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Ugly Truths

I have love/hate feelings about online advertisements. Specifically, on social media (I’m a sucker for Instagram advertisements). As a middle-class woman in her mid-thirties companies know I’m in the position to buy items that seem attractive to me. In my last job (online marketing) I used demographics, deceptive language, and creativity to sell products for a failing home shopping channel. At first working with the beauty/health items was fun. I had many moments where I’d be holding an item and say, “Who would buy this?”

The answer is me. I’m the kind of person who buys magnetic eyelashes, a skincare vacuum to suck the dead skin away, and products that tend to break quickly. Advertisers know this about me. I have a high enough education to know better, but the money burning through my pocket.

Yesterday as I mindlessly scrolled through Instagram a video came up on my feed. It was of a long-haired woman in flowing clothing holding a large circular toilet seat made out of wood. The wood was smooth and unfinished with a flower design burned into it. I paused: my algorithms picked up that I like alternative medicine long ago. But, toilet seats? My eyes quickly scanned the video description. Two words caught my eyes yoni steaming.

I’d never heard of yoni steaming, nor could I believe my eyes. During my time working at the television channel I’d worked with sexual health products. I had the idea to write warnings on all the vaginal sprays that contained perfumes. Unless a physician needs you to use an item vaginally things like sprays and suppositories or healing remedies should not be placed inside a human body. Sometimes even sexual lubrications can cause infections.

I texted my friend who is an acupuncturist and healer if she had heard of the practice. “Is it safe?” I asked. She quickly responded, “Yes. It seems safe. I don’t believe all the claims are true.” My brain went to all the products I had to market that also seemed safe. All the guilt of tricking women into buying products that cause infections once again returned. The number of douches, powders, and devices to help women stay “clean” and “tight” is wrong.

 Women’s bodies are still not their own. Men are not controlled like we are. They are not told they are dirty for having a self-cleaning organ. Men do not have yeast infections from sex, men do not face discrimination for buying products like tampons and menstrual pads by being taxed for luxury items. Men are not told they are dirty because they have periods. Men are not ostracized because of a monthly cycle. In the marketing I had to do we looked at women as objects. They must smell good for their men, they must be tight for the man’s pleasure, they must be well groomed to be sexually attractive.

The beauty/health industry is making women sick by trying to control what a vagina must be. Women aren’t dirty naturally; we are human we sweat and have bacteria. In addition, you don’t have to have be born a woman to identify as one, trans women get the same messages cis ones do. They face even harsher judgment from mainstream society because our obsessions with the perfect vagina. How do we break free from archaic group think that people who identify as women are dirty? 

One of the first things I learned in my human physiology course was. When a child is born the baby has a higher number of antibodies because of traveling through the birth canal. All humans have bacteria the difference is the power to procreate those antibodies help babies. As women we should not feel forced into using products to alter our intimate parts. Because of the products we use our natural chemistry can be altered causing yeast infections, exposure to toxins, and UTIs. When I looked further into yoni steaming, I found a similar message that I used to give women. The ritual claimed that steaming your vagina will rejuvenate it, or make you tighter, maybe help you regain fertility, and the claims went on and on. Yikes!

Yoni steaming is the alternative medicines world of telling women they are unclean. The concept is purely ritual, it has been used centuries.  Herbs are placed in a bowl or basin to be burned and the woman either sits on a yoni seat or hovers above to let the steam enter her. This is another tradition where our bodies are controlled for the pleasure of men. I say this because during my research many of the claims were directed at pleasing men sexually. Other claims were to treat infections, help women get pregnant, and help clean out the vagina. All this is done with steam or smoke.

All these claims scare me. The truth is gynecologist aren’t sold on the benefits of yoni steaming since the ritual can cause infection, burns, and exposure to toxins (because herb blends are not regulated anything can be added to them). That pretty yoni seat isn’t as pretty to me now. Although many women may use the device without any harm the claims don’t add up.

 If we look at this on a larger scale the world of beauty and health can get away with murder (with ingredients and devices). Yet, based on advertisements we’d never know as consumers. I implore you as a consumer to not buy into the advertisements you see. Take time and use local library resources to research claims. I know marketers are trying to get your money; protect your dollars and body.

As women we are given so many messages about how to take care of ourselves. Advertisements aim at making you feel less than human and try to trick you into buying solutions. The truth is you are perfect just being you.

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