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 a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.