The national advertisement is part of the company’s “Hail to the V” campaign and features a talking Black vagina, or er, a Black hand mimicking a vagina (I am not making this up).
The va-jay-jay begins its soliloquy by observing in a stereotypical sista-girl accent, “Gurrrl, I see how much time you spend stylin’ yo’ hair,” (in this instance, it means the follicles from your scalp). Later, the “Wonder Down Under” as the vagina calls itself, gives us attitude, replete with a neck roll (of sorts), and complains that you’re drying her out with soap. Maybe, she suggests, you should use a Summer’s Eve cleansing cloth to freshen her up, “before you reach the club.”
I can’t today. The lack of diversity at advertising companies has been a constant complaint since the 1960s. Fifty years and millions in lawsuits later, little has changed, obviously. So, I’ll spare you the familiar diatribe on why there need to be more Black people on Madison Avenue just so someone can veto the treatment for a commercial like this long before it gets made. Oh, and so companies can not waste precious dollars making advertisements that not only don’t appeal to the consumer, but also turn them off.
I’m skipping all that because this commercial raised something more important that needs discussing: women’s health. You know why Summer’s Eve is making a commercial about feminine wipes and freshening up “down under” just for us? Because 55% of Black women still believe our naturally self-cleansing vaginas need something beyond Mother Nature’s assistance, i.e., douching, to be at their so fresh and so clean best. (To put that in perspective, 33% of Latinas and 21% of white women douche as well.) But why, especially, when most doctors and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggest that it is at best unnecessary, and at worst, can be harmful to your body?
“As a culture we are taught to find shame in most things that are natural, including our hair or sexual preferences, too. It’s no wonder we rely on perfumed soaps, lotions, and wipes to hide our natural scent,” says Rachael Ross, an Indiana-based medical practitioner and clinically trained sexologist. “How you respond to and feel about your vagina is a reflection of the attitudes and beliefs that you acquired during childhood.”
For clarity, Ross notes there is nothing wrong with the totally natural, completely unaltered smell of your va-jay-jay in its normal state. (Our “down under” isn’t supposed to smell like summer linen, fruits, or fresh mint.) And if it helps you think twice about douching, know that your man really likes it smelling as God intended. “A woman’s natural scent is a turn on to men who like women,” says Ross. “This is why many men ask their partners not to bathe or shower before they are intimate.”
Sound gross? Too many women have been taught that it is.
Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter: @abelleinbk for info about her upcoming book signing in Washington, DC on July 23.