Harry Potter and the Summer's Eve Ad? What?

I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 today.  ~contented sigh~

What follows is not thoughts on the movie (~contented sigh~), but a tl;dr post about an ad that ran with my theater's reel.  (Well, "reel.")

It was a Summer's Eve commercial, from which I gather they have a new ad campaign going.  The tagline of the campaign is "Hail to the V."  I can find videos online that involve talking hands (positioned vertically, because they are representing vaginas), but I can't find the ad they screened in our theater.  If I find it later, I'll update with it here.  For now, here's what I remember:

First we see a woman holding an infant up to the moonlight, in a suggestion of a prehistoric kind of setting.  The next scene is a Cleopatra-like figure walking out on a dais above her adoring subjects.  She thrusts her arms above her head in a victorious V and they all cheer.  Third, we see a Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon type fight (in a bamboo forest and everything) between two men battling, presumably over the young woman watching them amidst the bamboo.  Finally, it shows a joust with two knights riding toward each other, and a queen or noblewoman watching them with evident excitement and possibly lust.  All throughout, the narration is along the lines of, "It is the foundation [or something like that] of society; [stuff I don't remember]; through time men have fought for it [at the bamboo shots], even died for it [on the joust hit]" etc.  

Then at the end of the joust scene, it cuts to a woman in a grocery store ladies' bizness aisle, and the narrator cries something like, "So show it some love, ladies!"  

"It" is of course the vagina, and the grocery store woman is holding a Summer's Eve "feminine wash" product.  

When I'd seen the martial arts scene with two men clearly fighting over a woman, I started thinking, "What is it, love?"  And then the jousting I thought, "Yeah, I guess, love."  

But no, they're not talking about love, or even love as metaphor for sex.  They are literally talking about literal vagina.  (Though presumably Summer's Eve non-douche products have more to do with the vulva and labia?)

On the face of it, the campaign is about empowering women about their bodies through knowledge and confidence.  And I can entertain the idea that the creative team really was working from such a place.  Because - again, on the face of it - we're talking about the awesome and unique power of the vagina, about how special and awesome the vagina is, and isn't the vagina just awesome you guyz?  

We see an infant lifted up to the moonlight, the moon being your prototypical female celestial body, aside from Venus.  (Discounting the part where the uterus has really more to do with the production of an infant than a vagina does, particularly if the birth isn't vaginal?)  We see a female Pharaoh (looks older than Cleopatra, but I'm not assuming the design team knows the difference between Cleopatra and Hatshepsut), and who doesn't associate the female Pharaohs with ultimate lady power?  We see obviously skilled and powerful men just aching to beat each other out for the chance at love from a woman who clearly holds power over their fates.

The scene of the two martial arts fighters battling in the bamboo forest with the young woman watching them from behind the stalks edges into more problematic territory:  Are they going to kill each other?  Is she just letting that happen?  Does she have any agency in who "wins" her when the fight is over, or is this like a mountain goat situation where brawn means all, regardless of her desires?  Ditto on the jousting scene, though in the idiom of courtly love it's hardly assumed that this noblewoman (queen?) will actually sleep with her sponsored knight.  If anything, the jousting scene, because of that reality about how the ideal of courtly love worked, doesn't really belong in the ad. (NOT that it was free from sex or adultery or fornication or what have you, but by and large, it was not assumed that the lady whose favor a knight vied for would sleep with said knight.) 

Now, I'll give you that the ad was supposed to be lighthearted and humorous, and I'll give you that I laughed.  But I wasn't laughing at the content of the ad, at least not in the way I was meant to.  I was laughing a) at the ridiculousness of having a Summer's Eve commercial with a HARRY POTTER MOVIE, and b) at the thinly veiled sexism that defined the whole ad, and just how balls to the wall it was.  (To use a wholly inappropriate expression.) A sexism that works both ways, by the way.  Is this ad saying that men are totally powerless over the allure of the birth canal and adjacent outer bits?  That's not terribly flattering to men.

