For those what missed it here is the text of the offending Femfresh radio advert:
“Mini, twinkle, hoo haa, fancy, yoni, lady garden…
Did you know that regular shower gels and soaps if used on your privates, could strip it of its natural defences causing dryness and irritation?
With its pH-balance formula specially developed for intimate skin, femfresh is one of the kindest ways to care for your fancy va jay jay, kitty, nooni, la la, froo froo! What ever you call it make sure you love it. Femfresh. Expert care for down there.”
Just as the excruciation of a broken arm/ injection/check up at the doctor’s as a child was made worse by the doctor addressing your accompanying parent as ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ (or ‘Legal Guardian’) in a peculiar bid to calm you, so too does the idea of a routine smear test being punctuated the nurse informing you that there might be slight discomfort in your nooni.
It could have been the cute, slightly irreverent campaign Femfresh dreamt of had they indulged their Facebook Likers in a bit of crowd sourcing. The informal questionnaires asking what you call your vulva are usually received well, in fact they are often the most popular part of a production of The Vagina Monologues; no one chastised Caitlin Moran for revealing she was instructing her daughters to call their vulvas “bot-bot” (which, for the record, I really hate). On the whole, when used in casual conversation, a euphemism can help people reveal a little more, instead of stiff scientific terms.
The crux of the matter when it comes to Femfresh is that they thought they could be in on the joke. Like the least-liked member of a clique they hoped to assimilate themselves by getting in on a joke that started whilst they were out of the room. You had to be there, Femfresh!
The avoidance of the words ‘vagina’ and ‘vulva’ is so ingrained now we hardly notice. The thought that it was only 27 years ago, in 1985, that Courtney Cox found fame as the first person to say the word ‘period’ “in the biological sense” on American television for a tampon advert demonstrates our squeamishness when it comes to Down There.
The clean up and sanitisation of the Froo froo is nothing new, at the very least we should be grateful that the eye rolling, vague pointing and cutesy names gives us half a clue as to what the advertisers are talking about. This is, I fear, progress from adverts intimating husbands might prefer their wife to Lysol their vaginas. The idea of douching with bleach seems so implausible to me that when I come across such vintage ads I always hope I have…mis-gleaned the message, as it were. Then I check out the ingredients for intimate products available now and weep for all the poor kitties out there.
Femfresh’s trouble now is that, just like that pesky natural vaginal bacteria, you cannot truly delete anything you posted on the internet. Or big companies can’t, which is why they need to learn that clicking the key marked PRTSC is not as strenuous as they might hope. Deleting their Facebook page in a panicked damage control action has done nothing but vindicate those posting messages that give me hope, such as: “These products are damaging to a woman’s body. The vagina is a self-cleaning body part that doesn’t need anything other than water. These products do nothing than reinforce the idea that a woman’s body is “icky” and needs to be artificially scented at all times. Here’s the thing: if your vagina is a bit “smelly,” you need to see a doctor, not use Femfresh which will likely make the problem worse.”
A re-brand and re-boot is in order. So, Femfresh, I have taken the liberty of re-writing your campaign copy. You can comment below as to whether my cheque is in the mail.
Vulva, vagina, sex organ, genitals…
Did you know that regular shower gels and soaps if used on your vulva could strip it of its natural defences causing dryness and irritation?
Your vulva is so mind-blowingly fantastic it cleans itself and is happy enough with some H20. So whatever you call it, it’s probably best not to interfere.