Wednesday, May 12, 2021

"Her Swarthy Snatch" that is, Reader Mail Week, Day 1

(I found this...somewhere. It was the first (!) time I'd read the glorious Lindy West. In honor of Shrill returning, her 'tis.)

 "This made me think of you," wrote reader Cathya, as *sigh* they all do when they see some fucked-up article about people falling in love with lawn chairs, having sex with toasters or whatever. (To Cathya's credit, I believe she meant it ironically. See also: "I saw this and thought of you".)

If you haven't already received your own copy of Jezebel's Your Vagina Isn't Too Big, Too Floppy, and Too Hairy--It's Also Too Brown* from your cool feminist friend, do take the time to click over, it's well worth it. (And if you don't have a cool feminist friend, I suggest you get one at once. Might I suggest Cathya?)

The article raises the possibility that the next thing on our To-Do List of Societal-Created Bodily Problems We Must Eradicate Immediately Lest We Become Unfuckable (note to self: think of shorter To-Do List title) may well be bleaching--not only our buttholes--but our vaginas** as well. (And God forbid if you become addled by bleach fumes and accidentally put anal bleaching cream on your vag or vice versa. Can you imagine the others--oh, how they would laugh and laugh!--if they saw that your vag was anus color or your anus was vag color? Whatever colors they are supposed to be. This week.)

The article, written by my new hero Lindy West, was so damn good, it made me feel like giving up writing and just throwing away my 10 year old Mac (or, less dramatically, responsibly disposing of it at the next city-sanctioned e-waste collection). I mean look at her opening paragraph!

Good news, ladies! Society has discovered another new thing that's wrong with you, which means another opportunity for you to make yourself more attractive for your man. Score! Turns out, the color of your vagina is gross and everyone hates it. So bleach that motherfucker. Bleach it right now!
West goes on to describe an ad running in India for a vag bleaching cream that makes your vag, well, non-vag colored.
In this commercial for an Indian product called Clean and Dry Intimate Wash, a (very light-skinned) couple sits down for what would have been a peaceful cup of morning coffee—if the woman's disgusting brown vagina hadn't ruined everything! The dude can't even bring himself look at her. He can't look at his coffee either, because it only reminds him of his wife's dripping, coffee-brown hole! Fortunately, the quick-thinking woman takes a shower, scrubbing her swarthy snatch with Clean and Dry Intimate Wash ("Freshness + Fairness"). And poof! Her vadge comes out blinding white like a downy baby lamb (and NOT THE GROSS BLACK KIND) 
I was so sold on West with "bleach that motherfucker," but when she got to "his wife's dripping, coffee-brown hole" I was beyond in love.

Here's the ad, if you want to be angered and/or develop a new and exciting insecurity. (In due credit to the collective wisdom of the YouTube viewing public--a phrase I have never once used--"thumbs downs" are beating "thumbs up" by a ratio of 3 to 1.)

Vag bleaching is yet another one of those "body enhancement" products--like bras with built-in nipples, vaginal rejuvenation, shapewear for sex, mints to hide the taste of semen, etc...--that, in the quest for "beauty" screw with basic biology.*** Screwing with biology, as in, how we experience pleasure (i.e. a boob job making a woman lose sensitivity in her now For Display Purposes Only rack) and screwing with biology in how we communicate sexual signals to each other. A highly aroused woman, for example, will get a vivid dark flush of color between her legs. This indicates, "Hey, you're doin' fine. Please proceed at once." (If it's really really dark and very flushed, it indicates, "Oh, god! Please please please proceed at once!")

An artificially light vag indicates...what?
"I am an Indian woman possessing an improbably Caucasian vagina."
"I may be aroused or I may be thinking of stocking up on cereal when it's on sale."
"I'd better not pee because, as I vaguely recall from chemistry, ammonia and bleach mixed together create a toxic cloud."

So why do we need this product? Let's let the ad copy explain:
Designed to address the problems women face in their private parts, Clean and Dry Intimate Wash offers protection, fairness and freshness. To be used while showering, its special pH-balanced formula cleans and protects the affected area, and even makes the skin fairer. Life for women will now be fresher, cleaner, fairer! 
To restate, you have problems in your private parts. All women do. The problem, as we now know, is having "private parts." So bleach that motherfucker! Bleach it right now!


*If you are the cool feminist friend, please be aware that the horribly unflattering subject line automatically generated for your dear friend's email will be Your Vagina Isn't Too Big, Too Floppy, and Too Hairy--It's Also Too Brown. Might want to change that...

** Yes, yes, I know that the term "vagina" refers to the hole part and that "vulva" is the proper term for part I'm actually talking about. And if you correct me in the comments, I will come to your house and punch you.

*** We are not the only society that does crazy-ass junk to...well, our junk. According to Mary Roach, in Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, in parts of Africa, Haiti and Indonesia, moistness between a woman's legs is considered to be a turn-off. So to facilitate the "dry sex" their men want, the women use drying agents, including shredded newspaper, cotton, rock salt, detergent, bark and--ack!--dried animal poop.

Thus, if we combined these two regional traditions in sort of a vaginal melting pot (I think there was a Schoolhouse Rock song about the vaginal melting pot), instead of a lover confronting a wet, deeply flushed, obviously-aroused pussy, they'd find a vaguely bleachy-smelling white vag, festooned with dry bits of shredded newspaper and animal poop hanging out. Viva progress!

(photo source)


Anonymous said...

I've never been happier my bandersnatch is a pale peach. I am considering letting it do stunt work for women who suffer from yucky beige hootchies.

dirtycowgirl said...

And I think after reading this my ladygarden is very moist too.

