You Should Fear The Barbie Crotch

This anti-camel-toe shield isn’t just good for a laugh. It’s also an illustration of how industry can manufacture and then fulfill a need by making you insecure about your body.

Oct 24, 2011 at 6:00pm | Leave a comment

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Regretsy turned up this anti-camel-toe product, the Smooth Groove, a sort of vaginal shoehorn that you stick inside your pants to avoid embarrassing ride-up. It’s super-ridiculous and hilarious, especially the ad, which doesn’t use the phrase “the heartbreak of camel toe” but might as well.
 
“Even the women who hadn’t experienced camel toe themselves... knew of someone who had.” Gosh, could that be because we all have LABIA?

The instant Barbie crotch is a completely absurd product, and I don’t expect it to show up in Walgreen’s any time soon. But it’s not just good for a laugh; it’s also an illustration of how industry can manufacture and then fulfill a need by making you insecure about your body. So many products -- wrinkle creams, body shapers, depilatories, hair extensions -- are just Barbie crotches in disguise.

The Smooth Groove website positions camel toe as “the most embarrassing taboo there is” for women. (Their evidence? It’s often mentioned in "Sex and the City 2." Man, if something embarrasses that movie, it must be bad!) That’s step one: A problem you may not have been overly concerned about before -- maybe you typically wear pants that fit -- gets reframed as the MOST EMBARRASSING THING THAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN.

(Step one-half, incidentally, is getting that problem to show up in "Sex and the City 2." I don’t think the Smooth Groove has that kind of influence, but it’s definitely true that if you can seed your pet neurosis into popular culture, it really reinforces the message that it’s a life-ending humiliation.)

Step two: Offer a product to fix the manufactured problem. In an imaginary world where the Smooth Groove weren’t patently ridiculous on its face, that might work like this: Before seeing a Smooth Groove ad (or product placement in "Sex and the City 2"), a woman putting on a pair of pants that give her camel toe will take them back off, go “Man, I really need to put those in the Goodwill pile,” and put on another pair. After seeing the ad, she’ll think “Ugh, my stupid vulva ruins all my pants, I need to buy a Smooth Groove.”

Step three: Profit.

Actually, step three is twofold: Profit, and keep on profiting. Because once the Smooth Groove (or something more plausible) gets a good toehold (ha), life with your product becomes the new normal. Breasts without implants or push-up bras stop “looking right.” A “typical” 50-year-old face is one that’s had Botox. If you want your body to appear “normal,” you need a body shaper, or Photoshop. Or, you know, any hint of human vulva in your jeans becomes a bizarre deviation. And you keep needing to buy more products to maintain “normality.” (The Smooth Groove website recommends replacing your pubic shield every six months, by the way.)
 

Thankfully, we probably don’t have to go through this cycle with camel toe, at least not for this product. We can all just put on pants that fit. But we already went through the exact same cycle with skin and fingernails and lashes and hair (that we want thicker and shinier) and other hair (that we want gone) and figure and stretch marks and boobs. Did I miss any? PROBABLY.

So when you watch this ad, don’t just laugh at Madame Smooth Groove and her eyeliner clucking about the shame of having a vag. I mean, do that! It’s ridiculous. But don’t JUST do that, because this is more than just a dopey vulva hat. Think about the Smooth Groove as an Alien egg that probably won’t hatch -- but if it did, it would be a facehugger and it would hug the hell outta your face, just like its brothers. That’s right: Gaze into this plastic polymer maxi pad, and you’re gazing into the system of manufactured demand and supply that keeps women locked into consumerism in order to feel marginally normal. Chew on that.

Except don’t, you know, chew on it. It’s plastic, and it’s been in your underwear.