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August 2, 2011

V is NOT for Victory: Summer's Eve Update

So Summer's Eve has pulled some of their offensive ads and we've seen a lot of people praising them for this decision. We've even seen it called a "victory" or a "success". Sorry, but no. This is not a victory and there is still a lot more that needs to be done before Summer's Eve earns the right to give themselves a big pat on the back.

We are asking that people still continue to sign the petition to end the entire campaign and don't give Summer's Eve any more credit than they actually deserve...

The ad agency that created these ads still doesn't believe that they were racist.

The ads that were removed were the "talking-hand-vagina" videos, because many complained that they perpetuated racist stereotypes about black and Latina women. Only a week before the ads were pulled, the Richards Group (the ad agency that designed the campaign) defended the videos, claiming that they weren't racist. Stan Richards, the agency's founder, called the ads "relatable" and gave the excuse that their "in house multi-cultural experts confirmed the approach". (So then it must be okay!)

A week later, Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett announced that the videos would be removed, due to the fact that the criticism had begun to overshadow the message and goal of the campaign. She continued the non-apology, by adding "We do not think they are stereotypical, nor did we obviously intend that. However, it's a subjective point of view." (Translation: We still don't think there's anything wrong with it, but we'll take them down to shut you up.)

These ads were not the only offensive ads - there are more that remain in circulation.

The "Hail to the V" campaign consisted of two separate series of ads: The "talking-hand-vagina" videos and ads that focus on the V's alleged role in history. The first series was removed, but the second set of ads remains. This series, which consisted of video and print ads, is just as offensive and wrong. Summer's Eve has not stated any intention to pull them, nor have they even responded to criticism.

In case you're not familiar with these ads, here's a little refresher:
The campaign, which includes print and video ads and a redesign of the Summer's Eve website, is all about praising "the V" and its role in history. The "Hail to the V" commercial shows us scenes from various times and places in history while a voice-over intones "It's the cradle of life...the center of civilization. Men have fought for it, even died for it. One might say it's the most powerful thing on Earth." Groups of men are shown battling it out with each other while women stand passively by looking pretty, and the ad ends with a modern women buying Summer's Eve to show her V "a little love".

The print ads follow along similar lines. One ad tells us that Cleopatra would have loved to use Summer's Eve products because she knew how important it was to "take care of her most precious resource. No, not the Nile. We're talking about her V." Those of us who thought that Cleopatra's most precious resource might have been intelligence, political acumen, courage, or charisma were apparently mistaken. The other ad stars Helen of Troy: "A war was fought. A whole city fell. And thousands died. Because of a beautiful face? We think not. Although you'll be hard-pressed to find any mention of her V in any history book, you can bet Helen of Troy knew what was up." It goes on to claim that Helen could have launched even more ships if she had been able to use Summer's Eve products. [Read more]
These ads are not empowering. The message is that the most important role of women in history has been inspiring men to act through the power of the V. The ads reduce women to a single body part and their strength and power in the world to the status as sexual objects and prizes to be won by the strongest male. They also imply that all of men's actions are based solely on their desire for sex (and completely ignore the existence of GLBT people).

They have acknowledged the racism, but not the sexist aspect of these ads.

Both series of ads are sexist and demeaning to women, but the company has not even mentioned the word "sexism" when responding to the criticism of their campaign.  In fact, they seem to be pushing the sexist "power of the V" angle even more now that the racist ads have been removed. The day after they announced that they would be pulling the racist ads, the Summer's Eve | Hail to the V page on Facebook posted the following update:
The Brontë sisters continue to be three of the best-selling women’s authors from the 19th century to today. Hail to the V! [Read More]
Apparently we are supposed to believe that they wrote books with their Vs or that their Vs inspired their writing? We would've thought their brains had more to do with it. Not only are they still reducing women to their genitals, but now they're not even making sense. (The idea that the Fall of Troy was due to Helen's V is ridiculous enough, but at least it was theoretically sort of possible. But what do the Brontës' vaginas have to do with their status as best-selling authors?) The Brontë sisters do deserve accolades for their talent and we're all for reminding everyone of all the important accomplishments women have made throughout history... but that's not about the V. Just because a woman has a vagina, doesn't mean that it is the source of all her success and power. We should be hailing them, not their genitals.

They really don't want to hear or respond to anything we have to say.

Other than pulling the videos, they have done very little to respond to the public's criticisms. Last year, in respond to criticism of an offensive ad they created a Twitter account called Eve_Cares to field the complaints. Once people starting using it again to tweet criticism of the new campaign, the account was quietly deleted. (Eve doesn't care anymore?) Tweets directed to their other account FleetSummersEve have gone unanswered. The Frisky incorrectly reported that the company had apologized on Twitter, but in fact, the account has sat unused since August 2010. The Summer's Eve | Hail to the V page on Facebook has received numerous negative comments, but the company only responds to positive feedback. They also switched their default page to their own posts, instead of the original "Most Recent" setting, perhaps to hide some of the negative posts from immediate view.

Summer's Eve's products are unnecessary, sexist and potentially harmful.

Vaginas are self-cleaning, so not only are douches and other Summer's Eve "vaginal hygiene" products unnecessary, but they can even be bad for you. The chemicals in these products can distort your normal pH balance and leave you vulnerable to infection. But more than unhealthy, the products are sexist.

Their mere existence perpetuates the idea that women's genitals aren't okay the way they are... they're smelly, they're dirty, they're not "fresh". This isn't true. Unless you have an infection that's causing an extreme or unusual odor, then the way your vagina smells is the way it's supposed to smell. A vagina should smell like a vagina... and that's not a bad smell.

Summer's Eve says they're hailing the V, but they're really insulting women by trying to sell us the idea that our bodies aren't good enough they way they are - and the way they were meant to be - so we need their products to keep our vaginas fresh and smelling like perfume, since they are the true sources of our power.

Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett actually admitted that their products were unnecessary:
"Now, are these things necessary? No. But cosmetically, as women, we have those choices. [...] There are people who may always associate Summer's Eve only with douche, and therefore look upon it either with mockery or a negative perception. And that's fine. But there are a lot of women who want these products, right or wrong, necessary or not. And that's who we want to educate."
So they want to educate women who want these products, which they admit aren't necessary and may or may not be "right or wrong"... so what exactly are they educating them about? The fact that these products aren't necessary? The fact that some of the products they sell are not only unnecessary but actually potentially harmful? Or the sexist implication that a woman's vagina is her most important part so she better keep it "fresh"?

(We're pretty sure it's the last one.) 

Related Posts:
Please continue to sign the petition to end the entire campaign (and pass it on!) Don't give Summer's Eve any more credit than they actually deserve.

**Note: In many parts of this blog we used the term "vagina" as shorthand to refer to both the vagina and/or the vulva. We do understand the difference... We're just going with Summer's Eve's generalization of "the V".**

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