The Vagenda

The Dirtbag Manifesto: Why “Women Stink, Buy Our Products Please” Isn’t Good Enough

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Being a placid kind of person, not much riles me. The other day a lady pushed in front of me to get on the bus and I simply bit my tongue and rolled my eyes theatrically. Another other day, a man on a motorbike accelerated towards me as I crossed the road (whilst the crossing was on a GREEN man, I mean really!?). I gave him a sarcastic thumbs up and said “great driving pal!” as he screeched to a halt yards away from me.  See, I’m pretty chilled.

Imagine my bewilderment, then, at finding myself entirely outraged by news article I happened across whilst indulging my late-night Twitter habit. It starts out relatively interestingly, and I have to admit I was suckered in by the click-baity title, which sounds just a bit too bad to be true. It reads: “Four out of five women don’t shower every day.” Now, this was intriguing. There’s something satisfying about the “survey reveals nation’s darkest secrets” genre of news. A couple of favourites of mine include UKIP supporters saying they’re not racist, but admitting to “being prejudiced against people of other races” and US students admitting they would engage in a described act of rape, but not admitting to being a rapist. Surveys get to the bottom of what the public is really up to. The things we wouldn’t even tell our Mum about but happily share on an anonymous online survey in return for online shopping vouchers.

Also, my interest was piqued because I’ve been known to go more than 24 hours without showering on the odd occasion, and while I don’t exactly go about gleefully telling people, I don’t really see it as a big deal. So I was interested to see if foregoing a daily shower was going mainstream and I could now go public with my (occasional) non washing without fear of being scorned by family, friends and colleagues.

However as I kept reading it became apparent that the survey, of around 2,000 women, had been commissioned by a skincare company (which I will not name because they don’t deserve the web traffic.) And there was more, in addition to not showering, two thirds of these stinking female examples “can’t be bothered” taking off their make up at night and one in eight “admit” to not brushing their teeth. The slightly hectoring tone had already started to raise my hackles, but I persisted.

And then it arrived, the final nail in the rage coffin. The payback for the couple of grand the company spent on research. The statement from a company spokesperson. This says the women who responded to the survey know what they “should” be doing to look after their skin but just aren’t taking the “mere minutes” out of their day to do it. The lazy, filthy harridans! There’s almost a moral edge to the wording suggesting these lazy women who have so “alarmed” the easily-shocked people at the firm with their lack of daily skin routine will probably go on to age hideously (I mean worst case scenario, right?­) and it will all be their own fault.

So, perhaps unsurprisingly, some reasonably interesting survey results had been used as a vehicle for a vested interest to browbeat women (who by their own admission tend not to have a lot of time on their hands) for not dedicating enough of their time to their skincare regime. It’s the classic routine of making women feel like they aren’t good enough in order to sell them products. Point out a problem that doesn’t exist, and sell them the fix. It’s as old as the hills, and it’s sure not getting any more effective. Who says the PR team of a face cream company can stand in judgement of my laughable skincare regime? I’m fed up of being made to feel that I’m not good enough, that I’m a crap human being because I’m not spending more on expensive goo for my face.

We’re all grown-ups here and I know that they are looking to get their brand name out there, and looking at it in a simplistic way they’ve achieved their objective by getting coverage in a national paper. But unless we vote with our feet, and send the message that this isn’t the way to go about it, companies won’t learn to find ways to PR their product which don’t belittle women and pray upon their guilt.

So here it is: My Dirtbag Manifesto. This is what I’ll be doing to insure myself against this kind of nonsense. Join me. Join them if you believe that however good you are now, whatever you might’ve achieved today and however radiant your skin already is, you won’t be good enough until you’ve worked out how to cobble together £40 for some eye cream.

I vow:

1.   Not to feel bad if I end up washing less frequently than every day.
Being an adult, I’m pretty sure I can decide for myself whether I need to have a shower, bearing in mind all the relevant factors. Maybe I’ll make myself a flow chart. Seriously, it’s not a big deal. Teethbrushing needs to happen though, that’s a solid gold rule.

