The Vagenda

Vagisil, Real Housewives and The Problem With Febreezing Your Fanny

My vagina stinks. Or at least, that’s what my TV keeps telling me. Every time I’ve settled down to catch up on TOWIE (ahem) lately, a cartoon woman hiding behind a pot plant tells me that my vagina is one gigantic stinking sweat gland. But it’s OK – don’t panic! Because for just over a fiver, I can restore my dignity with Vagisil. Its “light and clean scent” will destinkify my muff so that unlike pot plant lady, I don’t have to hide away. This is one sure-fire way to protect myself from a co-worker announcing to the media how I couldn’t keep my partner because my “pussy stinks”.
Apparently, this guff (the Vagisil part, rather than Real Housewives – the jury’s still out on that one) is actually all about empowering women: Vagisil have seen “first-hand that when women take control of their intimate health, they are more focused, productive, comfortable and confident.” Except this isn’t about health, is it? It’s about Febreeze for fannies. And it’s from a parent company, Combe, that was started by a man and whose products for men unsurprisingly steer clear of their genitalia despite declaring open season on ours. What’s next? Commentaries on Theresa May’s vaginal pH instead of her shoes? Tea time adverts for anal bleaching? It’s ok for me – I’m stupid enough to be watching TOWIE and old enough to be angered rather than made anxious by manufactured insecurities. But what about younger girls who are growing up bombarded by sanitised porn muffs and Snapchat sexting? It won’t be so patently ridiculous to them; it’ll become a real, purse-emptying anxiety.
Vagisil sell a whole range of products to keep our “intimate areas” smelling sweet: wipes, powders, sprays, creams…They even have their own gynaecologist, Dr Adelaide Nardone, paid to imply in carefully worded videos that these products have something to do with vaginal health. All they need now is Britney or J.Lo to bring out their own pussy perfume and we’re away. Muff musk, anyone?
Dr Nardone’s been caught out plying Vagisil’s wares in the past on a Fox segment ingeniously titled “Is your vagina depressed?” without making it clear to viewers that she’s paid by the company. And her seduction recommendations in 1999’s Growing Younger: Breakthrough Age-Defying Secrets for Women should give you an idea of what side of the feminism fence she’s sitting on: “put on a party dress or a teddy…even if it is just you and your husband, put on something nice. You’ll feel like a woman.” Well, I don’t know about you but me, my stinky vagina, and my holey PJs feel womanly already, Adelaide, ta very much.

It’s notable that Vagisil is “proud to support” the Half the Sky Movement which aims to end the oppression of women and girls. It “takes on tough topics like FGM”. All very laudable – until you wrap it up in Vagisil’s mission “to improve the intimate health of women everywhere”, at which point I start to feel more nauseated than someone getting up close and personal with my unperfumed fanny. Do I feel 100% comfortable about a company that inculcates anxieties and encourages women to judge themselves based on the activity of genital sweat glands leading the way on ending female oppression? “May every woman know she is valued, she is important, and she is worthy of respect,” says their Half the Sky promo video. Y’know, so long as she buys pussy cleaner.
The Real Women section of Vagisil’s website gives this delightful endorsement from Brandi, 28: “I love the Vagisil Odour Shield Wash because it’s important to me to have something that’s going to last all day long. I don’t want to be worried that I need to take a shower when I just want to plop down on my couch and hang out with my guy. With Vagisil Wash I feel like I have an added layer of protection there that I don’t normally have.”
But the thing is, Brandi, I think our tastes in men must differ quite a bit. Because, while we’re doing sexism, I like a bit of cave in my man – you know, a boyfriend who’s not afraid to get his face right up in the pungent lap of life. Maybe instead of spending your hard-earned cash on this crap, you might want to look for a man who’s not afraid of a bit of pussy perfume au naturel. I’ll leave the last word to Vagisil: ‘If you have a question, comment or even a compliment for our team, you can always email us at’

14 thoughts on “Vagisil, Real Housewives and The Problem With Febreezing Your Fanny

  1. I don’t know where to comment first, here or with the Febreeze-your-Fanny office. Another witty, properly researched, and blatantly sensible post on The Vagenda. It’s amazing the difference it can make to see some of these slogans written down, so thank you for your incisive post, EK. About time some of this was said. So often we let advertisers waft their stinking sanitized messages into our ears and eyes through the TV and radio. You’ve got to see Brandi’s comment written down to believe it. The damage we are doing to young women (and let’s not forget also boys/men/manboys) relates to the distortion and depression of what’s meant to be the most pleasurable shared experience possible: dirty, stinky, omni-sensory SEX.

    On another note, some women do have unstable pH that leads to thrush and other bloody awful irritations, and there are a few products for women that may well help that… but go to a well-woman clinic where the experienced practitioners will welcome your stinky fanny and, unlike the aforementioned Adelaide, won’t send you back to your wardrobe for “something nice” in which you’ll prove you’ve even got one.

    Can we make Fabreeze for fannies trend?

