The Most Powerful Thing on Earth
by Ebony A. Utley — California State University Long Beach
August 24, 2011 – 00:00
The Summer’s Eve “Hail to the V” commercial caught my attention from the initial shot of a black woman cradling a black baby. The black Egyptian queen was a bonus. They were doing everything right. Diversity? Check. Female prioritization? Check. Quasi- historical accuracy? Check. And then, they reminded me that my vagina was dirty.
I felt betrayed by the use of female empowerment to disempower me. Summer’s Eve only needs me to believe that my vagina is the most powerful thing on earth so that I can be shamed into buying their product. The commercial’s conclusion had me rethinking my positive response to its initial representations. Let’s take them one at a time.
The commercial features three black women, one Asian woman, and one white woman. Do women of color outnumber whites in this mainstream commercial because their vaginas are genetically dirtier? Or perhaps, is it because women of color are ignorant about personal hygiene? The contemporary character who places the product in her shopping cart appears African American.
The more progressive public conversations we have about sex and reproduction in a society where lawmakers believe birth control and access to abortion are not fundamental rights the better. But in this instance, the vagina is merely an object that women are supposed to “show a little love” so that it will be nice and fresh when a man decides he wants to possess it. Furthermore, promoting fighting and dying for the vagina as noble deeds dangerously normalizes sexual assault. In an attempt to celebrate the vagina, the advertisement diminishes the power of a woman as a whole person.
None of the women in the commercial do anything. They passively watch the drama unfold. Women overcame centuries of injustice not because they waited for their vaginas to be conquered, but because of their intellect, warrior instinct, and strategic savvy.
The advertisement’s portrayal of faux empresses reveals its imperialism. Imperialism works best when its subtle domination tactics are accepted as empowering. Women are shown as ill-equipped to take care of the reproductive aspects of their bodies unless they enlist the help of Summer’s Eve, promoted by a male-dominated empire, I mean, company. The exalted vagina is being pimped to fulfill a patriarchal imperialist desire for capital and control. Although the tactics no longer involve sword fights, men still attempt to control the most powerful thing on earth.