Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cleaning up at the Y

I was born in 1957, meaning that, like most of you, I've lived my entire life in the Television Era. So over the course of more than a half-century I've seen some very odd things advertized on the cathode-ray tube. But this one is perhaps as peculiar as I've ever seen:Apparently it's from India, where, shockingly, Indian people live.

And some of these people are, surprisingly, women. And, even more stunning, some of these women have dark skin which is - astounding, yes, I know - somewhat darker in places. Specifically, around their crotch.

So here's how the blogger Deepanjana Pal at Mumbai Boss Explains it All to You:
"The ad shows a woman...looking mournful because her vagina is dark, like the cup of coffee she’s holding in her hands. The suggestion is that her depression is intensified by the fact that she has a disinterested partner who would rather drink coffee than, well, her. Cut to the depressed woman looking much happier as she goes for a shower. At this point we see an animation. It shows us a hairless, feminine crotch (with gravity-defying rose petals in the background, if you please)...once the animated crotch is whitened courtesy Clean and Dry, the woman emerges in a pair of shorts and proceeds to jump on a sofa and stuff her partner’s car keys into her shorts. This is, apparently, how women communicate they are available and have suitably tinted vaginas. Mine, incidentally, is thoroughly disapproving of such products and actions. (The only place that a car key should be stuffed is in the ignition.)"
This is entirely mystifying to me. What IS this bizarre obsession we hairless monkeys seem to have with...well, our hairy bits?

I mean sex, yeah, I get it. We're obsessed with each others' swiving equipment, and I can understand that. But it's the bizarre need we men - and it is men; first because both television and advertising are still largely run by guys and, second, I can't for the life of me imagine a woman standing at the bathroom mirror staring down at her groin and musing "Gee, I wish I was...not so...dark down there..." - seem to have with fiddling with our mom's, wives', girlfriend's, daughter's, and female strangers' reproductive areas.

I mean, first it was "merkins", and now..."Clean and Dry", so your puff-puff
(which, by the way, is what we call the lady parts around the Fire Direction Center; for some reason the Boy decided that while he had a "wiener" the former was the correct terminology for his mom's wedding tackle. After we stopped giggling hysterically we decided we liked the silliness of the term so it stuck. Hence a 54-year-old man referring to his lover's Mount of Venus by what sounds like the given name of a calico kitten...)
can be delicately pale and dainty?




It just seems truly damn strange to me, in an intellectual fashion.

But...I think if I was female I'd feel a little more strongly about it;But maybe that's just me. Opinions, gals?


Labrys said...

I definitely feel more strongly about it. Any guy wants me shaved and color-altered better be ready for some alteration of his own.

Big Daddy said...

Wow, just wow; I thought the Trojan vibrator ads on ABC were out there but advertising yoni bleach on national TV is just mind blowing. The idea that skin color "down there" makes a difference is pretty strange, and it being mainstream enough to rate a TV ad is even more strange.

Lisa said...

Big Daddy,

Skin color everywhere, all the time, makes a difference.

Women have been using hydroquinone for ages to either lighten skin tone, remover liver spots, whatever. Lightness has usually been favored. Look at most recent tribal and ethnic wars (Hutus vs. Tutsis, etc.) and you will see the lighter skinned are more favored and privileged.

A timely comment on the topic of beauty in general was made yesterday by Ashley Judd in The Daily BeastThe Daily Beast in response to speculation of her "puffiness"; she acknowledges that we women are complicit. Oh, maybe not the Naomi Wolf's among us, but most are:

That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.

A case in point is that this conversation was initially promulgated largely by women; a sad and disturbing fact.

Lisa said...


We will continue to be fascinated by colorful bits and accord desirability based upon these externals until we decide we no longer need hierarchies. However, since that systematization is the greater glory of our language-inhabited world, its dismissal will not happen anytime soon.

Anyway, it's what we come from -- whether we think blue, red or yellow skin is fetching, we like to stare at and hunt for things. Vision is our best organ of receiving the world, even though it is rather woefully inadequate compared with the ability of many other beasts.

Even the bower birds are in tune with aesthetics than we.

FDChief said...

Labrys: Roger that!

BD: I'm not positive, but I think that has something to do with some sort of "lighter is better" fixation among many Indians. My understanding is that the "ideal" look is supposed to be this sort of tall, pale North Indian/central Asian phenotype, as opposed to the small, dark Tamil phenotype from south India. You'll note that both the actors in the commercial are VERY tall, slender, and pale.

So any hint that you have some "dark" secret in your familial past - like greatgrandpa married some dusky maiden from Sri Lanka - MUST be concealed...

Lisa: The odd thing (to me, at least) is the way that these body image makeovers ALWAYS seem to be designed to make a woman seem less "womanly"; pale instead of ruddily vigorous, depilated instead of bushy, dainty rather than earthy.

