They're everywhere! It's almost as if you can't walk a block down a busy street without one smacking you in the face. They're taking over the internet, mainstream news, and the advertising field.
I'm talking about vaginas.
The Big V made headlines last month when a small but vocal public outcry (myself included) erupted over this Target ad in Times Square:
I just don't understand how ads like these make it through numerous levels of consideration and approval. I mean, did not one person think, "Hmm...it looks like her vagina is placed directly in the middle of a gigantic bulls-eye"? Did no one wonder aloud, "Ya know, I get the whole 'snow angel' angle, but maybe aiming the lens directly at the center of her spread-eagled legs is not the smartest choice"? Really - nobody? Perhaps the misogyny was unintentional, but still. Keep in mind that bulls-eyes are used for target practice (no pun intended) with rifles.
That crotch shot seems subtle compares to the Tom Ford for Gucci ads from last fall. Nothing sells expensive perfume a nude, sweaty woman with fake fingernails.
Absolut Citron's new poster campaign runs the tagline, "In an Absolut world, true taste comes naturally."
The image is a lemon squeezing through some sort of neon canal but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to get the vaginal reference. It's about as subtle as Georgia O'Keefe's flower artwork.
At least Emporio Armani has done their part to contribute to phallic advertising everywhere with the recent, um, erection of billboards announcing David Beckham as the label's new face. The black and white photos of an underwear-clad Beckham and his 80-foot tall bulge are the opposite of understated.
Watching TV the other day (admittedly, it was the Oxygen Network, where estrogen flows 24/7), I couldn't help but how ridiculously and stereotypically catered the ads were to what the female gender is supposed to be like. Besides a commercial for chocolate (indulge yourself...but only eat dinners with 300 calories!) and one for a vacuum that zooms around the room so you have more time to control your kids, my personal favorite was for a pH-balanced vaginal something or other called "RepHresh." Suffering from feminine odor, irritation, and itching? This stuff will make you smile. Then the voice-over says, "After your period? RepHresh! After intercourse? RepHresh! After douching? RepHresh!" I thought this last part was especially inane because (a) douching is not medically recommended, (b) it implies that even after doing something to make yourself "clean" "down there," like squirting vinegar inside your vagina, you're still not perfect enough and required further refreshing, and (c) the woman was smiling. And nobody smiles like that after douching.
With such rampant use of women's private parts in advertising, it's surprising that this gorgeous piece of artwork didn't slip past censors as easily as a woman with a giant bullseye on her genitals. Created by a member of the Seattle office of the National Council of Jewish Women's to publicize performances of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues, the Seattle Times refused to run the yonic ad unless it was altered, with the VP of advertising claiming, "The artwork was something we didn't feel was appropriate for our audience."
You know who DID think it was appropriate? The fabulous Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg of Temple B'nai Torah, situated in Bellevue, WA. The woman who created the ad is a member of Rabbi Kinberg's congregation and had her leader's full support. "We have it hanging in several places in our Temple," the Rabbi told Seattle Weekly. "I was just very disappointed that the Times didn't share our appreciation for what I consider to be tasteful and beautiful artwork. It's okay for a house of worship -- I know it's hanging in many other synagogues and Jewish institutions." Unfortunately, my temple was not one of them, but I'm working on getting my mother to display one in her Jewish Community Center preschool classroom.
(Another, somewhat less artistic, V-ish ad which ran in conjunction with the Vagina Monologues: River City Bagel & Bakery, of Boise, Idaho, of all places, chose their signature item - the bagel - to proclaim their love of all things vagina.
True, vaginas are, in most cases, kept under wraps: hygiene and workplace decorum and all. But some new forms of "underwear" have been making waves, resulting in near-naked women posing on internet lingerie websites clad in nothing but...a Strapless G-string?
I learned about this thong-meets-maxi-pad through a recent Reuters article, which profiled the undies that mold to a woman's body, adhesive (ouch) strips holding tight in the front and back. Besides Britney and Paris, who could benefit from such sartorial nonsense? Basically, anyone who not only wants to avoid the unsightly lines caused by full-fledged granny panties - the very reason thongs were invented - but also can't stand the flesh-bisecting lines created by thongs as they hug the hips and lower back. For those who really want something that can't be seen...except by the one you love...the strapless G-string comes in a number of patterns, including innocent white chiffon, gold studded black, and candy cane stripes.
Predating the strapless G is the now-old-school C-string:
This puppy has a similar design, although it looks a bit, well, sturdier. I believe wire is involved. Picture a pair of headphones turned upside down and slipped over your nether region and you've got the idea. I especially like the website's description of how "Your modesty remains safely covered at all times." Can an emotional trait be physically "covered"? Or are they using the word "modesty" as a euphemism for vagina? How Little House on the Prairie.
On Buzz Feed, e-arbiter of all things trendy and newsworthy, an entry entitled "Celebrity Cameltoe" logged 438,655 hits as of Monday. This makes me sad. (For the uninformed, consider yourself lucky - there's really no good reason such a phrase should exist except to entertain mindless sexual deviants.) But thanks to paparazzi long-lenses and public infatuation over all things celeb, playing Spot the Front Wedgie has become practically sport. As a result, we've got half a million people on one website alone clicking on close-ups of Tyra Banks, Kelly Ripa, Jessica Biel, Cristina Aguilera, Maria Sharipova, Alicia Keyes, Fantasia and more. Well, close-ups of their vaginas. As if women need to be dissected, ogled and made to feel embarrassed about their bodies even more than we already are.
I could go on and on. There's a movie out now called Teeth which is about a vagina with chompers. Subtitle: "Every Rose Has Its Thorns." (Note: I have not yet seen this movie about the mythical condition known as vagina dentata, so I can't say whether it's entirely offensive or has some sort of empowering hook. Please enlighten me f you have watched it.)And an Atlanta woman by the name of Alexyss Tylor has fans around the country hooked on her public access show, "Vagina Power," which she hosts with her mother.
So, why all the brou-ha-ha about whoo-hoos? Some suspect that in advertising, the vagina has replaced the breasts as the exploitable body part du jour. Now that no one is really shocked by a naked bosom anymore (Lindsay "Marilyn" Lohan, anyone?), there's nowhere to go but down. Literally. But what happens after the shock value of the jock wears off? Where could they possibly go next? Inside the colon? I also think it's representative of our society's growing reliance on sex to sell anything from beer to cell phones to internet service. It's lazy and has devolved from titillating to tawdry.
Of course, some of this focus can be viewed positively if you consider the kind of respectful and embracing artwork that was created for the Vagina Monologues (or the actual Monologues themselves, for that matter, which are uplifting, empowering and something every woman and man should see.) That gets people taking, it opens a public dialogue, and it reinforces the fact that Vagina is not at all a dirty word - despite what companies like RePhresh might have us believe. A TV show written and produced by a young woman and her mother about sexual health is a hopeful step in the right direction, too. But clicking on "Celebrity Cameltoe" or splaying a naked woman across the page with a bottle of cologne on her crotch is just plain disrespectful. As Dr. Bailey famously screamed at Dr. O'Malley while she gave birth in his arms, "Stop looking at my vajayjay!"
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