Douchebag Decree: Literally Douchey Edition

douchebag decree logo featuring a blue douchebag
Today we’re making history on the Bitch blog. The Douchebag Decree has been used to call out the likes of politicians, sports stars, pop stars, and internet trolls, but today we’re getting real, and awarding the Douchebag Decree to an actual douche.

The folks at Summer’s Eve have launched a massive new ad campaign called “Hail to the V.” The concept is simple, many feminists are probably familiar with it–vaginas are pretty amazing and you should treat yours accordingly. Only problem is–well, there are about a million problems.

an ad from Summer's Eve featuring a painting of Helen of Troy. Text placed over her reads, 'It was more than her face that launched a thousand ships'
Wait, what? Oh…ewwwwwww.

First, the small stuff. This campaign uses a VAGINA! IN YOUR FACE! tactic that doesn’t work when your wipes, gels, powders, and sprays are intended for vulvas. You can even play a fun game (all their graphics look like Valentine’s Day greeting cards) that proves this, but alas, the concept seems lost on every other page.

a screenshot of their know-your-vagina game that clearly shows that a vulva is the body part in question

Secondly, the whole “Take care of your vagina by putting our product on it” is something we’ve had to explain numerous times to folks who take issue with our use of “douchebag” as a pejorative. Namely, familiarity with and affection for your nether-regions (sorry, this campaign makes me loathe to use any word starting with “v”) is great. Douching it? Not so much. Here’s a run-down of all the chemicals in Summer’s Eve products (h/t @fatemehf).

But most importantly, their campaign isn’t just annoying (see: slideshow that starts with this slide and ends with this one; “Vaglossary” including terms ranging from bikini to crowning to…hermaphrodite? Really? ), it’s racist and insulting. While Summer’s Eve is including women of color in their campaigns, they tokenize them and made two weird commercials relying on stereotypes. Take the below commercial, where a black hand talks about her “wunder down under” and refers to “Lady Wowza.”

Or the Latina hand (How do I know it’s supposed to be Latina you may be asking? It starts off with “Ay yi yi!” and ends in a fast string of Spanish is why.)

Colorlines takes a closer look at the coded aspects of the ads–the “bizarre, imaginary patois” and sassy-black-woman-signifiers, that both the black and Latina hand use strange euphemisms instead of the word “vagina” (unlike the white hand). A representative from the Richards Group, the ad agency behind the commercials, recently told AdWeek, “We are surprised that some have found the online videos racially stereotypical. We never intended anything other than to make the videos relatable, and our in house multi-cultural experts confirmed the approach.” Gotta wonder who their “multi-cultural experts” are.

a screenshot of Pete Campbell from Mad Men reading an issue of Ebony and raising his eyebrow like 'What?'

Also, their “Hail to the V” commercial includes women of color, but the entire concept reduces women (like, you know Cleo-freaking-patra) to their vaginas. The whole co-opting of feminist “empowerment” language doesn’t work because the campaign ignores that women (not just men) are into vaginas, that some women do not have vaginas (and that some men do), and the whole “Vaginas are the most powerful force in the UNIVERSE!!!!!” thing falls flat when you have even an inkling of how women’s bodies have been–and continue to be–controlled and regulated, whether it’s forced sterilization, rape as a military tactic, or limited access to abortion. Or, you know, by being unnecessarily flushed with toxic chemicals for no good reason.

“We can’t wait to see how women respond to the new campaign, and where the dialogue goes from here,” said Tina Johnson of the Richards Group. Well Tina, while you have sparked some colorful dialogue, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people think this campaign is about as un-fresh as you’ve had us believe our vulvas are. For a more empowering, douche-free, knows-the-word-“vagina”-is-incorrect lesson, I’ll stick with the Midwest Teen Sex Show.

More info:
“Lady Wowza: 3 of the Worst Commercials in Advertising History” [Colorlines]
“Summer’s Eve Talking-Vagina Ads Aren’t Racist, Says Agency” [Ad Week]
“Summer’s Eve: The Douche Company That Won’t Say ‘Douche’ ” [GOOD]

Previously: Ray Wieczorek and the New Hampshire Executive Council, Barbara MacEwen & the Haters of New York

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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13 Comments Have Been Posted

No way this is real

Omfg. This has to be a joke. The campaign producer must have thought to himself, (of course he is) "How can I possibly weave into three commercials every racist, stereotypical and misogynistic pop culture concept and immature treatment of female biology? I know, I'll make hand lips (little symbolism for ya ) and speak to women that way!" Seriously? I think this agency must have done the milk ad too. What the hell is going on?

