7.17.2012

vaginal discharge. now i've said it, too. (thanks, carefree.)

How can it be that an advertisement is considered controversial because it clearly states the intended use of its product?


Strangely, it makes perfect sense, in a world where legislators are banned from their workplaces for uttering the word vagina, where breasts are used to sell everything in creation, but the most basic function of a breast - feeding babies - must be hidden from view. A world where the product in question is itself marketed under a euphemism: feminine hygiene.

Thank you, Carefree, for an ad that uses plain language. Thank you, too, to model Cody Condell, who says she is "proud to be part of" the Australian Carefree campaign. Now would everyone else just grow up?
How would you describe the substance that comes out of a woman's private parts when she's not menstruating?

Let’s just call it what it is: vaginal discharge.

That’s what Carefree did in its latest ad for underwear liners, which shows a naked young woman, her body hidden behind white flowers, discussing the often taboo subject of female bodily functions.

Ads for “feminine care” products are replete with euphemisms (and what’s with the blue liquid?), featuring young women beaming at the camera while they strike a yoga pose or jump off a diving board.

“You never see a bathroom, you never see a woman using a product,” Elissa Stein, co-author of the book Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, told The New York Times in a 2010 article about menstrual product ads. “They never show someone having cramps or her face breaking out or tearful – it’s always happy, playful, sporty women.”

After the Carefree ad aired Sunday night, the Advertising Standards Bureau in Australia starting receiving complaints – five so far. But the company has defended the commercial, saying it is “the first time a major brand has had the guts to use real words, not euphemisms or diminutive terms."

Campaign spokeswoman Debbie Selikman told Nine News in Australia that Carefree conducted research and found that women wanted ads to use the proper terminology for their anatomy; other words used for vagina made women feel like they should be ashamed or embarrassed about their bodies.

It wasn’t until 1985 that the word “period” was said on TV in a Tampax commercial by none other than Courteney Cox (before Friends, of course). That was 27 years ago. Maybe one day we’ll look back and think how silly it was that “vaginal discharge” would be described in any other way.

12 comments:

Jere said...

I can't believe the first line of an article knocking euphemisms contains the term "private parts"!

laura k said...

I assumed that was intentional, for humour. I sure hope so!

johngoldfine said...

Maybe this is what happened: although 'vagina' was the logical word to use in sentence one, to have done so would have lost the shock value of 'vaginal discharge' in sentence two.

So, the writer is left with 'genitalia,' which slightly overstates the case or various euphemisms or crudities.

I think 'private parts' works nicely as humor, though italicizing it would have settled any reader's doubts about word choice.

John F said...

@Jere: "Knocking euphemisms" would itself make a great euphemism for...uh, you know (blushes).

John F said...

Also, this reference is obligatory for this thread.

This debate is Victorian in its silliness. They were the ones who started referring to light and dark meat on birds so they wouldn't have to say "breast" and "leg".

impudent strumpet said...

Still ready and waiting to instantly switch my brand loyalty to whomever uses red liquid in their commercial first.

laura k said...

They were the ones who started referring to light and dark meat on birds so they wouldn't have to say "breast" and "leg".

Seriously? I love Victoriana and I never knew that. Excellent. Thanks, John F.

Also for the monologue link. :)

Jere said...

Relevant.

laura k said...

Still ready and waiting to instantly switch my brand loyalty to whomever uses red liquid in their commercial first.

....

Relevant.


Makes me wonder if Imp Strump will ever get the chance.

John F said...

Speaking of Victoriana: My late grandfather grew up on a farm in rural Ontario in the 1910s and 20s. There was an elderly widow in the county who made her living from a flock of Leghorn chickens. Being a proper person of the old school, she was scandalized by the word "leg", and referred to her chickens as "Limbhorns".

laura k said...

she was scandalized by the word "leg", and referred to her chickens as "Limbhorns".

You're not joking, are you? This sounds like something out of Blackadder.

John F said...

You're not joking, are you? This sounds like something out of Blackadder.

I'm not joking. My grandfather may have been, but I doubt it. His funny stories were usually true.

He also used to be quite humourous on the subject of all the farmers taking note of each other's morning start times. They each wanted to be the hardest-working, longest-suffering Scots Protestant in the neighbourhood.