming, thinks “This is really about empowering women.”)
Though vagina talk isn’t particularly new, and the taboos that run through the story are hardly taboos, Shetty argues:
“With the evolution of the Me Too movement and Time’s Up, there’s been an opportunity to talk about issues and topics that have historically been taboo and closeted, and what we’re hoping to do is have that halo into women’s intimate health, vaginal health, and sexual wellness for women [.]”
I almost resent how the language of sexual assault survivors is being co-opted here to sell me more shit I don’t need, and I cringe at another marketing campaign ratting off the now-debunked talking point that it’s somehow taboo or radical to talk about my period. I’ll talk about my period all day, and absolutely nobody gives me a pat on the back for that, nobody.
But the constant insistence that vagina-talk is a radical break from some fictional silence, it raises the question: If it’s so hard to sell stuff for vaginas, why not pivot completely and try to capture a new segment of the personal health market? Why not market self-care for dicks?
As a woman who might encounter a dick or two in her lifetime, I’d appreciate if the market spread the body paranoia around and made one or two men feel like they need to buy shit to keep their junk smelling all nice. Why should I bear the burden of making my vagina acceptable to others when men get to parade through the world, practically swinging a “Do Not Disturb” sign on their dicks? To be really revolutionary in 2019, why not sell dick wipes or essential oils for the peen? Gender equity means 12 percent of every man’s paycheck should go to some really well-advertised but ultimately useless body and hair products that they absolutely could live without.
Of course, in this hypothetical scenario, men will always suspect that they’re being lied to and manipulated by advertising, but never commit to giving up their discretionary spending on froofy personal hygiene shit. After your first purchase born out of the anxiety that your body is not perfect, you’re a lifer. (In this hypothetical scenario, of course!!)
I want brands to stop creating neuroses to sell me shit I don’t need; I want them to stop pretending that purchasing is empowerment or that the taboos are anything but their own invention. Vaginas are supposed to be like self-cleaning ovens, or so someone told me in a junior high health class, and I refuse to spend time or money fixating on problems that don’t exist. I am all for better tampons (for me and the environment), and basically any birth control that would allow me to skip my period entirely. But Vagisil will start selling a “hypoallergenic fragrance” and a “‘dry wash’ (similar to dry shampoo)” soon, according to WWD. Do these brands think I’m dumb? Do words no longer have any meaning?
My pussy did not ask for this, and in fact, it would like to unsubscribe entirely from any future updates. Talk to me when men start thinking about the environmental impact of their condom usage, or whether or not their dong could stand to smell like lavender.