Last Sunday, I took my almost-9-year-old to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. As the pre-movie advertisements and coming attractions began, we saw one clip that really caught my eye, and that I assumed was a preview for another movie.
The voice-over began with a woman’s deep, British-accented voice:
“It’s the cradle of life,” she told us, as we watched a woman from prehistoric times lift her newborn up to the night sky. “It’s the center of civilization,” the voice continued, as an ancient Egyptian queen looked out over and greeted her people, who cheered passionately for her. “Over the ages and throughout the world, men have fought for it,” the voice said, as two Samurai swordsmen fought and a woman walked by sultrily. We then saw a jousting tournament from Arthurian legend. “Battled for it,” the voice asserted. “And died for it,” she explained. “One might say,” the voice posited, “it’s the most powerful thing on Earth.”
You’ll see that the “it” she is referring to is… the vagina. And in that moment, an entire theater full of children were given a handful of ridiculously sexist (women only have power because they have a vagina), inaccurate (the only reason a girl or woman would care about her vagina is because men want to fight over it) and age-inappropriate information. Judging from the reactions of the adults in the room, most of whom were laughing and responding to the children’s chorus of “What did that mean?” with “You wouldn’t understand” or “Nothing,” this was far from a teachable moment we sexuality educators usually hope for.
Now, I do have a sense of humor, and were there not a lot of children in the room, I’d probably have found it pretty clever, too. So I decided to give Summer’s Eve the benefit of the doubt and went to their Web site, where they purport to be all about the vagina. Voila, the root of the problem: This company tries to make it look like they care about women and female empowerment, when in reality, they are still simply a company that only cares about selling its products. Their “Vaglossary” includes terms that have nothing to do with vaginal care or health, as well as incorrect information. The site is heterosexist, as seen in the ad and most of the other Vaglossary definitions (such as a “spotter” who is “a guy who knows how to stimulate the G-Spot.”) The site is racist, as demonstrated by the abhorrent videos demonstrating how an African-American vagina would speak, as opposed to a Caucasian or Latina vagina. And for all their attempts at progressive attitudes and language, they don’t seem to want to use the word “orgasm,” it appears simply as ******. These are only a few examples of the problematic content on the site.
But above all, if Summer’s Eve is all about the power of the vagina, why do they continue to market products to girls and women that are unnecessary? How can they perpetuate the lie that having a vagina makes women powerful, while simultaneously giving the message that their powerful vaginas are dirty?
At Answer, we have to spend an enormous amount of time reassuring young people that they are normal-and that their bodies are healthy and beautiful just the way they are. We spend a lot of time correcting misinformation about sexuality, like the myth that douching after unprotected vaginal intercourse will help prevent pregnancy and/or disease, which is just not true. Unless prescribed by a health professional, douching is not needed. The vagina has its own cleaning system built in, and douching can actually upset the natural balance in the vagina, increasing a girl’s or woman’s risk for developing an infection.
With this ad campaign, Summer’s Eve has spent millions of dollars supporting a culture of misinformation and poor body image for countless girls and women. And if you ask me, that really stinks.