Ad Analysis of Lysol: Douching Method for Women in the 1950s

Pages: 6 (1472 words) Published: April 27, 2014
Brenna Wilburn
ENG 122
Professor Demack
Visual Argument Analysis Paper
3/4/14

Lysol has been around since 1889 and has been known for its disinfectant purposes for more than fifty years, but in the 1950’s it was used for a completely different purpose. Lysol was used as a douching method for women and this advertisement published in the 1950’s is sponsoring Lysol as a feminine hygiene product. As a visual argumentative piece, Lysol uses several warrants and attributes to prove its point, that Lysol was gentle enough to be used as an internal cleansing product.

Lysol was a “Homemade” contraceptive, used in place of the more expensive forms such as condoms or pills. According to Nicole Pasulka in her essay When Women Used Lysol as Birth Control, Lysol contained “cresol, a phenol compound that sometimes caused information burning and death. The Visual Argument in this advertisement makes several claims as to the safety and quality of this product. When evaluating warrants or evidence for arguments, it is necessary to understand all the visual elements in this advertisement that would have appealed to consumers and actually persuaded them to buy Lysol for this purpose.

The active ingredient along with other agents in Lysol during this time were proven to be lethal both inside and outside the human body. In this add, the first visual that appeals to the eye is the spider web. The spider web is a metaphor for a wall in between the husband and the wife. Simply translated, her condition or vaginal issues are preventing her and her husband from being together. Today, visuals such as Vagisil are widely advertised on TV and social media. The products of today have been tested, researched and gentle to the female uterus.

As the ad introduces the wife stuck in the web, we see the husband ignoring her and reading the paper. The first warrant is made visually by the display of the web and his reaction to her. The ad is speaking visually that she caught herself in this web and she needs to get out. The ads pre 1953 had a lot of restrictions on nudity, products and messages due to stigma of sex and issues. The text begins with stating, “Held in a web of indifference”. As typical advertising uses false claims, they are using “emotional” appeal or pathos to visually gain support for their claim that Lysol is effective at cleansing female internal organs.

As we further evaluate the text in the top portion of the ad, the woman portrayed begins to tell her story. “Day after heartbreaking day, I was held in an unyielding web” begins her journey. The first warrant comes to support their evidence as an effective douche product, when the woman states “Well thinking you know about feminine hygiene, yet trusting to new and then care”—The ad of course is making reference to the recent discoveries and inventions of the birth control pill and the condom. The 1950’s was an era, when after WWII, women were housewives and were portrayed as figures with limited education and knowledge of the world. This warrant appeals to that emotional and defined side of womanhood of the era.

The woman continues to realize that she was at fault, when visually she is distraught. She stares at her husband with this “help me” look on her face. She is trapped in a jail cell, which she can’t get out of. The second warrant or piece of evidence are in the spoken words, “He said never to run such careless risks…prescribed Lysol grand disinfectant for douching—always” (1). The mere suggestion that a professional is endorsing the use of the product states it all. This would be a claim to knowledge or fact, since we trust our doctors. According to Nichole Paluska, the history of Lysol in the United States recorded “193 poisonings and 15 deaths by 1911. So they use the validity of the claim, but the claim or evidence is false as history suggests.

The appeal of professional associations can override actual truth. At some point, any woman seeing this in the...


Cited: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysol
http://www.motherjones.com/slideshows/2012/02/when-women-used-lysol-birth-control/lysol-douche-cobweb
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