The Daily Kos highlighted an ad for Summer’s Eve in this month’s Woman’s Day magazine. Women’s magazines are peppered with douching advertisements, so why did this one prompt nine people — Tony S., Pharmacopaeia, Frank B., Jason W., Tom M., Jesse W., Sarah P., Ilysse W., and Philippa von Z. — to send it to us? Take a look:
What makes this a remarkable instead of a regular douche ad is the suggestion that Summer’s Eve is interested in women’s empowerment.
This is odd because douching is well understood to be bad for healthy women’s bodies. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for example, explains:
Most doctors and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend that women don’t douche. Douching can change the delicate balance of vaginal flora (organisms that live in the vagina) and acidity in a healthy vagina. One way to look at it is in a healthy vagina there are both good and bad bacteria. The balance of the good and bad bacteria help maintain an acidic environment. Any changes can cause an over growth of bad bacteria which can lead to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. Plus, if you have a vaginal infection, douching can push the bacteria causing the infection up into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
Douching is bad for you, ladies. So the fact that the C.B. Fleet Co., the company that owns Summer’s Eve, tries to convince all women that they need to regularly douche is not only manipulative, it’s harmful. If it wants to maximize its profit, however, the company needs healthy women to feel that their vaginas are disgusting. And so they tell us that it is over and over again.
You see, C.B. Fleet ‘n friends doesn’t give a shit about you. They don’t care if you get that raise; and they certainly don’t care if their product is unnecessary and potentially harmful in most cases. They just want to make money. And if using a feminist-sounding you-go-girl ad will do that, then they’ll slap on a smile and laugh all the way to the bank.
In our more fledgling days we highlighted quite a few examples of marketing that co-opted feminist messages. See our other examples of ads for bras, cleaning products and contraceptives (see here and here), botox (here and here), diamond rings, moisturizer, makeup, cars, cigarettes, and credit cards, Whirlpool, Philip Morris, Virginia Slims (here and here), and the new Disney princesses. And none of this is new, see this example of a woman’s magazine marketing to suffragettes in 1910.
See also our collection of vintage douche ads.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Philip Cohen — August 30, 2010
Here's my slightly off-topic question - when did "douche" become such an acceptable insult against men? E.g., John Stewart uses it constantly. At first I thought it had to do with insults you were allowed to say on prime time TV, but that's too easy.
Yuliya — August 30, 2010
They're not advertising douches; they're advertising wet napkins and body wash. Douches literally wash out the inner vagina but wet napkins are intended for use on the external area. The body wash they're advertising as well is "formulated not to be irritating," according to their website.
T — August 30, 2010
Have to agree with Yuliya -- this isn't a douche ad.
However, it's still super creepy and strange to me. As a man, I never knew that women were so distracted by their vajayjays... apparently, so much so that perhaps this alone could explain the disparity in wages and % of senior female executives!
A — August 30, 2010
Yeah, they're not advertising douches, but that's what everyone thinks when they hear "Summer's Eve." I don't read magazines and was kind of surprised to realize they advertise. Though I do remember they used to advertise on TV: "Summer's Eve, makes me feel fine" something something jasmine in my mind?
Chenoa — August 30, 2010
Ugh, ugh, ugh. If my boss is close enough to smell my vag, (s)he needs to back the f*** off!
I know a lot of women complain of smelling... you know, period-y... but I find it ironic that when I use reusable, natural products (DivaCup, cloth pads) instead of the over-marketed disposable ones, there IS no bad period smell.
Just... ugh. Watch out boys, we don't want to smell your ball-sweat either. I mean, what? Such a ridiculous marketing!
Janelle — August 30, 2010
I've personally used the word "douche" or "douchebag" to describe people of all genders, if they are unnecessary and harmful to women, of course.
skeptifem — August 30, 2010
I have been aware of how douching can be bad for a long time... I just now wondered why there aren't warning labels on the product though. Maybe concerned people should contact the FDA?
Gamermomma — August 30, 2010
Here is a thought...maybe it is implying that women should use their vaginas to get said raise and therefor it needs to be "clean"?
OK, not really but...nevermind.
Dr. Kate — August 30, 2010
What the hell does "fresh" mean anyway?
syd — August 30, 2010
Even though this isn't actually about douches, I still want to know why fancy wipes are more important than breakfast and getting to work early. Most women bathe, which for the most part seems sufficient. At any rate, I can't smell anyone, nor has anyone complained of me smelling.
brad-t — August 30, 2010
"Douching your way to the top" is the greatest article headline ever written.
brandy — August 30, 2010
no its not about douching, but seriously?
feeling fresh in my crotch will help me have a better interview and land me that big raise i was hoping for? no.
last interview i went to feeling fresh i also left feeling fresh and still didnt get the job....all while feeling fresh. without summer's eve.
Jessica — August 30, 2010
People trashed that ad so badly, it looks like Summer's Eve got on twitter just to try to apologize. See
Steve Saus — August 31, 2010
Apparently the page facing the ad isn't any better, as pointed out in this blog: Who's the Douche, Really?
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