Last night, I received a text from my mom about a new product from Monistat – what they’re calling Complete Care Stay Fresh Gel. She was incensed. As she rightly pointed out, any unusual odor should be treated by a doctor, unless you are so prone to infections that you feel comfortable treating them yourself. But this doesn’t appear to be about actual health concerns. (I’m about to use the s-word, so please forgive me.) This is about vagina shaming.
I refuse to buy into the idea that vaginas or vulvas should smell “fresh.” It’s a meaty pocket, often surrounded by hair, that usually doesn’t get a lot of fresh air. It secretes its own particular fluid, designed to keep it healthy. It facilitates the seduction of a partner by exuding pheromones. It houses the clitoris and the G-spot, the centers of sexual pleasure! The vagina is not a rose garden, it is not the smell in spring air after it rains. It shouldn’t have to be. I will not be ashamed of the fact that my vagina smells like a vagina.
Monistat attempts to address concerns over the health effects of their new product. They proudly announce it’s paraben free! and contains no fragrances. Both of those things are good — they’re things I look for in a lubricant, after all. The fact that nothing in it is bad for our vaginal health is not comforting when you consider how damaging products like this can be for our mental health and our self image. Would you even wonder about how normal the smell of your vagina is if douching had never been invented? Long ago, this industry made up a problem so that they could sell us a solution.
If you’re having a legitimate vaginal health problem, there is nothing that Monistat Complete Care Stay Fresh Bullshit can do for you. Their traditional antifungal creams are definitely useful for women prone to infections that cannot afford to or do not have time to see a doctor. But this? This is not useful. This is not helping women. I would estimate that the majority of women purchasing this gel are doing so out of embarrassment. They have been convinced that their vagina is not normal. That vaginas smell bad. That “feminine odor” is something worth giving them your money for, and that “feminine freshness” is a thing that exists.
Monistat is profiting off of our insecurities. They are banking on a lack of anatomical and sexual education. They are cashing checks with smelly pussy jokes in the memo line.