As I tweeted last week, I’m hardly qualified to comment on Femfresh’s product. I once dated a girl who used a variety that smelt like Ribena (I now have a complex relationship with cordial), I don’t know much about that whole thing. Until I was 17, I didn’t realise that thrush could be anything other than a small bird. But still, here I am kicking up a fuss anyway.

When a McDonald’s advert comes on, you don’t email Ronald McDonald saying ‘I’M ON A DIET, YOU INSENSITIVE SHITS!’, right? And when you see an Aquafresh billboard, do you call GlaxoSmithKline and scream ‘MY GINGIVITIS MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A WOMAN, YOU TWATBAGS!’ down the phone? No? So why is it that a feminine hygiene product should be subject to such abuse from women who more than likely spend an inordinate amount of time decrying ‘internet trolls’ in the comments section of BBC articles? (Yes, I imagine the irony is very much lost on them.)

I was supposed to be on Radio 4 this week talking about why a lot of young men are hesitant to identify themselves as feminists, and I believe that it’s precisely this sort of thing that affects men’s willingness to identify with the movement. The remnants of the ‘militant feminist’ image still swimming around in popular culture risk making men feel like identifying as feminists is a comment on their own masculinity, and is an admission that they are secondary to women. This is compounded by the notion of feminists ‘going too far’. Of course, the majority of feminists don’t ‘go too far’, but the minority that DO take offence to every advert that even vaguely references stereotypes tarnishes the whole movement for a huge percentage of young men.

Take, for example, Science: It’s a Girl Thing.

Alice Vincent’s thought provoking commentary on the advert was very intelligently argued, but Vincent’s admission that she wanted to be a scientist when she was growing up undercuts the entire piece – she is not the target audience. The target audience doesn’t know who Marie Curie is, they get a giggly thrill when they realises they’ve made caramel under lab conditions (admittedly, I experienced a massive giggly thrill when I did this) and want a pink lab coat. Presumably, the people behind these adverts is gambling on the fact that one of these women has a natural affinity for the subject and will come to be a glamorous spokeswoman for a bunch of brands they have in their pocket. Whether or not the advert is GOOD is another issue, but it’s certainly no more sexist than any mind-numbing advert that portrays men as sausage roll munching, brain-dead, emotionless trolls. GINSTERS.

In the same way that I let adverts for pasties wash over me and think ‘that product’s not for me’, militant feminists who spend their days finding things to be offended about need to do the same thing with products Femfresh. If it’s not for you just…don’t use it.


  1. Amy

    I see what you’re saying but I’ve gotta disagree here, Stu. I think it’s more important than you’re suggesting because the FemFresh stuff is essentially saying that a women’s body is gross. My vagina is clean and healthy; it doesn’t need to be perfumed. They’re implying – and it’s not even indirectly – that I am not good enough as I am. I find that a little bit upsetting. And there aren’t products equivalent for men: men’s genitals are fine as they are, apparently.

    • Stu Bradley

      While there isn’t a DIRECT equivalent for men, there are enough indirect ones –
      Lynx, because your armpits make you smell like a dead fish.
      Hair implants, because if you can’t flick it like Justin Bieber then you’re nothing.
      Gym membership, because if your veins aren’t sticking out of your over-muscled biceps then you must be a fag.

      Society is built on telling you that you’re not good enough as you are; true for both sexes.

  2. Claire

    I completely agree… I don’t think Femfresh is any worse than the majority of hygiene or beauty products. I really don’t understand the uproar! The majority of people who argued against the brand probably use deodorant, make-up and most likely shave their legs etc. so I don’t understand the complaints over just another product which plenty of women probably choose to use (without a problem). It’s also quite funny that most of the complains came from people who had never used the product rather than actual users. And the fact that the chaos started because of the use of a few silly words makes it all seem a little bit petty.

    Also there actually are plenty of direct male equivalents they just aren’t very well known. Femfresh is just a well known brand (obviously the marketing team must have done something right at some point), there are plenty of other brands that make similar products for women too (Avon have a ‘feminine care’ range for example).

    I think blaming one brand is ridiculous, Femfresh didn’t create the demand for these products, society is definitely more to blame.

  3. Miss

    I think people have a right to say they don’t like what an advert suggests. If a lot of people happen to do it then good for them. It’s nothing to do with what a bunch of people associate with feminism. Just because you don’t mind being portrayed like the Ginsters ad would have you doesn’t mean that all men or all women should have a similarly apathetic view. The ads give a bad body image and imply the wrong thing for young women looking for new aspirations. End of.

    • Stu Bradley

      Who said I didn’t mind men being portrayed how they are in Ginsters adverts etc? I hate it, but have accepted it’s not something that will change any time soon. And I think you’re missing the point – the ad is designed to appeal to girls who already have that sort of body, interest in lipstick etc etc, not those who already want to be scientists.

  4. Jim Bot

    You did a good job there of adding to the stereotypical media image of a “militant feminist” that you so clearly start by criticising. By talking yourself round in circles you end up simply over stating that cliche yet again and sounding like every other chauvinist telling women how the should feel/respond/behave.
    And that’s why there’s feminism.

  5. shreen

    Good post – this is one of a few reasons I struggle with the feminism movement myself and recently decided to stop calling myself one. Being able to let certain things slide is a healthy skill to have, but as a feminist I was often told this was the “incorrect” response. bah!

  6. Sian

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last week (a bit of a furore on Twitter does make people fire off their opinions without really thinking them through, doesn’t it?) The reason I keep thinking about it is there’s a bottle of the stuff in our shower. It’s not mine, but each time I see it I think back to this post.

    Wait, that’s weird.

    I actually have really sensitive skin so I’m very fussy about the shower gel brands I use – I’ve found three brands that don’t bring me out in a rash. I can see why FemFresh is actually used, especially by women who shave. I’m really surprised that people got up in arms about this. Even if you don’t have sensitive skin – we all want to smell nicer, don’t we? That’s why I don’t Sure deodorant (seriously, could it smell more like pot pourri?) and it’s why I’m wearing perfume made by a company whose name I can’t pronounce.

    Just because this product is aimed at vaginas (strange phrase, that), doesn’t mean it’s worse than any other beauty product out there. I recall Dove having a similarly pitched ad about roll on for the same reason – you shave, you use stuff with chemicals in, it hurts like a bitch. No one bitched about that.

    I promise to go back to thinking about more interesting things in the shower now.

    • Stu Bradley

      You raise some interesting points – just because the product is aimed at something tied so closely to one’s femininity, it seems to become a much more contentious issue. I still, genuinely, don’t understand why it’s such a big issue – adverts stereotype, that’s a given. If you don’t like them, just ignore them.

      Same deal with an argument I saw against Hooters Restaurants (a place I LOVE) – it argued that men would be in uproar if there was a pasta restaurant called Balls where…well, I’m sure you can imagine. Totally incorrect – I just wouldn’t go.