I decided to bring back the XXFactored posts chronicling what this blog has been interested in, in the past month. It’s been awhile but we’re still about relationships, urban womanhood, body positivity and feminism.
- Toxic lies on gender and why both men and women suffer for it. “4 Lies ‘Nice Guys,’ Pickup Artists, and Everyday Misogynists Tell You About Women — And Why They Hurt Us All” (via Everyday Feminism)
- To conform for validation, that’s the worst thing I could do. But then the life of an independent woman has never been easy.
- ‘Women empowerment’ is just another fad that a lot of brands are cashing into. The agenda is always to exploit the consumer’s psyche and sell more. Let’s not kid ourselves that a soap brand or a diamond manufacturer actually cares about women’s (or any other group’s) issues. “John St.’s Latest Merciless Satire Just Destroys the Dove Style of Marketing to Women ‘If she’s crying, she’s buying’ By Tim Nudd” (via Adweek)
- There are as many different ways to be a human being as there are human beings. Why do we assume that there is only one kind of relationship?: “I was in a committed relationship with two people—and then I got pregnant.” (via HelloGiggles)
- A modern relationship on Fast Forward predict mode.
- A hilarious and true story about a menstrual cup virgin: “Misadventures with my menstrual cup” (via Menstrupedia)
- This is for all of you who have ever said “But I’m not a feminist.” You’re entitled to your politics, and make no mistake, it is political. But know what you’re saying. “RainbowMan: I’m a Feminist and It’s Not a Bad Thing” (via The Quint link courtesy Harrish Iyer)
- Being friendly’ versus being friends: “What I learned when my ex asked if we could be friends” (via HelloGiggles)
- Flirtmoji combines technology and body positive messaging with their ‘vagmojis’: “Hooray! Vagina emojis are here.” (via Alternet)
*This is a sponsored post.
I attended the 18Again launch earlier this week. I had been informed that the product is a vaginal rejuvenation gel and that the brand stands for Women Empowerment. To be quite sure, that connection wasn’t absolutely clear to me then. A lot of thoughts have been swimming around in my head since which is why I’ve taken this time to put up this post. This week has also seen quite a bit of conversations (yes, backlash too) about 18Again and on the #WomenOnTop hashtag they began. Let me talk about what I’ve seen, heard & thought. But first, the commercial that’ll go on air shortly.
I was struck by the tagline of ‘Like a virgin’. Virginity is a notion that’s not friendly to women at all. It’s patriarchal, painful and represses women. It wasn’t until the speakers began talking that I realized it was meant to imply only the sensation of a virgin – a tight, healthy vagina.
The event brought up a few interesting conversations. I spoke to Mahabanoo Kotwal of The Vagina Monologues fame. In keeping with the play’s premise, she talked about how women don’t have a space to even think about this part of their bodies, let alone express fear or concerns about it.
Prof.Dr.R.M.Saraogi was one of the panelists at the launch discussion. He talked about vaginal health concerns that women face, some of which even the more educated & ‘evolved’ of us may not know about. For example I’ve never even heard of urinary incontinence and vaginal flatulence. These conditions exist, causing a great deal of embarrassment for their sufferers – older, menopausal women. But in addition to suffering the conditions themselves, these women also suffer silently and alone. Dr.Saraogi says that some of his patients talk about the strain on their marriages and that it’s often a challenge to identify whether the cause is psychological or physical. Since the woman is unable to articulate something she is embarrassed about, she may fail to get assistance that’s easily and readily available.
The celebrity guest, Celina Jaitly had a similar thought to add to this. Any modern working woman knows a big challenge we face today. It’s not the glass ceiling or bigger issues – it’s clean, sanitary toilets. Yeast infections abound on toilet seat rims and are the most common way women get infected. Any woman who has to use a public toilet in an office, a set or a mall is vulnerable to these. If we can have calcium supplements, vitamin tablets & nutrition-enhanced foods, shouldn’t we have our choice of vagina-specific health products too?