Frankly, it makes me think of someone who doesn't really LIKE women much.

Lisa said...

Chief says,

Frankly, it makes me think of someone who doesn't really LIKE women much

I agree with you. It looks like an erasure of tone, which would seem to be a negation of individuality; but also is in accord with one female archetype (pallid maiden). However, this commercial, in its sexuality, would seem to be giving agency to the female as opposed to keeping her wan in a castle:

She snatches the key (=power) and drops them in her, um, snatch! So, via obeying the societal norm, she gains some control. But it is an ironic form of control, for she must first control herself (her body). By taming one part of herself, she may display more boldness elsewhere. Anyway, the power is a feint, for the man ultimately will retrieve "the keys".

Why no more ruddy complexions? Well, that was a sign of fitness for breeding and other purposes; in our affluence we have overridden those needs by farming out uteruses and yard work. Natural indicators of fitness have given way to pure obedience to couture, IMHO. This makes us rather silly, IMHO.

You see, you LIKE women, and I don't know that it is a given that most men (or women) do, also. So they'd rather she be contained, de-scented, depilitated ... because she is too much of something, and too little of something else, which we have a filler for, too.

Fakhra Younus, a Pakistani victim of an acid-attack, committed suicide 3.27.12. I will attach a poem which makes me think of that and the dark undercurrent to the body wash message.

Not to be ridiculously radical, but it is a spectrum, it seems: If a woman is not fit as is, and we compel her to alter herself (=changing her identity), then we may also impose the alteration forceably.

Lisa said...

It is a harsh poem, but many women do this figuratively in every relationship:

The Friend

We sat across the table.
he said, cut off your hands.
they are always poking at things.
they might touch me.
I said yes.

Food grew cold on the table.
he said, burn your body.
it is not clean and smells like sex.
it rubs my mind sore.
I said yes.

I love you, I said.
That's very nice, he said
I like to be loved,
that makes me happy.
Have you cut off your hands yet?

--Marge Piercy

rangeragainstwar said...

To all,
We are all oppressed by the figures of beauty per Cohen in Chelsea Hotel.
Wew men breed with figures of beauty and end up with zombies, or becoming zombies.
I wonder about the survival function of our attitudes. If we want to survive we need to breed for something other than another generation of cheer leaders and sorority pledges.
Unless you're a politician and need eye candy on your arm to prove your lower areas are hairy, even if hers isn't.

rangeragainstwar said...

i know that u'd be disappointed if i didn't comment on the AK pic.
I know more about that than the lower regions.
She is not wearing ear or eye protection.As a medic you know how important protection is.
She has no stock weld and is not using her eye properly. She needs to look straight on to use the eye effectively.How would she look at a penis- not from the bent eye.
Same for the way she's holding the weapon.Her grips all wrong.
The weapon(penis) should be held naturally and loosely thereby lessening muscle tension that is transferred to the weapon.
The ear rings and bracelets always help to tighten up the groups.

Lisa said...


This is provocative thought:

If we want to survive we need to breed for something other than another generation of cheer leaders and sorority pledges.

Indeed. But the Pepsodent commercials, and Playboy, and religion, and guys in the locker room all tell us something different, and we try and reconcile those imperatives when most are still to young to understand the conflict and superficiality of the demands.

Like The Korgis sang, everybody's gotta learn sometime, and I think that means learning what's right for you, and damn the indoctrination and enslavement to imposed or received expectations.

FDChief said...

Lisa: I know that this is a commonality for "women's products", male-eye-intended stuff for and about women, and advertising in general - the notion that "what men want" (and, by inference, what women SHOULD want to be) is this slick, hairless, sexy-but-not-blatant-seductive-but-not-"pushy", ever-smiling, ever-chipper, slender, pale Stepford Wife.

But I honestly wonder how many people, men and women, really WANT that?

Sure, life would be simpler if your lover/helpmeet/partner/spouse was just a little ray of sunshine whose everything smelled like one of those pine-tree fresheners you hang from your rear-view mirror.

But who the hell thinks that's anything like possible?

What occurred to me is a story I read about some chemist in Japan who developed a medication that had the effect of neutralizing the intestinal bacteria and waste products that - as we say around the FDC - make yo' butt so stanky. The thing wasn't really good for you (as you can imagine) but was intended for use in places like ICUs to make the place in general and the work of the orderlies less nasty.

And he was on record as saying that he feared actually releasing it because his countrymen and (especially ) women would be all over the stuff to make even their crap smell better, because of their obsession with minimizing the gross human body.

I wonder how much of this is an artifact of the ridiculous way we - the "romantic" elements in our public culture - have tried to prettify you gals in ways that make you more of an object and less of a person?

