International Women’s Day: better options for your brand

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

I spotted a tweet from Lovehoney about International Women’s Day this morning. Which would have been awesome if it had been about something super-relevant to women’s rights. Unfortunately, it was just a tweet about clitoral orgasms – as if International Women’s Day is basically a cross between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. As if it was about treating women in your life, rather than reflecting on how the women in your life have been treated. Let’s have a look at some better options, shall we?

 What’s wrong with orgasms on International Women’s Day?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with talking about orgasms on International Women’s Day. The problem comes when you do one of two things:

a) assume that all women have the same genitals. The Lovehoney tweet takes a very simplistic view of women – reducing us to genitals, and erasing trans and intersex women in the process.

b) mistakenly assume that International Women’s Day is just generally about women, rather than a day aimed at celebrating and furthering the struggle for women’s rights. It trivialises what for many women (trans and intersex women included) is an important event.

Better ways for brands to do International Women’s Day

Some people might think that brands just shouldn’t bother engaging in events like International Women’s Day – they’re bound, after all, to do something wrong, or look like they’re cynically engaging in something just to sell products. I don’t fall into this category – I think it’s more than possible for your brand to do cool stuff to further a cause and (possibly) also sell product or build a customer base at the same time. After all, brands often have big piles of money, and when they can get on board with charitable or social causes they can sometimes help to make a difference.

But there’s a huge difference between saying ‘we’re going to celebrate women/women’s rights on International Women’s Day’ and saying ‘hmm… a day about women, huh? We need to talk about women. How do we do that? Oh, OK… clitorises!’

There are better ways, Lovehoney. I promise.

How about a blog post about badass women in the sex industry, who are making cool new products, films and books that challenge the status quo?

How about a blog post that celebrates some of the contributions of women to sexual freedom?

Or a partnership with a charity that supports women?

Today there’ll be a lot of brands who want to piggyback on the #IWD2017 hashtag, and get a little bit of traffic from the fact that we’re all talking about it. I have no problem with this, if it’s done in a way that adds to the cause, rather than detracting from it.

International Women’s Day isn’t ‘a day about women.’ It’s a day about women’s rights. So before your company (sex industry related or not) decides to jump on that hashtag, consider whether your contribution is helping women, hurting them, or even erasing some completely.

Update: Lovehoney’s response

For the record, I don’t think this is a particularly good response – I agree with the point that women’s liberation includes self-love, but it’s more than possible to talk about sexual freedom without reducing women to genitals. Or imply that inclusion of trans and intersex women means shying away from the word ‘women.’


  • Vaness says:

    Sorry Im naughty because I havent read your whole blog (just rushing)

    But i think this may be a nice take on it

    • Vaness says:

      I will come back and read it properly!

    • Girl on the net says:

      Oh wow. OK, so I’m going to try and pick a little bit of it apart. It might sound a bit confrontational when I do it like this, but I don’t want to sound like I’m being a dick to you – apologies if it sounds like I’m being a dick, it’s just that this piece makes a whole bunch of mistakes that I think are based on stereotypes about women and/or not really fully respecting women.

      So. I’m going to take this section:

      “Yeah yeah, we know… work, children, house duties, or a thousand small inconveniences we got pushed over… but no! Stop giving excuses, enough is enough.

      “Get some time for yourself, dedicate to your own pleasure and happiness, just because. A brief moment to connect with our own breathing and our body, with our vulva and our joy.”

      To start: “Yeah yeah, we know… work, children, house duties, or a thousand small inconveniences we got pushed over…” I think this is quite dismissive of a lot of the unpaid labour that women do every day. On the plus side, it’s acknowledging that often these things are expected of women and that’s not good. On the (big) negative side, it’s dismissive (yeah, yeah) and presumptive: not all women do these things, or indeed have to to these things. Part of IWD is, I think, acknowledging that we can fight against these expectations rather than just lay them to one side for some ‘me time.’

      “Stop giving excuses, enough is enough.”
      This implies that women who perform the burden of emotional/unpaid labour have another choice – that they are indulgently still performing this labour (giving excuses) and that they can/should just tell themselves to stop. I don’t think this is true, and I think it’s quite dismissive (or just not very thoughtful) of women who may be on the poverty line, sole carers for other people, and who simply don’t have the option to stop. Likewise “Get some time for yourself, dedicate to your own pleasure and happiness, just because.” Again this assumes that the reason women aren’t getting pleasure is down to their own laziness/lack of will rather than because we live in a society that has for a long time treated female desire as something that either doesn’t exist or is evil and terrifying (this might be one for a whole separate post though!).

      Finally: “A brief moment to connect with our own breathing and our body, with our vulva and our joy.” Again this still erases many trans and intersex women. It connects being a woman with having a specific set of genitals. It also erases the experiences of many women who struggle with masturbation (for societal or physical reasons). It must be hard enough for women to hear ‘have an orgasm or your body is broken/wrong/bad’ and I think this blog post compounds it by adding ‘have an orgasm/enjoy masturbation otherwise you are letting down the sisterhood on this, International Women’s Day.’

      While I totally see where they’re coming from – and I’m sure there’ll be other sex toy companies that try to take this tack, I think there are much better ways to celebrate IWD than to equate womanhood with masturbation, and blame women who are either unable or unwilling to do it. If a company wants to shoehorn IWD into something, they could celebrate women in their industry, look back on historical victories in sexual freedom or what have you. Focusing exclusively on individual women and urging them to wank for womankind feels to me like bad judgment – or at the very least well-meaning but useless waffle.

  • Vaness says:

    You dont sound like a dick! :)

  • Jojo Huxster says:

    YES GOTN! Thanks for writing this!

  • Rebecca says:

    Tweets as the one from love honey etc take back women to the dark ages the exact opposite of the intention of International Womens Day. Yes our bodies are beautiful and sexual, but it our choice when you use that sexuality, love honey would of been better tweeting about an injustice against a female not their bloody clits. There are so many women around the world fighting for the fundamental rights we take for granted in the UK (although it is absolutely appalling that despite it being mandatory to report) that FGM has not had a successful prosecution, due to the “underground” nature of the offence being committed. Shame love honey did not realise that not every woman has a clitoris due to the barbaric practice Anyway off my high horse

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