Emma Rees is professor of literature and gender studies at the University of Chester, where she’s also director of the Institute of Gender Studies. Her book, The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History came out in paperback in 2015.
Just over a year ago I was invited on a short book tour of Florida. It was only my second time in the States and it was a culture shock in many ways (not least in terms of the near-ubiquitous media coverage of an utterly improbable presidential candidate called Donald Trump). The tour took me from the west coast, via Alligator Alley to the east coast and Miami. It was here that, in a supermarket, I saw a strong household cleaner on the shelves, its reverse-side packaging crammed full of safety warnings about its toxicity, and its front-side showing the brand’s name – Lysol – in a cursive script that was eerily familiar. For part of my talk – ‘Vulvanomics’ – that I was touring then, and still regularly present, looks at the lineage of misogyny that runs through the attempts of major global companies to monetise a pervasive cultural fear of women’s genitals.