Director of Corporate Accountability
In sizzling New York heat, we protested toxic products & body-shaming
Last Tuesday August 7, we shook up Summer’s Eve! We protested in the sweltering heat at their global headquarters in Tarrytown, New York, to send Summer’s Eve a clear message: that their products are “Simply Toxic”! And what did the corporation do? They kicked us out!
But hang on, let me tell you the whole story…
Activists had flown in from places like Denver, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis. We stayed up late the night before making signs like “I Love My Self-Cleaning Vagina” and “Quit Being a Douche.” The creativity made my head spin. We hoped reporters would turn up to an event like no other in this sleepy little town (remember Sleepy Hollow?).
Making a Splash in Front of Corporate Headquarters
And on the day of the action, women and femmes from around the country descended on Prestige Brands, makers of Summer’s Eve. Others had joined us from New York City, arriving by shuttle bus. Many of you joined in from home, by picking up the phone and calling Summer’s Eve — and over 15,000 of you signed petitions. We were all there — both near and afar — because the iconic brand of douches, wipes, washes, and sprays continues to use toxic chemicals, keep harmful fragrance secrets, and use toxic body shaming messaging to sell their products. We chanted “When our bodies are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
And the media turned up! Reporters with local television stations came with their camera crews to talk to us. Several of us spoke with them, and saw ourselves on the news later that day. The message of toxic products and toxic body shaming is making its way into the mainstream.
Speaking Our Truth to Protect Our Communities
When it came time for the press conference, an all-star lineup of speakers dropped some mad truth out there in the hot sun! People from health and justice organizations spoke out loud and indignant about the problems with Summer’s Eve and the Prestige Brands corporation. Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal of New York kicked things off with “if your vagina was meant to smell like a field of wild flowers, it would’ve come that way.” She has championed menstrual equity measures like requiring free period products in schools, and requiring disclosure of ingredients in tampons and pads.
Maria Ignacia with COLOR (pronounced co-LORE) was adamant that she will not stand by as products are pushed on her community that perpetuate the stigma that negatively impact their health and well-being. “As a young Latinx immigrant, I am told left and right that I need to change myself to fit into society, to have a relationship, to live here safely, and to be able to pursue my dreams. Companies like Prestige further exploit the narrative that immigrants and people of color don’t meet the requirements to be accepted into this society, and that we have to change ourselves in order to be accepted. I love myself and my community, and I refuse to use products like Summer’s Eve especially because they hide harmful chemicals in their products. So I am here today to call on Prestige to be a leader in this movement.”
Marissa Chan with Black Women for Wellness declared “today we gather in this 100 degree swamp to protest a company that has a history of greenwashing, problematic advertising, and deceit.” She recalled the history of vaginal douches, and the problems that continue to face Black women and girls. “Black women have historically faced odor discrimination. The first documented reference of vaginal douching came from an 1803 manual for the treatment of West Indian slaves, which listed ‘excessive vaginal discharge’ as a common complaint, and prescribed douching twice a day. This belief was furthered by our president at the time, Thomas Jefferson, who stated that slaves had a ‘strong and very disagreeable odor.’ Companies like Prestige perpetuate and profit off these harmful narratives.”
And Tamsin Stringer stood up with Turning Green, a global student-led organization for conscious living. She thinks the latest line of products called Simply Summer’s Eve supposedly made with “scents inspired by nature” is simply green-washing! She took issue with unpronounceable and untested chemicals, many of which have been linked to cancer and hormone disruption, and detrimental environmental impacts such as disposable intimate wipes ending up on beaches and harming wildlife. “As a young woman who just turned 18, the advertising and marketing behind these products gives a false image to young women, who are just starting to explore the world of hygienic care. The message I’m getting from the branding is that you have to use these products to feel clean and beautiful. This is a negative message towards young girls, and it’s not true.” She also reminded everyone about the importance of VOTING!
I shared some uncomfortable truths myself. About how, as a small child, I didn’t know the words vagina or vulva, but somehow I knew I wasn’t supposed to talk about what was “down there.” And so brands like Summer’s Eve can take advantage of the silence, and push their products that make us feel like our bodies are dirty.
We then headed inside Prestige’s office building to deliver petition signatures from over 15,000 people. But they sent building security person to stop us from even entering. He told us he would call the police if we tried to go any farther.
Are you ok with having your voice silenced?
If you signed the petition to Summer’s Eve, they just tried to silence your voice. Are you ok with that? This fight is far from over, so let’s keep up the pressure!
- Watch and share the spoof Summer’s Deceive videos
- Keep posting on social media, tagging #SummersEve #SummersDeceive and #DetoxTheBox
- Host a Detox the Box party, invite your friends, and have a conversation about the products we use and why.
Make no mistake: we shook up Summer’s Eve! The corporation is definitely taking notice of our demands, so keep raising your voice. Make sure you catch the Facebook Live video from the event. And stay tuned for more ways to hold Summer’s Eve accountable!