2.    Definitely not to be guilt-tripped into spending even more money in Boots than I already do on fancy products.
I reserve the right to decide to get into fancy skincare products in future, maybe when I’ve got more disposable income because I’ve finally tired of drinking craft ale. But I’m pretty sure I won’t buy them from companies who harangue women into buying their stuff.

3.     Decide myself whether I’m so bothered about my skin looking shitty that I want to spend my time thinking about it and tending to my face in the mirror every day.
At the minute I’m prioritising catching up on Breaking Bad, learning how to play House of the Rising Sun on ukulele, and trying not to fall asleep with my phone on my face every night.

4.     Feel the rage, use it for good and call out companies who employ this kind of technique to hawk their product. Even if it’s just a sarcastic Tweet.
It’s the only way they will learn. Baby steps and all that.

- Claire Wotherspoon

27 thoughts on “The Dirtbag Manifesto: Why “Women Stink, Buy Our Products Please” Isn’t Good Enough


    I’ve never understood the special disgust that seems to be reserved for women who don’t complete their ablutions religiously every day. I mean, *of course* I’m going to shower if I actually get sweaty or covered in mud or whatever, but in the middle of winter when it’s cold and I’ve been mostly sat at a desk all day, why the hell do I NEED to was every single day?

    And it is something that’s worse for women. My best friend is a (professional, not stereotypically “slobby”) man, and when I “confessed” to him that I sometimes go 48 hours between showers or (gasp!) wear the same t-shirt two days in a row, he literally could not understand why I thought this was worth telling him. Sadly, that was a real eye-opener for me.

  2. To be honest, I found the results of the survey weirdly positive! I’m not alone! I always felt like a bit of a freak because I just don’t WANT to shower every day – sure, if I really need to or have been engaging in physical activity then of course, but if not, why get up earlier (noo), get naked in the middle of winter (noooo), and step into my rubbish houseshare-shower that varies between scalding hot and freezing cold? The fact that 4 out of 5 women are with me on this did not make me think ‘women are disgusting’ – it made me feel great.

    I’ll always shower every other day because my scalp is cruel and insists I wash my hair that often, but otherwise I play it by ear. And, like you, I refuse to feel guilty about it. Interesting how this wasn’t a poll about ‘people’ showering every day. It’s always about women. But I suppose men might shower every day – surely they don’t find it so taxing when they don’t have to shell out and spend precious minutes rubbing shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body scrub etc but just have one of those ‘body + hair wash’ deals.

  3. Also – I haven’t read the article, but I would like to see how the results were collected. I wonder if some women said they do shower every day mostly, or take off their make up every night, but have the odd spell of forgetting/not wanting to get up to (let’s be honest, alcohol may be involved in both) and these sparing results pushed them into the ‘nope’ category.

  4. I actually think men are less likely to shower every day – women are more pernickity about stuff like that. Because we’re fragrant creatures lol! I think all these surveys are bollocks, tbh. People answer anything to get to the end.

  5. “Being an adult, I’m pretty sure I can decide for myself whether I need to shower.” Yes. Smashing. Thank you for writing!

  6. I see their ploy. Make women think they “should” be showering every day resulting in natural oils being removed and skin becoming dull therefore requiring some fantastic cream that costs more than you spend on food for a month to “correct”.

    I think 4 out of 5 women are doing it right!

  7. OMG, I shower and wash my hair every 3rd day. It’s not like I dig ditches for a living!
    I wash my face and brush my teeth at least once a day, but until day 3, I’ll only be rinsing off, if I worked up a sweat; no soap!

  8. Every morning I shower, because: I smell, my hair gets greasy because in my teens I started showering every day, I’m lazy and think hot shampooy water running down my face counts as washing my face, and, my house is cold and i want to brush my teeth in the shower so I don’t freeze. But I’d love to not shower for three months and have self cleaning skin and hair.

