On the Reaction to Reading Into Ads

So, apparently a lot of people are interested in the Summer's Eve ad.  A LOT of people are Googling it, I can tell you that much.  The reactions I've seen cover many and varied responses, most often that the ad is gross, inappropriate, hilarious, clever, or spot-on.

Whatever it is, it's an effective ad.  You can bet that more people are thinking about Summer's Eve than have done in some time.

The reactions to my own initial thoughts on the ad cover a similar spectrum, from almost point by point agreement, to telling me I'm overanalyzing something that's just supposed to be funny, or making too much of something that's basically true anyway.

Here's the thing: I don't think I am overanalyzing the campaign.  I just think I'm analyzing it.

I tend to believe that just because something is funny, doesn't mean that's all it is.  The campaign is "women are their vaginas" disguised as body positivism.  It's cute, it's clever, it's pretty, it's tongue-in-cheek, but it's still "women are their vaginas."  Summer's Eve is an entire brand built around the supposition that vaginas aren't acceptable in their natural, unscented, un-douched state.  It follows that their ad campaigns will always spring - no matter how clever - from a foundation of "not right," or at least, "not good enough."  To turn it around and try to make the products into a female empowerment brand is either dewy-eyed naivete, or cynicism.  Given that we're talking about advertising, I'd hazard a guess at the latter.

I am, naturally, keenly interested in messages that reduce women to their bodies, or parts thereof.  If the idea of woman's body as sole signifier and resource isn't a semiotic seed for cultural germination of eating disorders, then I don't know what is.

But more particularly, in this case, I'm interested in what it means that Cleopatra's most precious resource was her vagina, not her unparalleled skill at negotiations and intimidation campaigns.  I'm interested in an ad campaign that wants to claim the power and non-taboo of the word "vagina," but uses the euphemism "V" throughout.  I'm interested in how a product based around telling women that the most important piece of them is their vagina, and that this most important piece is unloved if it isn't bathed in chemicals, decides to cast itself as empowering.

And most particularly, I'm interested in the reaction to my reaction.  I'm interested in people's assertion that humor is all that's there, and that we should stop in our reading of the ad once we've had a laugh at it.  I'm interested in the insistence that looking beyond the ad's presumably self-aware humor is unnecessary, and an overreaction.  If you go into observation afraid of overanalyzing or overreacting, then eventually you're going to end up taking everything at its face value.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but once you assume everything is only what it first appears to be, how many chances will you lose to learn?


  1. I really liked this! It really made me think of the "insult du jour" of calling guys "douche bags" and what sort of implications that holds....

  2. Summer's Eve is Teh Evil. It shouldn't even be available. The vagina is self cleaning. There is literally no reason on Earth to douche. The only affect a douche could have is to cause infections. Seriously, the best you can hope for from a douche is that it does nothing.

    Also, douchebag is in the same category as men being called pussies. If it's on or relating to a woman, it's automatically an insult.

  3. It's interesting how analyzing from a feminist perspective is so often overanalysing, isn't it?

  4. I was trying to think of male-centric insults after a discussion on PF's blog. I came up with "dick." I think that might have been all I could come up with.

    Whhhy, Marzie, whhhhatever do you mean???


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