I think we can skirt over the surface issue of, "We all know that Summer's Eve is actually more likely to irritate the external female genitalia than to make it healthier, yes?"  And at this point we can definitely gloss over the problem of, "We all know that in the vast majority of cases douching is actually unhealthy, right?"  

Let's just skip that and take it as a given that the existence of Summer's Eve as a long-standing brand is basically thanks to the scariness of the female genitalia and the ickiness of the vagina in the minds of popular culture.  (You guys!  It has mucus membranes!  Eeeww!)

So let's posit that to "show [the vagina and vulva] some love" is all this ad campaign wants to do.  Fine.

The entire construction of this particular ad is founded on the presumption that all the power, all the influence over society, over culture, over child-rearing, and hell, over finding love that women have ever had was always and forever based solely on their literal vaginas.

The most important thing a woman ever gives an infant is pushing it out of her vagina.  The reason empires followed and enemies fell to female Pharaohs was that they had vaginas, which were, presumably, available if the right price was paid.  The only reason two men would have to compete for the attentions of a woman is the sexy sex her vagina can bestow.  (Particularly if she's a queen or landholder - there's definitely no other reason to want to get on her good side then, no treaties to be had or laws to be hammered out or anything.)  The website has articles about breaking the verbal taboo of "vagina."  Cool.  So use the word in your commercials and print ads, then.  According to the print ads of this campaign, Cleopatra's vagina (well, her "V") was "her most precious resource."  Really?  REALLY??  The only way to make sense of that assertion is by dropping acid.

Ladies, all you are, in the end, is a vagina.  Hillary Clinton is just a vagina.  Elizabeth I was just a vagina.  Sally Ride is just a vagina.  Aung San Suu Kyi is just a vagina.  We are all just stinky, unloved vaginas that can maybe smell like delicate blossoms and be adored if we buy Summer's Eve!

Do I think that's actually what the ad's creative team was thinking when they sat down and storyboarded it?  No, absolutely not.  I think they imagined they were being funny and memorable.  I'll definitely give them memorable.  I'm even willing to bet that advances in science mean that today's Summer's Eve products are for the most part innocuous if you're not sensitive-skinned.

But the reduction of women to their vaginas, to objects - that's the reduction the ad's creative team worked from.  I find it entirely easy to believe that not a single person in the brainstorming session sat up and went, "Hey, you guys realize we're reducing every accomplishment women have ever achieved and every contribution they've made to society to men's uncontrollable greed for vaginal sex, right?"

I hate that I went into my final first experience of a Harry Potter movie distracted by this stupid ad.  I'm glad I was the only one I heard laugh in my theater.  If no one else was as disbelieving as I was, at least no one else thought it was very funny.  

Edit: Thanks to anon for finding a link:


  1. Ha-ha-ha! I saw the ad, too, and couldn't believe it. I thought it was most inappropriate to show it at a movie theater when they were showing Harry Potter -- a movie that was watched mostly by children. I was embarrassed, I was there with my grown son. Ugh. I could hear the ripple of disbelief run through the audience. Most inappropriate to show it at this movie. I found it a distraction, too. And, yeah, it gave a stupid subliminal conclusion -- women are only body parts.

    OMG, I had to type in "skincut" for word verification!

  2. LOL! "skincut," that's unfortunate.

    I think the youngest person in my theater was an older teenager there with her mom. They were standing behind me in line, and they seemed pretty cool and comfortable with each other. I was the only person who had an audible reaction to the ad. I hope everyone else just thought, "With HP? Really? Dumb."

  3. I saw that too! Totally agree that placing it HP7II was poorly done. (then again, what would GOOD placement be?)

    All I can say is that it was probably a bunch of guys thinking (incorrectly) that they were "empowering" women that came up with this. If a similar commercial were to say "Hail to the P" and show men using lances and launching rockets and driving penis cars I think many would find it offensive and sexist, impying that men have power over women because they have penises. But us, the "weaker sex," need to have our precious parts put on parade to remind us how powerful we are.... apparently it's not our minds but our "V's" that make us worthwhile.... /sad for society

    At least HP is one series they didn't make the heroine dress like a .... well, you know.