    Then at night I use a simple face wipe to remove make up cack, brush my hair and teeth, get nakey and climb in to bed. CBA to use soap, water, special face wash, cleaners, toners, exfoliators and moisturisers for my face and eyes etc.

  9. Washing every day is really really bad for your skin. It strips it of its natural oils. And then when they’ve guilt-tripped you into washing every day they try sell you moisturizer because you’ve deprived your skin of the ability it naturally has to maintain itself.

  10. I shower every other day. Any more frequently my woman parts get angry with me and curse me with Le Thrush. Hence why I can’t use fancy soap products either. For a while I didn’t use any soap, I just showered in hot water. My skin was *SHOCK HORROR* absolutely fine and what was best was my vagina didn’t hate me. I can’t get my hair wet every day because I have dreadlocks and showering every day means they won’t ever dry out properly. Constantly damp dreads would mean bacterial growth and smells. I also don’t use shampoo very often because its harder to rinse out and residue build up would also cause bacterial growth and smells. Daily showering for me would be a bad idea and I like to smell nice (or at the very least not smell bad) so I will pass on the daily showering thing, thanks.

  11. Dude we’ve evolved this far in the history of humanity WITHOUT needing all of these products. Why now?

    Great article :)

  12. I also went soap-less for a while, and though I’ve never had dreadlocks I did the whole “no products, let it self-clean” thing for about six months. Like you, my skin and hair were just fine, and no one ever guessed (well, apart from the painful period when my hair was adjusting to not being washed “properly”). Only reason I went back is because I’m somewhat prone to eczema, so every so often I need to use special body washes and shampoos to stop the itching and flaking, and I can’t be arsed to go through the adjustment phase again.

    People seriously underestimate their body’s ability to regulate itself with the help of a little clean water.

  13. What about that fucking Dove advert where they try and tell us we need to have super-attractive armpits? “Do you ONLY shave your underarms?” they ask, horror-struck. Like anyone walks around with their armpits showing FFS.

  14. Hate the “beauty” industry. 99% of your body just does not need to be washed every day, unless you have a dirty job. Your skin does not need extra moisturizers unless it is uncomfortably dry to you. I like a hot shower so I indulge most days, but reserve soap for hands and underarms. After battling acne for decades, I realized no facewashes made a bit of difference. (Pregnancy did cure the acne while it lasted, but the side effects are a bear)

  15. I agree that this article was mostly trying to sell products that we don’t necessarily need, and that is bullshit.

    However, I do think showering/washing daily is just basic hygiene.

    We’re human; even if we don’t do “physical exercise” as part of our daily routine, we still sweat. I still sweat. We all sweat in our sleep for feck’s sake!

    In my opinion, being smelly just isn’t fair to colleagues/ people on the bus etc. And if it’s too cold to have a shower, is it not too cold to change your clothes?

    I don’t buy into not washing because I don’t buy into this notion of women as odourless, sweatless beings.

  16. I agree with Derval.
    I also enjoy the ritual of a hot shower every evening. It relaxes me and makes me feel fresh even if I haven’t done anything particularly sweaty during the day. A bar of cheap antibacterial soap is all I use and it doesn’t dry out my skin.

  17. What about the “save the planet” agenda? Showering every other day (or every 3 days, shock!) will cut in half (or a third) the amount of water you use from showering compared to showering every day, and the amount of energy used to heat the water etc. Share that shower with a friend and you’ve quartered your water and carbon impacts from showering, and doubled the fun! No company is going to make me feel guilty for that.

