I thought last year's Summer's Eve campaign was horrendous enough. After they asked me to be their spokesperson (and I said "no freakin' way; it's supposed to smell like a vagina"), I was appalled at their advertorial in Woman's Day magazine that offered up tips for how to ask your boss for a raise. Nobody mentioned things like "Hey, you know how I come up with the most creative ideas in the board room and we land boatloads of accounts because of my brilliance?" Nope, instead, the No. 1 tip for asking your boss for a raise was "wash your vagina." You sure wouldn't want to show up with a stinky vagina when you're asking for the big bucks. (You can read the whole story here).
Last year, they messed up so badly, their marketing director even publicly apologized on Owning Pink. She asked me how Summer's Eve could rectify their major mess-up. Here's what I wrote to her:
How can Summer's Eve fix this?" I thought long and hard about it. Yes, I know it must be a PR nightmare, and I empathize with those who are struggling to rectify what has happened. But how can Summer's Eve fix this and stay in business?
I would love to see Summer's Eve start a campaign aimed at helping women learn to love their bodies (and their good-smelling natural vaginas) just the way they are. Rather than tapping into the fears and insecurities most women have about their girl parts, why not help them know that they're normal—and they're beautiful, and that if they have an odor so strong that they might not get a raise—they need to see a doctor!
How will this sell product for Summer's Eve, when I know you all have quotas to meet? Just look at alcohol and tobacco companies for guidance. They are selling something most of us know is bad for us and yet many use the products anyway. So while it may seem counterintuitive to empower women about how to love their natural odor, rather than scaring them into buying a feminine wash, it just might work. There are still those committed followers of the brand who will love the brand all the more for helping spread the message that we're beautiful, perfect, whole beings. If the brand starts a campaign like this with a pure heart—not just to sell product but to truly help change the way the female body is viewed, that would be something I would rave about here at Owning Pink. That would take guts. That would take a stand on behalf of all of us. And I'd love to see more brands willing to truly support the whole health of women.
So thank you, again, for your apology. Now, take a deep breath, get a massage, call your BFFs so they can take you out and give you hug, and please join the rest of us in the fight to redefine the new feminism and bring advertising into the modern world.
Unsurprisingly, I got no response.
Let's start out by stating one thing we all know very clearly. As an OB-GYN physician, I can tell you that Summer's Eve products are not only unnecessary (who wants their vagina to smell like Delicate Blossom?), but they also dangerous and increase the risk of allergic reactions, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and other dermatologic conditions. And pretty much everyone knows this.
So, in light of this fact, I can understand how hard it must be to sell a product doctors despise. But that makes me even more baffled at Summer's Eve's new campaign, Hail To the V, which launched in many theaters as a movie trailer for the new Harry Potter film. (WTF? Harry Potter? Summer's Eve? That's almost as much of a misfit as asking Lissa Rankin to be their spokesperson. Ha!) You can read all the juicy details of the ad here. But here's a brief summary:
First we see a woman holding an infant up to the prehistoric, dawn-of-time moonlight. Next, Cleopatra stands before her adoring audience, raises her arms into a V for victory, and the crowd goes wild. Next up are two Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon type men, flying through a bamboo forest, presumably battling over some woman. Finally, two knights joust, while the queen looks on.
All throughout, the narration is along the lines of, "All society is based on it, men have fought and died for it for millennia, blah blah blah."
Then, while the knights are still jousting, the ad cuts to a woman in the grocery store, strolling through the lady parts aisle, and the narrator says something like "So show it some love, ladies!"
"It," of course—the "V" we're supposed to hail—is The Vagina. Enter Summer's Eve feminine wash product.
The grocery store woman is holding a Summer's Eve "feminine wash" product we're supposed to use to show "it" some love. (Cause that's how I show my "V" some love. Don't you? Forget sex with someone you adore. Forget masturbation. I wash my vagina with something that smells like rain and then my "V" feels loved. Not!)
Plus, what does all this mean? Is that all we are? Why are we hailing the "V" here? Because there have been vaginas since the dawn of time? Because powerful women like Cleopatra have one? Because they are so enticing, mysterious, and consuming that men die for them? (Guys, how does this make you feel? Cause I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure any guy who would die for me would do it for reasons that go way deeper than my "V." I tend to think most dudes aren't quite that shallow, but maybe Summer's Eve knows more about men than I do.)
The rest of the campaign is now rolling out and it's even worse. The star of the Hail To the V campaign is—it's hard for me to write this and feel even remotely serious—a talking vagina hand. Yes, a talking hand, like the kind you hold up against a wall for kids to make animal shadows that moo or oink. (You can see the vagina hand live and in person, along with Pauline Campos review of the ads here.)
If My Vagina Could Talk
Suffice it to say that if my vagina could talk, she would not be saying, "Giiiiirl, wipe me before we hit the club with one of those Summer's Eve feminine hygiene cloths and we'll be Lady Wowza."
And she would definitely not say, "Ay yi yi ... next time you're in the shower, show me some love with Summer's Eve feminine hygiene wash."
Nope. Right now, my vagina is angry, and she would probably have some choice words for the Summer's Eve people. Something like:
Giiiiirl (or Dude, as the case may be), if you knew anything about women and their vaginas, you'd know that we are supposed to smell like vagina. Not Summer Rain. Not Berry Garden. Not Gardenia Blossom. Vagina. Plus, I know how to clean myself, thank you very much. God pretty much designed me as a self-cleaning organism, and I'm not some stinky sock you gotta scrub up with some special product designed to clean me up and make me smell like a sorbet flavor. So why don't you just back off and shove your feminine hygiene wash somewhere the sun don't shine (and I'm not talking about inside me, just so we're clear on that.)
What Were They Thinking?
I can just see them around the boardroom table when some ad executive conceived of the whole thing. "You nailed it this time! The women are gonna eat up that Latina vagina hand!"
I'm afraid I have nothing more to say. (And you know me. That doesn't happen very often.)
I am the founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Revolutionary, a motivational speaker, and author of What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.