Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Medicine and the Media

The V word: selling genital hygiene products to women

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 24 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5732
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}

Some companies selling products to help women with purported problems of genital “freshness” are avoiding the word “vagina” in their marketing, writes Margaret McCartney, but do women need these products at all?

In the United States, Lisa Brown was banned from the Michigan House of Representatives in June this year, after saying, in the context of a debate on abortion legislation, “Finally, Mr Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”1 The next day she was told that Republican leaders had banned her from speaking for being “disgusting.” But it’s a descriptive, medical, anatomically correct word. Is the V word really so shocking?

In June, the Femfresh brand ( was criticised for advertising soaps, deodorant, and wipes designed for women’s genitalia with the slogan “Whatever you call it, love it.” There followed a list of euphemisms without mention of any anatomical descriptors. The reaction on social media was of voluminous ridicule, leading manufacturers Church and Dwight to suspend the Facebook account where much of the reaction took place. Church and Dwight said that it …

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