Nov 26, 2021
6 mins read
(Artist credit: unknown)
Content warning: misogyny, coarse language
Yesterday was American Thanksgiving, which is a pretty messed up holiday on about eight levels and I SHANT go into all of that now. Anyway I kind of wanted to keep things light today and this is a topic my Facebook friends asked for, so I suppose this post is about as light as I can get although it's kind of awful when you think about it.
Much has been made about the historical use of Lysol for vaginal douching and/or birth control, as horrifying a practice as this sounds to us today (and it really is awful: this article does a great job with a brief history). Whatever official or off-menu use Lysol was peddling, it is obvious the product should go nowhere near anyone's genitals. Even "modern day" douches, just like the Lysol ads, were inexcusably awful as marketers created and invoked insecurities about vaginal odor using copy and imagery both terrifying and unintentionally comic.
Today I present to you my seven favorites!
You do realize this ad is saying her whole-ass husband and father to their trepidatious young child, he left the family BECAUSE HIS WIFE'S VAGINA IS STRAIGHT UP LOW TIDE. "Another Love-match Shipwrecked... on the dangerous reef of half-truths about feminine hygiene." Talk about a tortured metaphor! What are these half-truths?! I need to know. How do you know HALF the story about douching?
By the way, these LYSOL douche ads routinely instruct women to use the correct dilution of the product, but I never was able to find this magic ratio. Keep in mind the LYSOL of today is about 1/4 as caustic as the Lysol of yester-year, which contained the carcinogen cresol.
Lehn & Fink, the makers of LYSOL, should rot in Hell for this. (All of it!)
I like this ad for the simplicity of its stark, accusatory message. "Are you a good housekeeper? Do you take care of your looks? Are your meals appetizing? Do you avoid nagging? Are you economical?" - then the BIG BLACK BOX with stark, devastating text: "Are you always careful about Feminine Hygiene?" I am hearing the Law and Order - Dun-DUN! Nailed it! You and your filthy nether-parts! You're destined to live alone! FOREVERRRRR
Also: Mad copywriting tips to the "3 - Spreading" text which implies Lysol will go on a little sentient march up your vaginal canal and search out those nasty germs 'n' sperms for you! I mean it's not science but WHY NOT?
Hmmm I see in my little folder I've saved the above gem as "spider-snatch.jpg", I simply love everything about this ad but my favorite part is how FUCKING PISSED OFF her husband is about her hygiene problems. Like he is sitting there pretending to read his paper and absolutely SEETHING. Good thing she got her business in order and hosed things down with a harsh chemical bath as we see the happily pair canoodling on the armchair - enjoying "love and close companionship" once again!
By the way did you notice "many" doctors ("many" means like... at least four) recommend LYSOL for Feminine Hygiene - for 6 reasons? This ad only reveals one of them. In my Google searches I could not find the other five. The suspense is killing me!
Yeah Jenny! JUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Your horrible snatch is running everyone out of the typing pool! Jenny may shower every day but she's "a girl", "living", "just moving around" - and so she gets completely disgusting pretty much right away!
I mean just in general if you're having some kind of body odor issue, blasting the area with a perfumed aerosol is not going to do much good. By the way if you're not familiar with Vespre, the Johnson & Johnson line seems to have been all too brief, perhaps because of their off-putting ads and weird copy like "for every day of your period" (... as opposed to...?)
Bold as brass, this ad takes the cake as the makers of LYSOL blame a husband's emotional abuse, neglect, and infidelity on her TERRIBLE VAGINA. Imagine your husband so upset about your vagina he just decides to NEVER COME HOME AGAIN and never talk to you about it. That's the future LYSOL wants to spare us from! Also if her vagina really is as bad as this ad says, it's really unfortunate she's standing batch-level with her husband's face. No wonder he can't spare a compliment!
Again with husband's expression of utter Disgust. The one thing he can't forgive!
As something of a copywriter myself, I can't help but tip my hat to the brilliance of shading salt and soda as "makeshifts". Listen I'm sure salt and soda don't work great but I guarantee LYSOL doesn't either, and either salt or soda would be healthier than using original-formula LYSOL all up in your beav. Hell, baking soda and vinegar would be better! - or Diet Coke and Mentos! (OK... there's gotta be a Tik Tok for that. RIP my browser history!)
Also! Ladies! Above all make sure you're "glamorous, dainty, and lovely to love"! These ads and other so-called "feminine" product ads used the words dainty and daintiness a lot. Never have I heard it so much! I wasn't quite sure what it meant before and I'm really not sure now!
Assuming grandmother survived the burns and blisters of the LYSOL era, well first of all her sugar walls are gonna be a lot tougher than today's generation of pussies! Like I'm thinking FRUIT LEATHER! Anyway I don't know what kind of relationship you had with your grandmother, but one thing I never talked about with mine, ever at any point, not once, were our thoughts on douching. Listen one grandmother I didn't get a lot of time with: she was a master gardener and made the best chocolate chip cookies I remember and she was the sweetest Polish granny ever. The other grandmother was a heavy-smoking, occasionally foul-mouthed bad ass bitch. I loved these two women so deeply that even thinking of them now I get a fierce pang of love and longing.
Missed opportunity because we didn't get around to talking about douching. In fact I've never had a single douching conversation with a single woman from my family! Oh my god! Maybe I'm one of these vaginal-wreck monstrosities these ads have tried to save me from! Mind = blown! Time to scrub up!
Funny as these ads are they continue the time-honored marketing tradition of terrorizing people who aren't cisgender men: terrorizing women especially for having bodies, for aging, for giving birth, for succumbing to gravity. Implying or straight up lecturing us that vaginas are in some ways disgusting, inferior, scary or "special" (I mean last I heard, people without vaginas still should consider hygiene practices). They'll probably unearth some French cave-painting where some creep carved, "Oook beaver smell bad".
Anyway if you've got a vagina, treat that homie with tender loving care and don't douse it with weird chemicals.
This has been your holiday message!
Flickr: Her Secret Past - So Dainty, Perky & Fresh!
How Vintage Ads Sold Women on Shame