  4. Oh good word! "Hail to the P." I can't even imagine...

    Although, as one of my friends said, "Where is the ad for Testeve? I'd buy THAT."

  5. Yeah, I saw the ad at the HP matinee with my mom and 8 year old brother. I just left a comment on the summer's eve youtube page. You should definitely add a comment on their page. The elderly man next to me whispered to his female friend, "well, it's true." I heard a younger guy shout, "WHAT. WAS. THAT?" and I laughed uncomfortably because I wasn't expecting to see a summer's eve product at the end of it.

  6. YES! Hahahahha. We saw that same commercial. The entire theater was cracking up.

  7. I thought it was hilarious...sure not the best taste but I and all my girlfriends where cracking up!

  8. I saw it while viewing Bad Teacher with my boyfriend...We both cracked up laughing. I thought it was fabulous and waaaaay funnier than the movie! Just proved to me that men are willing to fight and die for us! I immediately tried to find this commercial on the internet, to no avail...thought it deserved an A+!

  9. Bad Teacher seems like a wholly less surprising choice with which to present this ad, no?

    I realized when I wrote this post that I would risk being the "humorless feminist" by looking into more deeply than having gotten a chuckle.

    However, I just couldn't get beyond the suggestion (one that seems to be backed up in the print ads) that Cleopatra of all people owed her entire sum of wealth and power... to her vagina. From there it was hard not to extrapolate.

  10. I saw this ad at Horrible Bosses and immediately wondered if it was showing only at R rated movies. I didn't find this funny or cool -- completely inappropriate. Would a "power of the penis" ad be though of as funny?

  11. I saw this ad yesterday. I thought it was hilarious as did my husband. I think some people are thinking way into this ad. It was funny!!!! Maybe not the most appropriate place to put a summers eve ad, but children won't understand anyway. And if the last Harry Potter movie can have mother Wesley say.the word Bitch in it....then it must not be a movie strictly for young minds. Funny ad, some women take the female empowerment stuff way too seriously....we can be strong, empowered, brilliant and have a sense of humor!

  12. Funny ad. I don't see men complaining about the Axe commercials. I think they are ridiculous ads, but some are funny. Same with the summers eve ads, and this one happens to be on my list of funny ads!

  13. We went to see the movie "Queen To Play" yesterday. It was a wonderful French movie about a middle aged woman who is a hotel maid in Corsica. Unlike most French movies that depict woman as sexual objects this film was about an intelligent, motivated self-affirming woman who to the chagrin of her family, employer and community becomes a chess champion. It was so ironic that before this film started we had to watch that tasteless Summer's Eve commercial. I thought it was almost a disclaimer for the movie we came to enjoy. I said to my wife "At least this isn't the Harry Potter movie".

  14. Babba-Gi, that movie sounds really interesting! I will have to hunt it down here.

    As to the idea of taking things like this ad too seriously or not having a sense of humor at the same time as we have a sense of empowerment, I defy both of those assertions. This ad (nor the Axe ads) doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's perfectly acceptable to winnow women down to their body parts, just as it's perfectly acceptable to depict young men as only interested in getting laid. (Not that the Axe ads are any more flattering to women - they portray women as mindless creatures whose every evolved impulse is overridden by an olfactory response.)

    The idea of a "power of the penis" ad is ridiculous partly because it's so hard to imagine men's contributions to society arising solely from their possession of a phallus. That's what's troubling about the mindset this ad springs from, if not the ad itself. The ad itself might be tongue-in-cheek (I think it is, for the most part), but the cultural premise of woman-as-discrete-body-parts that supports the ad is troubling.

  15. The problem I see with the whole power to the penis comparison that keeps being mentioned is that in our society, men are known to think with their genitals. And trust me, they are not interested in a woman at first glance because they say, hey, she has a great personality, or even hey, she looks like she's got a great mind! I look at it as an ad mocking men and how they think, not that women are just a body part. As sad and true as it may be, this ad comes close to the truth with many men, and I did not say all, but many men do look at a female and only see body parts. Hence the reason breast augmentatuon is so popular.