I mean, if you fight the evil queen and "rescue" a real person with unruly things like dusky genitals and her own desires you might find that she doesn't actually like you very much. Or that she has a loud laugh, or wears her glasses in bed when she reads - or would rather read when you want to do something else...

How much simpler if she has no hands?

FDChief said...

jim: I think that as an actual shooter this gal is intended to be, mmm...more of a cheerleader.

After all, a woman who was more concerned with first-round accuracy than looking sexy...who knows? She might prefer to put one in your center-of-mass than go out with you. How would that go down with your average Maxim reader?

Lisa said...

Sure, life would be simpler if your lover/helpmeet/partner/spouse was just a little ray of sunshine whose everything smelled like one of those pine-tree fresheners you hang from your rear-view mirror.

But who the hell thinks that's anything like possible?

... but Chief, you're describing me :)

Teasing aside, there is SO much to say on the topic. I've no idea why the new female "ideal" is akin to looking like a sleek and hairless seal (selkies, anyone?) I was raised by a mother who abhorred perfume and thought douches unnecessary and harmful in a day when they de riguer, and that all we needed to be was clean, so I have never struggled with a lot of this.

Perhaps it boils down to being satisfied with oneself, and then finding another with whom one may comport oneself. In oder to do this, one may not seek knowledge from the advert's one-size-fits-all approach. Perhaps all of our dissatisfaction comes from buying into the imposition of certain externally-imposed standards. We're all attracted to different scents -- perhaps subliminally -- so tampering with that seems foolhardy.

What would it be like to stride into the world as oneself, liking what one likes, without adhering to those standards? Could we even do that? Maybe the impulse to social norming is an innate part of who we are.

You have a large part of it when you refer to our perception of "the gross human body". To risk being abstruse, the body itself daily is in process of shedding itself on a cellular level. It is a "rejection", in that sense. To bring it back to the macro level, to be "content" is also on one level the beginning of dissolution, for upkeep is a part of life.

So I guess the impulse to perfect the body is a cry against going into that good night. It is ironic that in the fight against our own nihility we are actually complicit in the process by lopping off and subduing parts of ourselves, no?

Today, the anti-wrinkle creams demand top-dollar as the baby-boomer women fight to hold back the years. I often wonder about the balance between fighting entropy and actually experiencing life.

But I wonder about lots of things ...

Lisa said...

Per your response to Jim:

She might prefer to put one in your center-of-mass than go out with you! The women "shooters" in the gun mags never look like an actual Cagney and Lacey (more at Cagney) policewoman. NO, they sit primly cross-legged in safari outfit with shorts and boots, long gun poised across their knees, the implied message a teasing: "I could subdue you, y'know" ... if you LET me, because I'm just dressing the part of the huntress, and would never make a big, bad boy like you feel penis envy.

FDChief said...

Lisa, are you seriously telling me that if I stood next to you on a warm day you'd smell like one of those pine-tree air fresheners?


Kidding aside; I think that there's a HUGE double standard here.

Us Y-chromosome types can get all saggy and hairy and wrinkly and we still think of ourselves as He-man Sex Gods, we still think that you should fall down and worship our penile manliness.

But Heaven forfend that YOU should be anything but a sleek and slippery, taut-bodied, smooth-skinned Fountain of Youth. So we "trade a forty for two twenties" and go hunting for young poon to reassure us that we're not plunge-diving towards the grave...

I honestly don't "get" that. Oh, I get the "lusting after hot-bodied Teen Queen" thing - I think all guys do. But the actual DOING it?

Do you remember what a mess you were at 19? At 25? I sure do.

Who the hell would want a confused, immature barely-grown-girl in place of a woman who has lived, and loved, who knows herself and knows the world around her? Who is comfortable in her skin, rough places, sags, scars, and all? Who can dance barefoot on a sunny day, who can read a poem with gaiety and sing a dirge with grief, who knows when to shout and when to be silent, not because it's what you think you "want", but because she has seen life and herself, and has gained the wisdom of them both?

If there's one thing that drives me fucking nuts about people, it's our apparent preference for these glossy unrealities over the imperfect reality. Whether it's women, or war, or raising kids; we seem to desperately to crave life to bend to our delusions, rather than shaping our ideas to life as it is.

FDChief said...

I can't leave the whole pine-tree scent thing alone.

It's not just women; so many people seem to have problems with people who look, and sound, and, well, smell like people.

I mean, no, I don't like the nasty dirty socks in the laundry hamper, regardless of how shapely and strong my lover's feet may be...

But clean, warm skin? The salt-tang of the sweat of hard work or energetic play? The sun-bright smell when you press your face into her hair on a summer day?

And even her more intimate places; how could any man who loves women find them anything but endearing?

