The Racist Legacy of "Feminine Care" Products

A Lysol advertisement from the 1920s that says "She was a Jewel of a Wife...with just one flaw. She was guilty of 'one neglect' that mars many marriages. Lysol helps avoid this."

This article addresses the complex and insidious racist (and misogynist) history of vulvar and vaginal douches, sprays, and washes, as well as racial disparities in their use today. Most of these products are unnecessary and potentially harmful. For example,

“Research has shown that douching may be associated with higher exposures to diethyl phthalate, a type of industrial chemical found in many consumer products. It may also be linked to health risks, such as infertility, vaginal infections and sexually transmitted diseases.”

It also discusses how the ads for these products have targeted the Black community and other communities of color.

Modern-day menstrual and intimate care practices have been heavily shaped by historical views about women’s bodies being unclean. This ‘ingrained thought’ can be traced to the practice of sequestering or restricting women during their periods, which has continued in some cultures, and antiquated ideas of the ‘vagina being dirty,’ McKnight said.”