  16. But why are men "known to think with their genital"? Judging by the men in my life, I just can't view men that way as a whole. I think one of the hallmarks of feminism is that it doesn't only hold women to a higher standard in terms of getting out there and fighting for equal recognition of themselves as full, autonomous human beings - it also holds men to a higher standard of behavior than a lot of "me Tarzan you Jane" rhetoric you see from the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus line of thinking. I fully believe that men are capable of functioning from their brains, not from their gonads, and that belief bears itself out in my own life, with the men and boys I know. Not that all the men I know are perfect, but from what I have observed, the mistakes and the accomplishments that men and women make really aren't so different.

    What truly bothers me about the culture that produced this ad is that the ad is just another iteration of "viewing woman through the lens of man." The women's agency in the ad is directly derived from how their vaginas relate to men. Cleopatra's empire has nothing to do with her strategy, her notoriously maddening and alluring political personality, her ruthless refusal to compromise. Nope, it's her vagina and how much Caesar and Antony want to get busy with it.

    Again: Did I chuckle? Yes, I chuckled. But, in the end, the existence of the ad is more troubling to me than it is humorous.

  17. Love it.

    I was stunned after watching this commercial last night before Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I really wanted to know what “it” was ... it was like The Matrix teaser trailers: what the hell is this movie about? Then, after watching it, it's like you've had the best experience of your life. Not so with this damn commercial.

    Your article is the first I’ve seen offering intelligent feminist commentary! I was searching for something on or the Ms. Blog. I haven’t found anything yet. Maybe the commercial is too new. I don’t know if just anyone can contribute to the Ms. Blog, but I think that your piece has great things to say.

  18. Personally, everyone in the theatre I went to died laughing. If your crowd didn't, maybe they just were a little slow to get what was implied answer at the end. Sure there's a lot to consider about the background analysis of the ad, but all in all, it was intended to be humorous, and it achieved that very well when I seen it.

  19. Thanks, B.Reed :)

    As to only focusing on the humor over examining the subtext and the context of an ad, how are we ever to grow and learn if we don't examine the things around us and ask where they came from, what motivated their creation, and what they mean? That's what I'm interested in doing when discussing this ad.

  20. Yes, please show a link when you find the video of it, I saw it at the theater, and for some strange reason i liked it.

  21. Great post CN. I think it's interesting how so many people are willing to overlook the negative connotations that underpin humor, which in this instance seem to be quite anti-women as whole beings. And whole beings who get to make choices about whom they will bestow V-time on, etc.

  22. Humor is the great disarmer, isn't it? Some people crack a joke to break the ice, some employ humor to distance themselves from pain. Laughing at the same kinds of jokes can let you know when you have convergent views with someone else and let you know that you can let your PC guard down around them. In the realm of feminism/anti-feminism, I find humor can be an especially bludgeon-worthy tool, since it's so easy to pull out the "humorless feminist" trope. (The other end of the spectrum being the "overly emotional feminist.")

  23. .................I laughed like an idiot for like ten minutes wtf!!

  24. Here it is on YouTube:

  25. I loved it! Power to the V!

  26. I enjoyed it and didn't find it offensive. Perhaps you're being overly critical? The Harry Potter movies were, after all, rated PG 13. Any child of 13 knows enough by then to understand and PG does stand for "Parental Guidance suggested"

  27. Inappropriate is the word I would use for this commericial! ...and in a movie theater besides!!! Are you kidding me???? Summer's Eve: You can do better!

  28. I loved it. It was funny, original and clever. The ad has certainly accomplished its purpose (as evidenced herein).

  29. They make a fair Point. As a Vagina Enthusiast, I find it frustrating when I spend $80+ on Dinner and sit through 2 hours of Catherine Heigel only to find Hairy/Dirty unpleasantness as my reward.
    Low tide at the beach? No thank you sir.

  30. As a Respect Enthusiast, I hate spending two hours making myself conform to conventional notions of beauty only to discover that my date is a misogynistic twerp.


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