  18. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to read this. I work from home quite a bit, and to be honest the most I will do to “get ready” on a morning is put on a bra (and have breakfast, obviously, I’m not a savage…). Cannot be bothered to have a wash or even clean my teeth some days…

    When I do indulge in my beauty/skin care rituals, I use Dettol soap (69p a bar) with Clean and Clear oil-free moisturiser. Just recently added in an eye cream as I’m now An Old (>40)

  19. Who on earth would shave their underarms? I’m just wondering, that seems a bit crazy to me.
    I can understand some women wanting to shave their entire legs instead of just below the knee, or trim down there, or remove the “beard” all adult women have – especially if you’re dark. I’m super blonde which means (almost) all hair is invisible, and I can be extra lazy.
    But everyone has hair on their arms, what’s the point in removing it??? I don’t get it.

  20. I still don’t get the, ‘cleanse, tone and moisturise’ mantra. I wash my face in the shower with water. I take my makeup off. I moisturise but I don’t get soap or soapy products near my face!

  21. Unless you’re very unlucky with your unique body chemistry, you’re not going to be “smelly” after a day’s normal sweating (not during the winter, at least. I accept it’s a different ballgame in the height of summer). How do I know this? Because a whole load of people of all genders, as evidenced by this article for starters, don’t shower every day and no one even notices. People are actually surprised to find out. I don’t always shower every day, and I “get away with it” (and yes, I do have friends and family who actually would tell me if I did stink). Lots of people also shower in the evening instead of the morning, and all that sweating they did in their sleep doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. Then there’s the whole thing about how showering every day, especially with soap, can actually be bad for a lot of people’s skin.

    Not saying you should stop showering so regularly if that’s what makes you happy, but there’s no need to make out that everyone else (4 out of 5 women, apparently) are doing something wrong either.

  22. I don’t think “cleanse, tone, moisturise” has much to do with soap? I mean, it sounds like you’re already doing it and more, what with the makeup/makeup removal thing :/

  23. Dudettes. Long periods without showering in the winter, or watering where needed (pits & parts). Now that my hair is older, I avoid shampoo as much as possible, which means it doesn’t get washed for sometimes over a week. And yannow what? It looks FINE. It does not smell. Feeling a little stretchy-skinned from the cold? Completely normal coconut oil, usually made for cooking. Feels great too, and who needs any other junk on your skin?

    Summer is a different matter, but that’s why swimming was invented. Oh, and the no-goo goes for so-called sunscreen too. Get yerselves a slight tan, feed it, stay in the shade when you need to and repeat. Done. Now used that saved cash for trips and other goodies. :-D

  24. Disgusting.

    People who wash every day would find others less regular habits, disgusting. Just like a smoker has to date another smoker as they smell like shit.

  25. Thank you for this. I shower probably 3 out of every 4 days, and it is such a relief to see that so many others share my irregular habits. I understand that if someone is really sweaty etc. it’s smart for them to wash every day, and obviously I don’t want to smell, but as long as I put on deodorant every day, I can easily go 48 hours without a shower.

    Another note on the beauty industry & general skin care: I spent all of my teenage years and most of my early twenties, as well as hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars buying the wrong products that were hurting my skin instead of helping it. This happened to me (and probably many others) because I was making my purchasing decisions mainly based on the marketing that was coming from the brands themselves, or from pretty shoddy advice from women’s magazines. It was only when I started researching on my own and reading really in-depth reviews and information that I started figuring out what I actually should & shouldn’t be buying. Surprise, surprise: most of what the beauty industry creates isn’t very good for your skin. I spend way less on products now and my skin is so much better than it used to be, and literally not a dollar is wasted on products that don’t end up working. Some of the things that I’ve learned:
    - all those anti-acne cleansers that I used to use never did anything because they weren’t left on my skin for long enough (effective anti acne products are ones that you leave on your skin!)
    - cleansers that leave you with a ‘tingling’ feeling are usually just irritating your skin and aren’t actually making it cleaner
    - eye cream is a joke: it’s basically just moisturizer in a smaller container and for a higher price
    - the beauty industry genuinely does not care whether or not their product actually works, as long as they can market it to you