• "As for the products for our actual vaginas, vulvas, and pubic hair – they are marketed under the guise of women treating themselves." (Digital Vision)Source: Digital Vision
Generations of women have been raised to feel shame, or embarrassment, about their genitals, and their natural scent.
By
Samantha Selinger-Morris

21 Apr 2020 - 11:17 AM  UPDATED 21 Apr 2020 - 11:21 AM

We’re talking, of course, about the “clean” and “green” wave that has infiltrated the makeup world, over the last 10 years, which is now coming for our nether regions.

Bougie lipsticks and blushes that are free from “nasty” ingredients like petroleum, phthalates and other “endocrine-disrupting” chemicals and are housed in recyclable packaging have been the rage for a while, with brands like RMS Beauty and Westman Atelier now big sellers at beauty emporiums like Mecca Cosmetica.

And now, there’s an influx of fancy “clean” products for our genitals. Many of the products – some bottled in millennium pink tubes; others with the type of minimal black and white packaging preferred by New York architects – are spruiked on Instagram with the promise to help us #glowbelow.

These include a new oil for your pubic hair (favoured by Harry Potter actress Emma Watson), "The Sex Gel" by new cult green indie brand Necessaire, and a “probiotic refreshing cleanser for harmony down south” made with organic jojoba oil and carrot seed oil from a new brand, Lady Suite Beauty. (“No vulva-villains allowed!”)

Now, listen, these products do mark something of a positive move away from the last, oh, hundreds of years or so, during which anything pertaining to women’s genitals was generally so taboo that it had to be whispered about, made more palatable in television ads, by replacing menstrual blood with sky-blue water, or – in the case of former British chancellor Gordon Brown – was considered so beyond the pale that it was unmentionable. (Brown refused to say, in his budget announcement in 2000 that he’d removed added tax on women’s sanitary products – a sure vote-winner – because he couldn’t bear to say the word “tampons” in the House of Commons chamber in the Palace of Westminster.)

If anything, vaginas are now trending, thanks to the new vagina positivity movement, an off-shoot of the recent body positivity and self-acceptance movement, spearheaded by – who else? – Gwyneth Paltrow.

If anything, vaginas are now trending, thanks to the new vagina positivity movement, an off-shoot of the recent body positivity and self-acceptance movement, spearheaded by – who else? – Gwyneth Paltrow. Earlier this year, Paltrow released a “clean” AUD$115 candle called This Smells Like My Vagina, on her GOOP website, which sold out within days.

It actually smells of rose and bergamot. And, as she told late night host Jimmy Kimmel, on February 25 – that’s the point. Generations of women have been raised to feel shame, or embarrassment, about their genitals, and their natural scent. So, to pair the rose scent, with its in-your-face - or rather in-your-crotch - title: “What a punk rock feminist statement to have on your table,” she said.

Around the same time, singer Erykah Badu announced that she will be selling an incense, on her online store, called "Badu's Pussy", that smells like, well, her vagina. Badu took numerous pairs of her underwear, cut them into little pieces, and burned them, to create the incense. “The people deserve it,” she told Rolling Stone magazine, noting: “There’s an urban legend that my pussy changes men. The men that I fall in love with, and fall in love with me, change jobs and lives.”

As for the products for our actual vaginas, vulvas, and pubic hair – they are marketed under the guise of women treating themselves, practising self-kindness, and being kind to the environment.

But this hides a dark side of this vagina positivity movement. Which is that these new green products - with taglines like Lady Suite Beauty’s “stop intimate skin struggles” - are peddling the same old fears that have plagued women for generations, that our natural smell is disgusting, or that there's something wrong with us, in order to sell products we don't need, have never needed, and will never need.

The vagina is, of course, as gynaecologists have long dubbed it, a "self-cleaning oven", and, like our vulva, needs nothing beyond basic hygiene with ordinary soap and water.

The vagina is, of course, as gynaecologists have long dubbed it, a "self-cleaning oven", and, like our vulva, needs nothing beyond basic hygiene with ordinary soap and water.

And there’s evidence that men are now being encouraged to feel the same shame – or are at least are buying into the same psychology – with one man, Ryan, noting on the website for fur, the company that sells pubic hair oil: “I have been using it for just under 3 weeks, and have noticeably softer pubes.”

So having coarse pubic hair is the new cellulite, something that’s never been a problem, but that now apparently needs fixing.

So having coarse pubic hair is the new cellulite, something that’s never been a problem, but that now apparently needs fixing.

It harks back to the 1930s, when women were told, in Kotex ads, that they’d feel more “tangy” with the brand’s sanitary pads.

In other words, thanks for the attention, but no thanks.

As playwright Eve Ensler asked 200 women, around 1996, for what would become her political play aimed at exploring women’s sexual experiences, The Vagina Monologues: “If your vagina could talk, what would it say?”

Right about now, mine would say, hands off. Take your AUD$67 pubic oil and shove it where the sun don’t shine.

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