To come back to the virginity bit of the campaign – aren’t we keeping vaginas trapped by repressive notions of that word? Sexual pleasure is only one of the functions of the vagina. It is also part of a complex biological system that undergoes several changes over the course of a woman’s life. These changes impact the woman in more ways and in more places than just in her panties. Depression, hot flushes, giddiness, nausea, fluctuating libido, digestive disorders, urinary infections – the vagina could be the source of any of these. As empowered women, we need to be able to first acknowledge these issues, secondly be able to articulate our needs and finally receive support for them. Our vaginas definitely deserve it.
I’m neither recommending nor disparaging the product 18Again. But I’m saying I’m happy that I’m being given an option to at least think about it. I deserve good health and everything that goes towards making it so, including a choice of products. If I were to consider using this product, I’d check with my gynecologist. Now how many women have one? If you don’t, please get one immediately – it’s the most fundamental step in empowering yourself: good health.
The 18Again gel promises vaginal health and protection from infections in addition to tightening. Personally, these are the features that I find even more interesting since there hasn’t been a product that addresses the need for good vaginal health. I can’t comment on the efficacy of the product but the fact that one exists forces us to recognize a need for it. And that I believe, is definitely empowering to women.
Here are some other views:
This is something the boy called me on my second date and laughed when I frowned. Awhile ago, it popped up again in a conversation and sparked off a wave of laughter. I glared. He grinned and said,
“But the cougar is a beautiful animal!”
No, the man just did not get it.
Here are some of the descriptions I found of the word, on Urban Dictionary:
“A 35+ year old female who is on the “hunt” for a much younger, energetic, willing-to-do-anything male. The cougar can frequently be seen in a padded bra, cleavage exposed, propped up against a swanky bar waiting, watching, calculating; gearing up to sink her claws into an innocent young and strapping buck who happens to cross her path.”
“An older woman who is past her prime & who is attracted to younger men, often as an act of desperation or as a last resort.”
“A Cougar is a female, usually between thirty and fifty years-old, who enjoys the sexual company of younger men. Cougars are only usually interested in men under the age of twenty-five. Also, Cougars are non-committal, choosing to move from mate to mate without ever settling down. It is not uncommon for the same Cougar to attack (sleep with) many different men in the same group of friends.”
I struggle with labels and for one single reason – because they rarely evolve as human descriptions should and often stay limited to the associations that they started with. This is also why I’ve never liked most popular descriptions of men for women, notably one that reminds me of a fluffy, yellow-feathered bird.
A cougar describes an older woman and one who it is acceptable to see as a sex object. This much is actually fine and inoffensive. But overlaid on that are perceptions of desperation, of cheap behaviour, of non-committedness and a generally predatory aura. While some of those may seem appealing within an erotic fantasy, no one (man or woman) wants to be described in those terms.
There is an almost tangible movement in popular culture today, pushing the idea of an independent woman acquiring male attention from the always most attractive age group – the 20s. That prototype has existed for years (think Hugh Hefner surrounded by nubile bunny-eared beauties). This is no more than a female version of the same archetype and it’s not pushing sex or freedom, it’s about power.
As a recipient of all the benefits of women’s liberation and empowerment, I enjoy financial independence, the virtue of fabulousness, the heady high of choices and control over my own body. My only problem with this, is that it’s cold when it gets into the realm of relationships. I don’t like the idea of treating human beings, male or female as acquisitions or status symbols. Whether men have been doing it for decades or not doesn’t change things. I can’t see how a relationship that is about exchanging power for money/fame can have anything to do with love, trust or any of those things that make a relationship great.
To come back, that’s why the description of cougar stings. If the original thought be true, it shouldn’t matter what
gender a person is, for them to be appealing to a large number of the opposite sex (younger or otherwise). It’s not an age no-bar situation. Age and experience have after all molded one into a person of confidence, ease, polish and independence. Attraction is flattering when it happens because I’m me, not because I fit the current fashionable norm of appealing. So yes, ask me my age by all means. But don’t call me a cougar.
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