“Feminine hygiene” and forgetting about FSD

04/18/2009 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Over at Womanist Musings, Renee brought up a new feminine hygene product ripe for feminist critique. She found it via a women’s health forum a few days ago.

I like the title of the webpage the product is on. By “Like it,” I mean I’m being completely sarcastic & I don’t like it at all. The title of the webpage itself  is “Tight Vagina by Vagina Tightening Cream” but the actual product name is “St.Botanica Lady Secret Serum.” I find the difference in names significant. Somehow I can’t imagine the name “TIGHT VAGINA CREAM” going over too well in test marketing with the target audience.

Renee’s right in condemning this product & the geniuses who invented it. There’s a lot we can say about it and especially how it’s being marketed towards women, which seems to be Renee’s focus.

The marketing strategy, as always, can be summed up briefly as, “See a need, fill a need,” with the ultimate goal of making money, even if that means exploitation. But first, how do you get that need to exist to begin with? For the purposes of this product, you create the need by inventing new problems or by re-framing normal bodily functions into such away as to make a problem exist where really there isn’t one. It’s within the realm of normal for a vagina to have a mild odor, to experience some dryness or some wetness. It’s within the realm of normal for a woman to have shifts in libido in one direction or another, to not orgasm or not have G-Spot orgasms. That’s within the realm of normal, but I recognize that sometimes these things and others (Pain!) really do become extreme to the point where they present genuine problems – and when it reaches that point, I won’t stand in anyone’s way to find relief.

Somehow I doubt that this serum would offer any relief though. Let’s look at the ingredients, since I for one have to be careful about what goes on & in there.

Ingredients: Pueraria Mirifica and tropical herb extracts, Carbopol, Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Propylene and etc.

Pueraria Mirifica sounds like Ephedra… never heard of it before now, appearantly it’s the answer to all your body needs. It may have a legitimate purpose in some situations but then, so do lots of other alternative remedies. I’m a little wary of the wiki’s edit history as well… I’ll pass for now…
Carbopol sounds just completely awful & like something I don’t want in my vagina… a Thickener, apparently. Is that like gelatin? It may have some use in medicine, but that just makes me even more hesitant to use it over the counter. In my vagina.
Water… is water. It’s in everything so fine whatever… then come some other ingredients that can be potentially irritating but nonetheless are found in typical sexual lubricants already available on the market.
Then “Etc…” …Okay what does “Etc” mean? Something St. Botanica’s doesn’t want to divulge, which means it’s probably something I want to know about. And no I don’t care about the secret formula that’s probably critical to this product’s success as a unique hygiene item. I just want to make sure I’m avoiding as many irritants as possible.

Besides, if you really wanted some of the benefits this serum claims it can give, you’d probably get the similar or better results by 1. Going to a gyno to screen for and treat treat any infection that might be acting up, 2. Talking to that same gyno about prescribing a topical hormonal treatment, if warranted due to a hormonal imbalance, menopause and/or old age, 3. Kegels/pelvic floor exercise 4. Other, cheaper over the counter topicals. I’ve heard tales of other women with vulvodynia who variously use vitamin e oil, olive oil, or emu oil topically to soothe irritation. I’m in the vitamin e oil camp (just don’t use oils with latex condoms or if you know you’re sensitive to them.)

So I’m not too impressed with this product and I don’t believe I’ll ever willingly go within 25 feet of a bottle.

Renee doesn’t sound too happy about it either. She recognizes the potential danger St. Botanica’s could present, and does a good job pointing out how the marketing exploits insecurities women feel about their genitals. Insecurity, exacerbated and often created by the marketers themselves and the culture in which they operate.

She is,

sick and tired of being shamed for being born with a vagina.  It’s an awesome body part.  What else can expand to give life to another human being? What else is capable of producing so much pleasure?  What else is so beautiful and intricately crafted?  It certainly is no penis; it is a wonder unto itself

…So on behalf of all of us problematized,vagina bearing beings….St.Botinca keep your noxious spray away from my goddess perfected, beautifully shaped, vagina.

Well, yes. It is tiring to constantly feel like your body has to live up to whatever arbitrary expectations are put in place by culture, especially when such expectations are unrealistic, unreasonable, time wasting & put in place to support the very same culture. These standards don’t benefit the group most effected by them. And yes, it’s very interesting & amazing that the vagina & cervix are capable of expanding to allow a whole new life to pass through.

I’m still learning how to derive pleasure from my vagina though… the first few years of using one resulted in pain and it’s gona be awhile yet before my body completely un-learns that response… And even then, “Completely” may be out of my reach.

So, yes…
And, no.

Unfortunately, unlike Renee, I am someone who does not have a “Goddess perfected” vagina. Mine is more like a, busted up, sewn-together, patchwork, Six Million Dollar Man vagina…

(I’m probably making it sound much worse than it actually is. It’s really not that bad.)

Of course there IS something wrong with my vagina – I am pretty sure healthy vaginas, vulvas & pelvises do not spend all day itching & burning & sending aching, shooting pain signals all down your (my) leg. That’s not “Common discourse,” it’s just me… I’m used to seeing discussions of these painful, life-disrupting symptoms on my vulvar pain support groups – but discussions like that are a lot less common on general women’s health forums. When such topics do come up, experienced posters often point out, “You may have a problem which genuinely needs treatment.”

That Renee asks What else is capable of producing so much pleasure?” without mentioning the capacity for pain may also be worth pointing out here. Shit, mine’s not working. Does that mean I’ll never be able to experience what you have? What else, indeed.

My point here being, while I agree with Renee’s assessment of this product and the way it is and others just like it are marketed to women, and I frequently agree with or at least appreciate her analysis of other women’s issues,
I’m still left feeling alienated by some of her language, too.
Which I know was never Renee’s intent at all.
Which makes it all the more unfortunate.

My vagina, vulva, what have you, is not perfect. It never was. It is never going to be. I don’t feel that way about mine. Instead, I want be content to live with my flawed, refurb post-vestibulectomy vulva, crafted not by a goddess as though woven from precious silk, but modified by a mere mortal man.
Alas, perhaps this modification in and of itself was enough to take away whatever divine spark my vulva supposedly had when it was still whole… even if being whole meant it was also On Fire.

My vagina really does have issues.  I’m sick of feeling ashamed & left out for actually owning one of those “Pesky,” “problematic” vaginas she’s talking about, complete with symptoms strong enough to interfere with my life. And I’m tired of feeling like I am “Doing it wrong” for wanting to, trying to treat these problems.

(And, on a lighter note, I am going to be so sick of spambots in a few days when I still get spam comments latching onto this post for actually using some of the same words they like to use.)

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