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birth control misogyny vaginas

Lysol, in MY vagina? Why those old ads urging women to douche with Lysol are EVEN WORSE than you think

By David Futrelle

With safe, legal abortion and even some forms of contraception under siege, it’s worth revisiting one of the most shamefully misogynistic decades-long ad campaigns in advertising history, when Lysol — you know, the cleaning product — was marketed as a great thing to douche with.

If the idea of squirting Lysol into vaginas isn’t horrifying enough in itself, it gets worse. These ad campaigns weren’t just trying to convince women that killing the good bacteria in their vaginas would make them smell better (it doesn’t); they were also — perhaps even primarily — trying to hint that Lysol was an effective form of post-sex birth control. (It’s not.) Hence the references to using it “every time” in some Lysol ads — see below.

As sociologist Lisa Wade notes:

These ads aren’t frightening women into thinking their genitals smell badly.  According to historian Andrea Tone, “feminine hygiene” was a euphemism.   Birth control was illegal in the U.S. until 1965 (for married couples) and 1972 (for single people). These Lysol ads are actually for contraception. The campaign made Lysol the best-selling method of contraception during the Great Depression.

Of course, we’re not wrong to be horrified today.  Lysol was incredibly corrosive to the vagina; in fact, it’s recipe was significantly more dangerous than the one used today.  Hundreds of people died from exposure to Lysol, including women who were using it to kill sperm.  It was also, to add insult to injury, wholly ineffective as a contraceptive.

But this is what desperate women have resorted to when they didn’t have reproductive rights.

Here are some of these old, horrifying ads for Lysol. I’ve done my best to clean up the images but they may be hard to read unless you enlarge them; click on the pics for a direct link to the images themselves.

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Jesalin: Clit-o-centric Lesbian Goddess
Jesalin: Clit-o-centric Lesbian Goddess
1 year ago

Well…who needs sleep anyway?

Also, this bullshit wasn’t all that long ago, we haven’t come nearly as far as some people like to (usually disingenuously) pretend.

Gijoel
Gijoel
1 year ago

Considering Alabama prosecutors are mulling over charging a woman who lost her pregnancy after being shot with fetal manslaughter, I’m pretty sure they’d jail any woman who used said toxic substance.

Maybe we should charge men who pull out with manslaughter as well.

Hippodameia
Hippodameia
1 year ago

No, it only counts as “murder” if it’s inside a uterus-haver’s body.

“The egg in the lab doesn’t apply,” Clyde Chambliss, state senator and sponsor of the abortion bill, said during the Alabama legislative debate. “It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-29/why-alabama-s-abortion-law-includes-an-exemption-for-infertility

Jesalin: Clit-o-centric Lesbian Goddess
Jesalin: Clit-o-centric Lesbian Goddess
1 year ago

Yeah, if it can’t be used as an excuse to harm a woman (or women in general), it’s a-ok.

Christopher Green
Christopher Green
1 year ago

Any examples where they make the birth-control angle more obvious? I’d love to find a few, for the “ick” and shitposting-in-abortion-debates factor.

Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
1 year ago

OT, and I know I don’t comment here much, but I thought everyone should know: I came out to my parents as trans about two hours ago, and it went far better than I was expecting. They are devout Mormons, so I expected that they would return with transphobic garbage. They didn’t, except for some noises about how they don’t “agree” with my “decision” but will support me anyway.

Shadowplay
1 year ago

@Mabret

Congratulations!

Silly-bollocks
Silly-bollocks
1 year ago

I’m going to print out and send in that coupon. Maybe I’ll get a response.

Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
1 year ago

It was very scary, as you might imagine, but I survived it, and I don’t have to hide from them any more. One other little transphobic thing they did that I just remembered is that they didn’t want my thirteen-year-old brother to be around for it because it was “age-inappropriate”.

Doethreetwoone
Doethreetwoone
1 year ago

@Mabret

Way to go!

