Much ado about Muffing

Time for our promised followup to the “Pretty in Pink?” post a couple of weeks ago. I’ll start by saying that I can’t believe how much I have ended up thinking about this. What started as a basic rant has proven to be far more involved and nuanced than I could have predicted, and at the very least has stirred up some provocative conversation and interesting self-reflection.

First off, a big thank you to Ritz, founder of I Love My Muff products. I do not think that I could have handled Lunapads being under someone’s ideological microscope nearly as gracefully as she has. I placed an order for a “Maintenance Kit” to find out what I was missing and received a second kit on the house, a classy and generous gesture. I should also add that I think that Ritz has done a fine job with site design and the ecommerce shopping experience. Finally, I have it on excellent authority that she is a woman of considerable entrepreneurial moxy, personal style and good intentions.

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So… how were the products?  I have tried them several times now, and am still feeling somewhat ambivalent. I’m not a big one for perfume or aromatherapy so I can’t really say if I liked the scents or not, but they didn’t bother me, and certainly lingered. Did I feel clean? Yes. Fresh? Sure. Soft? I guess. Pure? Still have issues there, but never mind.

The products “work” just fine (an informant claims that they take care of post-shaving little red bumps, so there’s that to consider as a potential benefit as well), and seem to have integrity as far as the ingredients and overall quality are concerned. Organic ingredients would be a great next step in product development, along with more eco-friendly packaging.

There do seem to be rather a lot of “steps” (I use fewer products on my face), but I can’t see the harm (if used prudently – more on this in a moment), and can further see how using these products could help some women get more in touch with or feel more loving towards themselves. If nothing else, actually trying the products gave me insight into my own biases, for which I am grateful.

It is often said that all human decisions are based on either love or fear, and I think that where you stand on these products depends on your orientation in this respect. In my own case, it’s probably a bit of both, but I never lose sight of the fact that I am a woman of substantial privilege who has had the benefit of being raised with an abundance of love and a hefty dose of education. As a friend reminded me, it is not the responsibility of marketers to be the caretakers of women’s self-esteem, and perhaps I should give others more credit for being able to choose what supports them on their own terms.

And yet something continues to tweak me about this that transcends the functionality of the products themselves. I was taken to task by some of the commenters on the earlier post about my objection to ILMM’s claim that the products are a “must have” for every woman, and received feedback from more than one friend to the effect that such claims are “just marketing” and clearly to be taken with a larger grain of salt than happens to suit my taste. All well and fine, except that, in my persnickety eyes at least, the use of such boilerplate claims by extension calls into question the sincerity of the rest of what is otherwise a unique, positive and compelling message.

As an entrepreneur who has been building a message about women learning about, celebrating, feeling empowered around and taking better care of themselves in their vulval and vaginal areas for 17 years, it is a cause and message very near and dear to my heart.  Perhaps what troubles me about the ILMM message is to see its punch being pulled by a schlocky sales pitch. In other words, what parts of the Muff message are “just marketing”, and which ones actually come from the heart? I have a feeling that it probably is heart-based, and would love to see what it would look like if it skipped the “must have” charade and stayed there all the way through.

And speaking of language, I further found the message with respect to how and where the products are used to be potentially confusing. In numerous places in the marketing copy we are told that the products are intended to be used on “your most sensitive parts” (in my books, vaginas and clitorises definitely fall into this category), and yet on the products themselves it states “for external use only”. I feel that it would be a benefit to customers (particularly younger ones, as this seems to be the intended audience) to receive slightly more information about what does and does not apply. I find this issue to be consistent with the confusion expressed earlier about the marketing message: it’s like – we’re bold enough to say that we love our muffs, and yet can’t seem to bring ourselves to use real vocabulary to talk about them. In other words, if it’s really a statement (and not a whisper, as per ILMM’s tagline), then let’s hear it.

Bottom line: I support pretty much anything that could be a means to deepening self-knowledge or self-care, and now feel that, coupled with the happy proclamation that comprises its name, I Love My Muff products are about something positive for women. I hope to one day meet Ritz to further discuss our takes on the Muff biz, and in the meantime wish her continued success.

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