Face it ...

This (and many other horrible, sexist, misogynist, and just plain stupid ads over time) is indicative of how the Advertising-industrial-complex is running-and ruining-our democracy and livelihoods. Jennifer Pozner's most excellent book <i>Reality Bites Back</i>, and Jean Kilbourne's important works give excellent examples of how they are doing so. For example: It is brought up in Pozner's book how "Reality" TV is thriving by this advertising-industrial complex that TV networks depend on for their revenues, despite opinion poll after opinion poll stating that TV viewers are fed up with "reality" programming. It is time to step up saying "enough is enough" with these horrible ads and work to put at least some of these advertising behemoths out of business if they refuse to cooperate. Better media does not have to be funded by the advertising-industrial complex. In fact, there are growing examples (including this bitchmedia project) of how better media can thrive without them. We can and will learn how to make and better fund the kind of media we want by ourselves and society at-large.

I feel bad for the poor

I feel bad for the poor schmucks who will fall for this... not everyone reads bitch or gets Colorlines e-mails, and some people out there will listen to this douchey douche and buy the stupid douche.

Thank you for posting these

Thank you for posting these ridiculous ads! I knew you would and I knew they would make Douchebag Decree this week.

I wanted to watch the

I wanted to watch the commercials so I could critique them, but I found myself cringing to an almost painful extent about four seconds into the first one. But I actually found the Helen of Troy ad to be the most insulting. It's meant to be clever and full of pro-woman and pro-sex witticisms, but all I read was "You think Helen actually DID anything? We all know she was only famous 'cause of that sweet POONERSNATCH amirite guys?" It just reinforces the idea that the only thing of value in a woman is her sexual organs and thus her relation to men, which also brings up the issue of female sexual organs automatically being associated with only heterosexual relationships. It suggests that the only way women can achieve anything is by being stereotypically sexually attractive, which includes having manicured reproductive organs for the benefit of males. Blech.

I apologize for "poonersnatch." I kind of just made it up for effect. :)


Thank you for articulating exactly what I'm feeling right now. And I lol'd at "poonersnatch." :)


I kind of loved the use of "poonersnatch" and think i will be using it from now on... so thank you

Went to youtube to look up

Went to youtube to look up the "white" hands to see if they were as ridiculous by comparison- one mentioned vajazzling, because that's totally something all white people can afford (and would want) to do.

Found a response I liked to their "ID the V" video:

I love that at the beginning and end of all these commercials you guys put up a nice little floral frame on screen. It reminds me that, as a dainty woman, I have a beautiful flower between my legs instead of smelly, embarrassing female genitalia that needs vigorous washed with Summer's Eve.

Edit: Oh shoot, I just took your quiz. Turns out I don't actually have flower blooms down there, but instead I have an organ that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to be self cleaning! Oops!

Also, an awesome slam I heard a while back in Berkeley about vajazzling (cred to the beautiful Tatyana Brown):

Hope ya like. :)

The Helen ad is self-contradictory on top of everything else

Looking past the fact that Summer's Eve can't distinguish between a vagina and vulva (hey, neither can Eve Ensler), and the fact that these ads are racist, and all the other problems identified above, the premise of the print ad is that Helen's vagina/vulva was so awesome that it launched a war. But wait -- she didn't use Summer's Eve! Hard to avoid the conclusion that the "V" is awesome unassisted by modern chemicals. Bad idea to market the idea of spraying chemicals on your crotch by using a chemical-free crotch as a mascot.

vag ads

I am a 40-something african american woman and while i'm not sure that their "in-house multicultural experts" actually exist, i do believe that they have done their market research by targeting this audience. women of color in the us have really drunk the kool-aid about the douching thing. i was taught NEVER to douche which is think is wonderfully subversive of my relaxed-haired, full-make-up, benson and hedges smoking mom. love her!

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