Frenzy
Frenzy
1 year ago

I read The Jack of Jumps a while ago. It’s about a series of murders in London in the early 60’s, but there is some background stuff about how people lived, and how the victims would have lived, and the home abortion stuff was chilling. Women used to put a mix of cleaner and hot water up themselves and hope for the best.

Victorious Parasol
1 year ago

Congratulations, Mabret!

Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
1 year ago

Thanks, everyone.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
1 year ago

Congrats Mabret!

And whilst here; O/T but I know some folks round here like cat stuff.

https://advocates-for-animals.com/blog/151

Yutolia the Green Hash Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Green Hash Pronoun Boner
1 year ago

Congratulations, Mabret! This is huge!

Dalillama
Dalillama
1 year ago

Congratulations Mabret!

dashapants
dashapants
1 year ago

Congrats Mabret!

That being said, do not throw caution to the wind. Sometimes when very devout people react with surprising restraint, it can mean that they have started hatching contingency plans. Do not get yourself kidnapped to an intervention. Have a good friend keep track of you.

(sorry if that’s too paranoid, I’ve run across too many horror stories)

Brandy
Brandy
1 year ago

Congrats Mabret! I hope that your path is as smooth as possible.

footprints in wet clay
footprints in wet clay
1 year ago

Congrats Mabret, what wonderful news! I hope I can summon the courage to come out myself someday… but Evangelicals don’t have even a tiny fraction of the restraint or “niceness” of Mormons, so I’m dreading it. If you or anyone thinks they have any helpful advice, I’m all ears, because I’m thinking that I should probably tell them in the next few months….

Jesalin: Clit-o-centric Lesbian Goddess
Jesalin: Clit-o-centric Lesbian Goddess
1 year ago

@Mabret

Congratulations!

One other little transphobic thing they did that I just remembered is that they didn’t want my thirteen-year-old brother to be around for it because it was “age-inappropriate”.

insert massive eyeroll

Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
1 year ago

@dashapants

I live in Utah, and they in Washington, (more than 1000 km apart), so I should be safe.

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

@Mabret: If they still have any kind of legal guardian power over you, you might not be. Then again, I don’t think the whole “temporarily sign away your guardianship to a corporation and then have then kidnap you and put you in a torture camp” thing (forget what it’s called) is legal in Washington, so the groups which do that probably won’t risk it.

Ooglyboggles
Ooglyboggles
1 year ago

Congratulations Mabret!

Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
1 year ago

I’m legally an adult (turn 22 on Saturday), so yes, I am safe. They can’t threaten me with conversion therapy at all.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

Congratulation mabret. I wish you a life time of happiness and a bright future.

solecism
solecism
1 year ago

@Hippodameia

No, it only counts as “murder” if it’s inside a uterus-haver’s body.

“The egg in the lab doesn’t apply,” Clyde Chambliss, state senator and sponsor of the abortion bill, said during the Alabama legislative debate. “It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”

But what if the lab tech is a woman, huh? Should we go after her then? Surely, that a missed opportunity. /snidity

@Mabret

OT, and I know I don’t comment here much, but I thought everyone should know: I came out to my parents as trans about two hours ago, and it went far better than I was expecting.

Congratulations on doing this! And the better than expected reaction! Fantastic!

My parents are not at all religious, but I have no plans to come out to them because I don’t want to deal with the consequences of their reactions and the ripple effect. So I admire your choice and actions.

Allandrel
Allandrel
1 year ago

Congratulations Mabret! I can’t imagine how much courage that must have taken.

epitome of incomprehensibility

@Mabret – Congratulations!

I was looking at that first ad and I can’t help scratching my head at “Her husband would have traded most of her virtues to correct this one fault.” Um…so she’s “lovely, efficient, economical, affectionate and cheerful” but the fact that she apparently has a smelly vagina overshadows all that? OK, hyperbole to make a point, but it kiiiind of makes the dude look shallow and stupid.

I guess it makes more sense if the ad is also signaling Lysol’s contraceptive use (ugh) because having children when you don’t want them would be much more serious. But nowhere does it say what she wants.