|Yoni puja, worshipping the vagina, from Yogini Temple, MP, India|
I’d like my vagina to be nice and bright. This is my choice. Just as women make a choice to depilate the pubic area, or opt only for a bikini wax. Why do we do it? To feel clean and because we do not want hairs sticking out from the sides in swimsuits and lacy lingerie. We do not want menstrual blood drying on hair in the private parts unless we take good care to wash. We do not like smells that emanate from there, however natural the odour. Fragrant soap and powder are our allies. Often, we use panty liners because of the discharge.
So, why the vitriolic, supposedly feministic, reaction to an Indian feminine hygiene product only because its tagline states: “Life for women will now be fresher, cleaner and more importantly fairer and more intimate”? I found nothing offensive about the 25-second ad for Clean & Dry Intimate Wash that is aired on television. In fact, it seemed like a regular liquid soap. I missed pretty much of the controversy surrounding it until just the other day.
There are several ads where women cook, clean, dress for a man’s pleasure. One ad a while ago showed a village woman getting a little orgasm washing her husband’s underwear at the river! There are small sounds about these, not loud moans, as in this case. I was surprised at how proving oneself ends up being another form of peer pressure. “If you believe in women’s rights, how can you tolerate this typical obsession with fairness?” is the first dart thrown. Since it has to do with genitals, and Indian ones, the issue has become international. And the Indian ladies, who probably stuff their faces with SPF 50 sunblock cream or carry little paisley-print brollies to protect themselves, went ballistic. It was as though they were just waiting to show the world that we Indians don’t just have elephants and call centres and IT guys, we have the hardware that does not need any software. It was a bold step to out their pubes and flaunt its different shades.
To add ballast to their argument, they used the tried-and-tested racist angle. In India, there is most certainly a bias with a preference for fairer skin. But it is not based on caste or religion, but region. Face fairness products do show that success depends on how light-skinned you are. Unfortunately, the wrong man has been quoted to explain this. Indian theatre personality and veteran ad man Alyque Padamsee said:
“The only reason I can offer for why people like fairness, is this: if you have two beautiful girls, one of them fair and the other dark, you see the fair girl’s features more clearly. This is because her complexion reflects more light.”
This brought about a flurry of, ooh, so my vagina has to reflect light. However asinine his views, he was not talking about the pubic area.
Don’t these people read sex advice columns? Look at the number of men, much more than women, who want a solution to the dark area around the genitals. They are equally concerned about clipping hair or dried semen inside the folds of the foreskin. Brazilian waxing has become popular in some countries among men and a few salons even offer to embellish the area with little jewels. If a product such as the one for women is launched for men, they will most certainly opt for it. We are anyway talking about a limited section of people who use these.
I find it pathetic that there is anger about a woman pleasing a man. Well, I do not know how many of us women sit down and take a good look at our vaginas in a day and say with much poise and confidence, this is who I am and proud of it. It makes no sense. Sex – and due to circumstantial requirements the genitals are involved – is about pleasure: receiving and giving it. Yoni (vagina) worship was as common as lingam (phallus) worship centuries ago. Men try hard; women do so too. In fact, while women invest much more in ‘things’ – thongs, unguents, waxing - men have to rely on their organ. These women ought to ask themselves whether or not they have pampered themselves with such seductive indulgences. Partly, it could be the reasons I mentioned at the beginning, but like hell it would be a lie if no woman has tried to please a man in bed because it gives her pleasure too. Oh, watch out, whipped cream is white.
Wait. They are not against pleasure. They just don’t want to be coloured. I read this piece of tripe in Jezebel:
In this commercial for an Indian product called Clean and Dry Intimate Wash, a (very light-skinned) couple sits down for what would have been a peaceful cup of morning coffee – if the woman's disgusting brown vagina hadn't ruined everything! The dude can't even bring himself look at her. He can't look at his coffee either, because it only reminds him of his wife's dripping, coffee-brown hole! Fortunately, the quick-thinking woman takes a shower, scrubbing her swarthy snatch with Clean and Dry Intimate Wash ("Freshness + Fairness"). And poof! Her vadge comes out blinding white like a downy baby lamb (and NOT THE GROSS BLACK KIND) and her husband – whose penis, I can only assume, is literally a light saber – is all, "Hey, lady! Cancel them divorce papers and LET'S BONE."
Despite the attempt at in-your-face bravado, it reminds me of a sophomore necking in a corner, puckering collagen lips when caught. It is an insecure reaction, for the assumptions override the facts. The couple is light-skinned, as in many ads. Why does a woman have to be dripping? Who is the one putting pressure on the female here? And the hole is not about colour. It is the area around the vagina. If there is such a problem with that, I can imagine how difficult it will be for the drippers to find their clits, just in case the man ignores them.
In an ad of a few seconds, everything has to be quick. She is going to take a shower, which isn’t bad. Maybe she is spraying the water jet inside her for a bit of self-love, just in case he isn’t all that much of a dude, eh? In one wash, she comes out feeling fresh and dry (aha, there goes the dripping fun you had on her behalf). So they, the story goes, end up in bed and he cancels the divorce. Strange that it does not strike the faux fur-flying feminists that she might want to divorce the man and live with a bright and fresh genital location. What a shame, for are they not revolted that women want to please men?
Do us a favour. Since you look at yourself, and you are so against this fair business, just pour some dark chocolate on your vagina. This is a statement you are making, so don’t let any man rear his head near you.
(c) Farzana Versey
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Update: Am linking two old pieces to give a perspective. And spare me the crackers about how your feminism is bigger than mine.
On the movement to get men to shave: A close shave?
On men's rights, feminism, and beyond: Another patriarchy - Feminist men and Amazonian women