Femfresh make a “vaginal wash.” I’ve never used it, but a cycling friend of mine uses it sometimes after long bike rides when sweat and heat has disrupted her “natural balance.” She says it’s useful when you need a bit of extra help.
However, that is not how Femfresh are choosing to market it. Femfresh are marketing it in such a way that if you believed what they were telling you, you would believe that vaginas and vulvas are naturally dirty, malodorous and unhygienic, and that the only way to deal with their filthy stench is to use their product, rather than perfectly adequate soap and water (or just plain water if you’re sensitive to soap). And many women are vulnerable to that kind of pressure. Many women are already scared of their own genitals, think they’re dirty, unclean, disgusting. Many women are so scared that their genitals look bad, smell bad and taste bad that they won’t let their partners’ faces anywhere below the waist, and they’re missing out on a whole lot of fun. We’ve all heard the fish remarks. We probably all know at least one woman who genuinely believes her vagina is intrinsically dirty. And Femfresh is reinforcing those beliefs and those fears, not out of concern for women’s healthy, but to sell a product women don’t generally need.
It’s not just adult women seeing their ads. Teenage girls are seeing them too. Teenage girls might well be struggling with the changes puberty brings. Vaginal secretions, eggwhite mucus preceding ovulation, periods, pubic hair, coupled with the insecurity and awkwardness and uncertainty that often develop at that age. Shouldn’t a company that purports to care about women’s health be reassuring young women that their bodies are normal, natural and healthy instead of making them worry that they’re dirty, smelly and wrong?
So, I don’t like the premise of the ads. I also hate the execution. Rather than refer to vagina or vulva, they’re using childish, made up words like va-jayjay (I think that’s the worst one), froo-froo, lala, nooni (wasn’t nooni a My Little Pony?), hoo-ha and kitty. Well, they were, then the facebook backlash happened, and they added vagina to the ad on the page. They won’t let us say cunt though; they delete it every time. Pity. It’s a good old English word and everybody knows what it means, unlike bloody froo-froo, which is how my mum would describe Danny La Rue’s frocks. Where was I? Oh yes, the infantilised made-up words. Why? If you’re selling a product to adults, talk to them like adults. Stop pretending vaginas and vulvas (vulvae?) are unspeakable and unmentionable, or that they’re cutesy and need twee names. They’re body parts, not pixies.
Then the backlash happened. People found the facebook page. People commented on the facebook page. Femfresh added the word “vagina” to the ad on the page but the backlash continued. Hundreds of women and a few men have pointed out that the language in the ads is infantilised and unnecessary, and that the product is unnecessary. Hundreds of women and a few men have pointed out that vaginas are self-cleansing, and they require nothing more than a wash with soap and water or just plain water. And hundreds of women have pointed out that Femfresh are attempting to cause or exacerbate insecurity about their bodies in women in order to sell an unnecessary product. And quite a few of us have said cunt.