Except it's wee.
This is what I meant by the comment on Blogher - only you can make me laugh til I cry (and wet myself) whilst also talking about something so disturbing.
And I haven't even looked at the links yet.

I was in India three months ago and based upon all the skincare products we saw (and I'm talking face and body not genitals) they are OBSESSED with being light skinned. We even saw mens products called "light and handsome", the subliminal being the lighter you are the more handsome.
Ironic that I went there with the express aim of coming home the same colour as the darkest Indians.
Luckily topless sunbathing is illegal, never mind going nude, so my nether regions got no sun and were the same colour on my return.

Although compared to the rest of me by that point they probably were pale and interesting.

Gia said...

I agree - all the stuff we're told we have to fix nowadays is just CRAZY.

The Blue Orchid of Texas said...

As a lover of women - and all of their lovely "ladygardens" I found this interesting and disturbing at the same time. I think all of this is a symptomatic of a deeper issue in our larger culture. There seems to be a silent message running under the surface that says that not only are you and your body parts unpleasant and unattractive but that to not modify them through surgery, or staining, etc. is sort of missing out on life. I've long been convinced that many men want women to be hairless in their southern regions and curve-less to be more like little girls. Anyway, ladies - I think you and your parts are delicious, amazing works of art. Don't ruin yourselves because of the madness of idiots who deem themselves lords of what is beautiful.

Vanessa said...

I really appreciate that you brought up the whole breast enlargement vs sensation thing. I've always figured that as nice as a perkier set might be, losing sensation in that area would really lessen my enjoyment in the bedroom.

Once, I was lucky enough to see part one and two of this series a woman battling breast cancer had on MSNBC where she actually came out and said that she was going to mourn the loss of sensation. Something I doubt very many cancer doctors even acknowledge let alone discuss.

Cagey-C said...

Ah, yes, we've come so far from the days when it was only African American women in this country who were subjected to the marketing blitzes of skin bleaching products....Sigh.

As an aside, I am sooo very tempted to correct you on the vulva point, not because I relish getting punched in the face, but because the pugilism would be preceded by you coming to my house.

The IBWMW Minister of Science said...

Technically, the part of the anatomy to which you are referring to is the vulva not the va... oh, wait. Never mind.

The IBWMW Minister of Grammar said...

Technically "to which you are referring to" is very bad grammar.

Gina said...

Loved the writing in that article as much as I loathed the subject matter. Forget colors for a second - I cannot stop thinking about the short/long term effects this must have on a woman's health! That kind of chemical treatment, let alone animal shit or whatever -it's a delicate balance in there!

jenerosity said...

In protest, I'm trying to decide what color my vagina should be for my date this week. I think a cheap pack of Kool Aid would give me just right the right amount of color and so many colors to choose from! But the "reflect more light" idea is great, in case my car breaks down at night, or we have to resort to fun in the backseat on a dark country road...

Unknown said...

OMG I'm in love with you lol and now Lindy West! You girls rock!
The sarcastic tone of both articles/posts had me cracking up. I loved it so much I wrote my own blog post about it all(making sure I gave you both full credit)
As a women with a Italian Background and therefore not a white pussy I can sympathize with women who don't have what others considered the right color! However I am not disgusted with it...quiet the contrary I love it! I have embraced the color and wont be subjecting myself to a life of torment over the differences us ladies share in our nether regions. Whatever we have we should be proud of!

in bed with married women said...

Crap! Did I never answer a one of you? So rude!

Betty--Now now, no bragging about your hootchie. Nor your bandersnatch.

DirtyCowgirl--your international research just makes me love you more.

Gia, word.

Blue Orchard--I saw your commented cited on other blogs as an example of a reasonable man. You're doin' it right!

Vanessa, I know, I don't get the idea of the appearance of someone trumping the actuality of it.

Cagey-C, my heart wouldn't be in it if you wanted me to punch you.

Minister of Science and Minister of Grammar, am I going to have to separate you two?

Gina-- Exactly!

jenerosity--genius! maybe a vibrant blue color is in order.

tara--thanks for the love. your post made me wonder why the hell people would desire homogenous nether regions. After all, isn't the reason people have sex with others to experience a variety of sensations, appearance, scents, etc... Do we all want McDonaldized wangs? No I say. No!

Ruby Ryder said...

So sad that advertising and the bottom dollar has changed to encourage insecurities with how we naturally are. That's why I don't have cable and don't buy magazines that have anorexic standards for their models.

Anonymous said...

Great article and blog - but do you really need 15 trackers on this page? A bit excessive and invasive.

Stumbleupon widgets, twitter badge, stat counter, site meter, Networked Blogs, Media6Degrees, Google Friend Connect, Google Analytics,Google Adsense, Google+1, Feedburner, Facebook Social Plugins, Facebook Connect, Amazon Associates, and 33Across!

in bed with married women said...

Ruby, i like it. i think even if we "know" we're seeing fake or distorted images, it still sort of seeps in anyway.

Anonymous, hmmm. never thought about it. and i don't even know what media6degrees and 22 across are. for you, because i care, i will take a few down.

Anonymous said...

I like what you write, and especially in this post you seem to say that a woman is more than a culture-compliant collection of sex parts. But have you seen the pictures you choose to go with your blog? They are all of culture-compliant women, and many of them are the typical sexist photo of a woman with her face covered or turned away, and her arms and/or legs unseen or cut off by the picture, as though the torso were the only important part of a woman -- her face doesn't matter, neither do her arms and legs. Gender scholars have written about this being the male focus and a representation thereof. These photos dehumanize women. Other photos you pick are of skinny, white women -- you provided a caption for one of them in which the lady in question says she looks "damn good." She doesn't, really. She's too thin. I think your blog has potential, but maybe you should consider what subtle, negative messages you are packaging with your material.