Should You Perfume Your Vagina to Get Ahead at Work? Let Summer’s Eve Know What You Think

There is a very good post over at Owning Pink – it had me at the title: Want a Raise? Wash Your Vagina. The post is about a full page ad in Women’s Day magazine for Summer’s Eve Feminine Cleansing Cloths. In that ad (a scan of which is on the blog post), there are 8 tips for asking your boss for a raise, the first of which is to use these cleansing cloths. Yes, the ad suggests you are more likely to get a raise if you “wash” your vagina.

Lissa Rankin of Owning Pink is pissed off and I agree with her. Be prepared, in her post she uses the word “pussy” a lot. With (great) respect to Eve Ensler, I don’t use the word “pussy” to describe my vagina. I am not particularly offended by it. I just don’t see the need to nickname or euphemise my body parts. I don’t have a problem with using or hearing the word vagina and, used to accurately indicate a vagina, it seems entirely sufficient.

But back to the ad. Anyone here ever been sexually harassed at work? I have. A lot. Even after clawing my way through law school and getting hired at a major corporate law firm, I still faced a superior who ogled me, left me inappropriate notes and touched my body at every opportunity. Did he actually smell my vagina before giving me a raise? No. But he certainly made it clear that he wanted to. And the fact that I didn’t let him smell my vagina didn’t alter how my co-workers treated me since when a superior makes it clear he finds you sexually attractive, co-workers tend to assume you are giving in to his advances. So add social ostracism to fear, despair, humiliation and self-loathing. It was a sad, painful experience and one I don’t wish on anyone.

There is a good deal to find offensive in the Summer’ Eve ad. Rankin’s Owning Pink post does a great job of addressing the whole notion that we need to change the way our vaginas smell. To suggest we do so is sexist AND unhealthy.

But this ad strikes a different nerve of mine. At 25, I graduated from law school at the top of my class, a law review editor, thrilled to be leaving a not-so-nice childhood behind. And I had barely passed the bar before I discovered the world up there with the rich folk wasn’t much different from the world I came from. I grew up sleeping with one eye open, waiting to see if some stranger would reach under my sheets in the night. I was often homeless and hungry. My law degree, I was to discover, didn’t change things all that much. I had a place to live and food to eat but I still had to endure sexual harassment. It was still all about my vagina. And Summer’s Eve thinks it still should be.

Among the comments to Rankin’s post is one by a person who says she is the Brand Manager for Summer’ Eve. Her name is Angela Bryant and she says: “I want to know what you would like to hear and see from Summer’s Eve, so send me an email at summerseve_cares@cbfleet.com.” So let her know what you think.

And let me know what you think. Tell me your sexual harassment stories. Do you think things have changed much since the 1980s when I was told nothing could be done and a lawsuit would destroy my career? Can you be valued for your work and not your sex?

