As has been discussed elsewhere on the Capitalist Beauty tag and by Caroline Criado-Perez, the beauty industry has a water-tight business model: it feeds on women’s insecurities about our bodies (our vulnerability stems from the fact that we are taught, from girlhood, that our self-worth is inextricably linked to our ability to mimic constructed notions of beauty and physical attractiveness) by convincing us that we are repulsive. Then, it sells us back the “solutions.” That is, solutions to problems that wouldn’t exist at all if it wasn’t for the beauty industry in the first place.
The most repugnant part of a woman’s body, according to the beauty industry, is her vagina. Apologies! Even the word itself is too offensive to say! Therefore, for the rest of this article I shall follow the beauty industry’s preferred lingo and refer to a woman’s sexual organs as her intimate area.*
There is already a whole array of products and surgical procedures to make our intimate areas seem more pubescent, whiter and tighter. Now, as a TV advertisement informed me the other evening, we should now also be using Vagisil, which, as far as I understand, is a type of Febreze for fannies. According to the advert, although a sweaty “odour” is entirely “normal” in a lady’s intimate area, she should nevertheless be so embarrassed by the fact that her area sweats that she should hide behind a houseplant.** Yet, scenting her intimate area with Vagisil products will “give her the confidence” to kick over the houseplant and brave the social world again. Presumably, this is the capitalist version of women’s empowerment.
But gosh! It had never occurred to me that my intimate area shouldn’t be sweating. If – as the beauty industry tells me – my intimate area should be febreezed, lighter-coloured, labia-free, more symmetrical, tighter, hairless and so on, would it not just be easier to have the entire area removed? Or perhaps we should just glue the lips together with special Vagisil sealant, so that the intimate area would at least stop secreting disgusting fluids such as menstrual blood?
Frankly, by shouting, as they do, “WOMAN, YOUR VAGINA IS DISGUSTING,” Vagisil and the rest of the so-called “intimate health” industry are guilty of profound misogynism and they call for us to collaborate them: they wish for us to hate our intimate areas and to heap shame on other women who don’t. I have spoken to my own intimate area about this, and she is very angry. She is not taking it lying down (although she often does). This intimate area says V is for Vendetta, as well as for Vagina, and she is planning revenge on Vagisil. She has yet to decide what form the vengeance will take, but it will probably involve sending one of the following to the Vagisil office: the Order of the Lady Finger, an old pair of un-febrezed pants, or some artwork formed of vagina prints. Further suggestions welcome.
*Note that this turn of phrase is the clinical and character-free linguistic equivalent of magnolia paint, which is a shame given that the vagina is a source of pleasure and babies. If only the beauty industry used “fun tunnel” or “mother of all souls,” which, I’m sure you’d agree, are nicer substitutes for “vagina”.
** If you really must follow the advert’s advice, could I suggest you choose the marijuana as your refuge of choice. It may help you to put things into perspective.