  2. This is obviously nothing to do with health. Spraying my vag with perfume doesn’t seem healthy at all! I wash my vag with an unscented product as this is much gentler & then let nature do the rest with her glorious secretions which actually are designed to keep my entire lady area healthy &, if my boyfriend is to be believed, “fascinating & delicious”.

  3. I hate these adverts so much – thanks for writing this article! I keep finding more and more ‘lady products’ in the shops with a liberal dousing of febreze too. I’m allergic to these horrible chemicals so it makes me pretty cross.

    On a different note, the book ‘Mad Women’ by Jane Maas has an interesting section about how these types of products started to be marketed to women while she was one of the few women working in the ad industry at the time.

  4. My gynecologist said “oh god, don’t use Vagisil, it removes all of your healthy balance of bacteria etc”. I now use 3 tubes for £1 from the pound shop aqueous cream to wash my fanny, and am perfectly comfortable and smelling just fine thanks – no, complaints, anyway!

  5. The pics are gas, all about “delicate feminity” lolz. If your fanny smelt that bad that you couldn’t sit on the sofa with your boyfriend, I’d sooner be going to the doctor than the shop for a bit of Vagisil.

  6. That second advert is the biggest load of crap. First of all, you only need water for a healthy vulva, it has a delicate PH and discharge is the self cleaning mechanism. Also, apparently your husband married you because he loves you but apparently that isn’t a requirement for the wife at all, because it’s your fault if he doesn’t love you anymore. Because wives don’t marry for love or anything. Of course she should blame herself if he starts to stray as it’s her responsibility to perfume her fanny because that apparently is the love he’s attracted to. VOM

  7. This reminds me of a ridiculous advert I’ve seen recently, where the woman is fine getting on a crowded lift because she has some sort of perfumed panty liner – surely if it was that bad that you couldn’t spend 2 minutes in a confined space without offending other’s noses, you’d want to be at the GP!
    I hate this constant message that’s essentially ‘urgh girls’ fannies smell!’ because it’s the kind of crap that leads to boys thinking it’s true so they can tease girls about it/avoid oral sex, and girls thinking there’s yet another thing wrong with them. Makes me so mad…
    If you look at the difference in advertising for body products aimed at mean and women, it’s ridiculous – for men it boils down to ‘shower, wear deodorant, wash your hair, have a shave’.
    For women it’s ‘shower, moisturise, wash your hair – make sure to use conditioner too, then use another product to stop your straighteners damaging it, then use some hairspray so you don’t look messy in 10 minutes, maybe dye it too ’cause ugh greys, put lip balm on (just to make sure everything’s nice and soft like YOU should be), wear deodorant but make sure that’s moisturising too because people look at your pits (THANKS Dove), shave your legs and also your bits, but buy 2 different razors for that or wax or use creams for it, make sure you have a separate wash for your bits ’cause ugh it smells, wear pantyliners, preferably scented, ’cause again, you smell, wear makeup or no-one will take you seriously/fancy you, put cream on your face – make sure there’s one for night and one for day though GIVE US ALL YOUR CASH’
    Sorry, but it makes me reeeally angry.

  8. These products are genius marketing, they really are. Convince people that vaginas are rancid smelling and need special products, then sell them products that will cause gynaecological complaints. Then, once everyone starts getting thrush or bacterial vaginosis, instead of seeing a doctor, they rush off to get more vagisil because vaginas are just smelly, right? Manufacturing the problem and the solution!

  9. such a good article!! i’m 20 and many of my friends get anxious about receiving oral sex because of what they smell like.. to the extent that many of them refuse to let their partners do it…. literally ridiculous!

  10. Even non-scented, pH balanced etc shower gel and soap does me in down below, so I dread to think what any of these horrible products would do. Warm water is more than enough, I seriously have never felt better in the lady-bits since ditching lathering up down there, and no complaints from ‘im indoors either. (Or people in lifts, come to mention it).

  11. Femfresh is lovely. I use it just cause it’s nice to have something silky to rub myself with when I shower. And it reduces incidence of UTIs. Was once told it wasn’t very feminist of me to use it, but choice right? So long as it’s not marketed in a GIRLBITSAREYUCKY way, I don’t mind.

  12. I’m with ya LNT89. Femfresh gets rid of my eczema on my arms because it’s soap free (something no German mutli-syllabulled bp cream has ever done) which is mega, and I get cysts on my labia and they reduce when I use it. I don’t give a shit if isn’t feminist to use it, my boyfriend uses mine in the shower too and he thinks it’s great!

  13. A new one that bugs me (from Dove – who are also claiming to be pro-woman with their ‘real beauty’ thing) is worrying about dry underarm skin. Honestly!

    I am a marketer by trade, but I deliberately work in the charity sector ‘cos I don’t want to spend my time pushing pointless products and manufacturing concern over non-issues!

    Getting back to ‘smelly-vag’, I think “The Joy of Sex” (the updated version) should be a textbook for high school sex ed. I really like the emphasis on both partners’ sensual enjoyment – all senses including smell, taste, hearing etc.