6 comments

  • Sara Dodder Furr September 9th, 2010 at 9:53 am · Reply Good grief! The whole idea of Summer’s Eve and products like it has made me scratch my head from the moment I was old enough to understand the purpose of the product. I can remember some sort of spray product also being available and the thought of using that creeped me out as well. I’ve been sexually harrassed at several jobs, beginning when I was a waitress as a teenager. In fact, it wasn’t just the boss who thought that touching me was appropriate, it was customers as well and my inability to play along led me to make only a meager living as a waitress. I found it humiliating. Once I had my master’s degree and found myself unable to find a job in the early 1980s recession economy, I was once again forced to wait tables for a living. Nothing had changed. The drunken bartenders still ogled the waitresses and gave preferential service to the waitresses willing to play along. I wasn’t one of them. The customers assumed that since I was waiting tables, I had no brain. Again, I was a poor waitress (performance wise and financially) because I found the entire thing to be so humiliating and could not bring myself to flirt with strangers for a buck.I was sexually harassed by a supervisor at one professional job as well. This supervisor harassed both male and female employees who worked under him. It was painful to experience and to watch. In the end, he lost his job because of it. I worked for a great company at the time, which was not willing to tolerate that behavior at any level.Back to the ad…I don’t have TV so thankfully we are not exposed to these ridiculous ads while we’re watching TV shows (on DVD, Netflix Instant Queue or Hulu.com). The downside there is that I’m missing the chance to mock the stupidity of this type of product in front of my teens (male and female). So, how do I bring this up in polite dinner conversation so I get a chance to let them know how I feel?
  • Elita @ Blacktating
    Twitter: blacktating
    September 9th, 2010 at 2:13 pm · Reply I think every woman has been sexually harassed at work at some point. Because I do “women’s work” my bosses have almost always been women and none of them have harassed me. However, I have been touched and spoken to inappropriately by everyone from the IT guy who came to work on my computer to my own employees, as well as customers. People think because I look very young and I’m very friendly that I think these advances are cute and/or flattering. Wrong. I have had to set many straight. I can’t imagine the impossible position women are in when it’s the boss who is doing the harassing.
  • Judy@MommyNewsBlog
    Twitter: MommyNews
    September 9th, 2010 at 6:40 pm · Reply Wow – it is horrifying that any company would promote their product in this way. How awful! I’m also very sorry about the sexual harassment that so many women have endured. I have been very lucky in the work place and have not had to go through anything like that. Thanks for writing this article
    Judy@MommyNewsBlog´s last [type] ..Never Judge A Book By It’s Cover
  • Smelly Babies, Scented Babies | Breastfeeding Moms Unite September 13th, 2010 at 12:36 am · Reply […] we so deserve. Feminism at its finest, no? I just read a couple of angry posts about this ad at Sustainable Mothering – Should You Perfume Your Vagina to Get Ahead at Work? Let’ Summer’s Eve Know […]
  • lumina January 31st, 2011 at 10:37 am · Reply I’m surprised there are only four comments on this issue (the chemical altering of a vagina AND sexual harassment in the workplace).I’ve been sexually harassed in some form or another at almost every job I’ve ever held. Living in the South (as a PacNorthWest transfer) has been illuminating to me in ways I wish I could reverse. I have always worked hard to eliminate ignorance where ever I am, but living in the South is so overwhelming that I am beginning to believe that my own ignorance of this place would be ever so blissful.There is a man where I work who always makes jokes. These jokes are always derogatory to women. The woman controls the check book. The woman takes all the money. The woman rules the roost. The woman is silly and spends all the money on stupid stuff, and more! I mentioned to several female co-workers that his “jokes” bothered me, as I am exposed to them all day long and I can’t escape them. My co-workers agreed that he comments bothered and offended them too, but “men will be men”. Argh! So I took matters into my own hands and tried to talk to the male co-worker. He asked if I was pre-menstrual. DOUBLE ARGH!So I went to the manager. She (yes, SHE) assured me she would speak to him about the issue and coach him in appropriate workplace behavior. I left the office satisfied (because I’m an optimist and because I’m naive).Less than a week later everyone at work treated me like I was the Wicked Witch of the West. How dare I pick on that poor man? How dare I make a mountain out of a mole-hill? How dare I be one of those feminist-whistle-blower-nazis? I also heard that the manager with whom I had shared my problems had gone around the whole store telling everyone to stay away from me because I’m a “trouble-maker”.The only good news: that male co-worker doesn’t make those jokes anymore. And if he does, if he does it even ONCE, I’m calling human resources.In my history of working I have been groped, solicited for prostitution, grabbed, ogled, spoken to about sex and my sexuality, and stalked.
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    • Jake
      Twitter: Jakearyehmarcus
      January 31st, 2011 at 12:23 pm · Reply Yeah, I was surprised this post didn’t hit more buttons for more women. My experience of sexual harassment is that is knows no geographic boundaries and no class boundaries. I was in a large corporate law firm in a major Northeastern city. When I was a cocktail waitress, sexual harassment didn’t surprise me. It was crushing to learn that even with a law degree, it was still okay to treat me like just another piece of ass.