Assuming she bathes regularly and keeps herself decently tidy (which weighs upon us hairy types to do the same and more - how many times have you seen men walking around with nasty stubbly faces, dirty clothes, and untrimmed nails?) how could her natural body ever be anything but a delight? Why the hell would you want to douse those lovely scents with perfumes or drench them with douches?

People are freaking whack. Advertising people are TRULY whack, though the sad fact is that they wouldn't hawk this crap if no one would buy it. So:

People are whack.

Lisa said...

You are sublime when you describe women and your feeling toward them. What faculty and what feeling :)

This is it: "we seem to desperately to crave life to bend to our delusions, rather than shaping our ideas to life as it is." Therein lies the source of our misery and confusion. We impose our explanations upon the people or phenomena we cannot know, always in a way to better our self esteem.

Like so many pop song lyrics implore: "Tell me lies," "Give me a reason to believe," ... It is the externalization of responsibility for the deception that WE commit through our own inauthenticity. Ah, but we are bauble-loving creatures who love to be mystified. We have bedaubed ourselves with fanciful pigments for as long as we could extract them I'm sure. Ditto scents.

Remember the old ad campaign, "If you want to capture someone's attention, whisper"? One can't say much meaningful when practicing a breathy presentation, but the suggestion is that you will entrance by being enigmatic. To me, people are enigmatic enough -- the boring ones via obliviousness, the clever ones due to depth . . . why affect it?

To me, the shaving and scenting is all part of that enigma-making which we feel gives life meaning, or at least, erases some of its drabness. I just don't find it interesting. If everyone is doing the Brazilian wax, what makes it special? Moreover, what a waste of time and money. And, it does not look appealing to me.

I don't do deodorant and am offended by perfume scents when in public. I feel like these women think they must do it, though. I remember my grandma's boudior and her many perfume bottles. Shalimar and Chanel No. 5 defined her, but I never liked it.

Lisa said...


Thank you for this post -- it has helped me understand a longstanding tension in my upbringing. The woman who wore the perfume was my mom's stepmother, also Miss Hoboken 19-something. Always in mink & heels in the pictures, and looked like Ginger Rogers; the type who "put on her face" before going out.

OTOH, mom's mother was a simple Englishwoman, and I believe mom felt it an alienation of affection to be on Grandma #2's side about anything, so she always disdained any sort of ornamentation. Of course, she was also in the Gloria Steinem era, as well. But when I consider the matter now, I think there was an aspect of "opposition" in her convictions.

Anyway, I'm not opposed to reasonable small things, like a dab of color on the lips, and I'm actually thinking of getting pierced ears so I may wear simple, tiny studs (is that not fraught with Freudian undertones?!?) My mother disallowed piercing as a denigration of the body, but I think that small thing would not be too much.

Anyhow -- thanks for the provocation :)

FDChief said...

Lisa: Ta.

And the thing is, moderation in all things, including moderation.

So there are times for perfume and dangly earrings, there are times for the fresh sweat of hard work and tiny gold posts.

There's a time for strappy heels and a time for sandals...and a time for bare feet.

There's a time for a silky sheath dress, and times for cutoffs and an oxford shirt.

It's the woman inside that makes the clothing or the accessories, rather than the other way around. So if you're in the mood for glitter and glamor, you can make it work, while if you feel like being scuffed and quiet, you can make that seem cozy, warm, and welcoming.

I think the problem comes when you're commanded - whether it's by your family, your guilty conscience, society, your peers - to appear in ways that don't fit you, well, they feel uncomfortable and unpleasant on you. And to your companion, they seem awkward and forced.

There's a famous story about "Beau" Brummel, the leader of fashion of his day. His attention being drawn to a fellow exquisite's latest mode, Brummel eyed this gentleman gently and said quietly; "Ah, yes, well, you see that George's tailor makes him. I, however, make my tailor."

So I think that - should you choose to want to feel elegant - you would devastate in a dark red sheath dress and heels, with your dark hair and eyes set off with gold at your neck and earrings.

But I think you could be equally devastating in a simply white chemise and sandals.

But it's making the dressiness serve you - rather than the other way around.

Lisa said...

Again, absolutely lovely :) You have such an understanding of women, and your sincere empathy is terribly attractive.

Agreed : the problem comes when you're commanded, even when those directives are benign. Once started down the road of emulation, it's probably hard to find your way back.

I s'pose we're always influenced by the family in which we are raised, so being a slave to silly fashion was not in the cards. Not that mom did not have the most ornate gowns for evening events, but her preferred mode was flats and Capris.

Primarily, I like to be comfortable, and as you say, if one has that ease, it will translate to your surroundings. I am indebted to my my mother for teaching me that ribbons and bows do not automatically translate to being pretty or feminine (though I had those, too); "pretty" was something from the inside out. So thankfully, I never had a hard time prioritizing what mattered.

I am most often "scuffed and quiet", and content.