For decades, women have been sold products for their vaginas. In the beginning there were maxi pads and other menstrual products, as well as the infamous (and unhealthy) douche. Then came a whole array of “feminine cleansing” products – wipes and washes that apparently are “feminine,” “sensitive,” “personal,” or my favorite–“splash gentle.” (What’s wrong with regular old soap and water?) Take note that these products never say the word “vagina” on the package. Here, “feminine” becomes a euphemism for “vagina,” which is problematic on oh-so-many levels.
And then, perhaps as a backlash to the 70s, we began our descent into extreme hair removal, giving us products like the bikini razors, trimmers, and shavers, not to mention Coochy Shave lotion and after-shave mist. We also got home Brazillian waxing kits, depilatory creams, and for the few hairs you have left, there is Smart Bikini Pubic Hair Dye. But all this hair removal isn’t supposed to be work. According to the Dare to Bare – Erotic Shaving and Sexual Pleasures DVD, it’s foreplay!
Okay, so it’s not surprising that an industry developed around vagina maintenance, or, as they would like you to believe, vaginal “health.” After all, women have plenty of disposable income to burn now that they have equality in the workplace. (Yeah, right.) But in recent months, this industry has taken a bizarre turn. Now, not only do our vaginas “need” special cleansing and hair removal products, they need to look young and fresh!
First, we heard about creepy vaginal rejuvenation and re-virginization surgeries. Then it was My New Pink Button to “restore the youthful pink color back to your labia.” For a laugh (or cry) check out the product reviews, with gems like this:
“Ladies, we all know that we are nothing unless we can catch a man and keep him. We also know that the fat, balding, underachieving, middle-aged shlub we married will ditch us in a moment for that man-stealing ho Miss Universe if we aren’t superficially perfect at all times. But what to do when we start to look like one of those “normal” women instead of an always-perfect supermodel? My New Pink Button is the answer!” [Note: How many supermodel vaginas do you see? I think she means porn star--another telling vocab choice.]
In addition to dyeing your labia, you might also consider a facial for your vulva, otherwise known as the “vajacial.” This spa treatment is meant to revitalize your vulva after a Brazilian, taking care of red bumps, ingrown hairs, and all the other tell-tale signs of the skin trauma caused my hair removal. But please notice the word usage here. “Revitalize,” as in “rejuvenate,” as in “look younger.”
Okay, so an industry has developed to make your lady bits look and feel “younger.” Again, this is not surprising when you consider the American obsession with youth and beauty. (Just look at the skin-care aisle in Walgreens.) I guess it was only a matter of time before our obsession with “fresh, youthful-looking” skin traveled south. But it doesn’t stop there, folks. Oh no. Not only do our vaginas need special cleansing and hair removal products and a fresh, youthful look, they need to DAZZLE.
Or should I say, “vajazzle?” Yes, once you have got your Brazilian wax and vajacial, it’s time to vajazzle–a process that involves gluing crystals to your vulva. Yes, with GLUE. A simple Google search of the term brings you to a number of “how to vajazzle” articles and blog posts with instructions and first-hand accounts, including this Gawker article quoting a blogger as saying it looks like “a disco ball in my crotch.”
Despite what some have termed the “sacred choice to vajazzle,” this evolution of trends is not feminist. Definitely read Amanda Hess’ breakdown at The Sexist for a well-argued explanation. The fundamental issue with these trends and products is that they pretend to provide a solution to a problem — the problem of your vagina being a vagina and doing all the things that vaginas do, including such offensive acts as growing hair and not sparkling.
Why are these insidious acts so offensive? It might have something to do with the fact that girl crotches behave similarly to men’s crotches. They both grow hair, they both need to be washed, and they both eventually age with the rest of your body. If it weren’t for the penis, how would we ever tell man crotches and woman crotches apart? That’s where “feminine washes,” waxing, labia dye and vajazzling come in. These things exist to make sure everybody knows that your vagina is an expression of your femininity. Conflating “feminine” and “vagina” has led to a pop culture nightmare where your vagina is ground zero for gender policing and control.
Let’s not forget that some of these products and treatments are not actually healthy for your vagina. In some cases, they are unhealthy or downright dangerous. (Enter the Va-J-J Visor, a vagina-shield to protect a woman’s inner vulva area while waxing, shaving, hair coloring, tanning or undergoing spa treatments.) Not only is the “feminine care” industry selling us products to meet our alleged “needs,” they are selling us products to protect ourselves from those very same products.
Vaginas do amazing things. They enable women to experience sexual pleasure and give the gift of life. They can also hide small objects. (Just kidding.) But looking at all of this crap, you forget about the incredible things vaginas can do. Instead, the vagina is reduced to something pleasing to look at–something that exists to please others, usually men. So when us feminists say that the patriarchy is trying to control our bodies, don’t write us off. Instead, help us take the patriarchy’s hands out of our pants and let our vaginas be awesome just the way they are.