As the pink tax inevitably returns to the national stage for debate, we are reminded of the history of commercialized misogyny.
For this article, I am reminded of a time when we here at Sis, This! collectively sighed and hung our head at the commercial for a problematic 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.