Friday, 5 June 2015

Shaving Ads and Sexism. Kinda.

I remember a little back, there was a bit of controversy about this waxing ad:

I understood the objections. While it doesn't go out of its way to persecute or belittle any specific group of people, I can understand why it could be considered sexist or homophobic. I understand why people might take offence at it and I understand why people disliked it.

But I also dislike most shaving or waxing ads. Anything that makes body hair removal look like a necessity rather than a luxury feels somewhat off to me.

In the same way that the now infamous 'beach body ready' ad inspired controversy, it belittles body types other than those depicted as being desirable and it is considered likely to upset people who have existing issues with body image. And so on and so forth. The key issues with it are going to the same as the ones that you could raise about basically anything that promotes unnattainable standards of beauty and expects ordinary women to strive for it.

But, at first, I didn't there was going to be a way of making a body hair removal ad that you couldn't find some kind of issue with. If you think about, most of the taglines and main selling points in those adverts are based on the assumption that women must get rid of their body hair. Probably not all, but off the top of my head (and I admit I haven't studied them in particular depth and I don't even have a TV box any more) I can't think of any that don't embrace that attitude.

And I think the problem is that it's not seen as a luxury. Hair removal is presented as a necessity. And that's why people take offence.

And it's easy to see how, without that pressure to conform, those products won't sell anywhere near as well.

But with a bit of creative thinking, there are plenty of ways that you can eschew those uncomfortable insinuations and still make an effective ad. They just have to embrace what is good about shaving for women. What, specifically, makes it a desirable luxury for the people removing their hair. Instead of making them feeling ugly or unattractive for not doing it.

Even just thinking about it, it sometimes seems that the benefit of shaving is for the people around the shaved person, rather than that person herself. For whoever looks at her or touches her. She, really, won't notice it all that much because, if she conforms to the expectations of these ads, she will be perpetually smooth. She won't experience any other way of being.

But I know a fair amount of people who hold feminism close to heart, but still shave their legs. Because it is their choice. Some of them choose not to shave their armpits, though. And considering the difference between the two areas is where you find what benefits shaving actually has for the woman doing it.

Because that benefit, simply, is luxury.

When you shave an armpit, it remains an armpit. A part of the body that, no matter how you decorate it, remains basically the same. It might get a bit more ticklish bald. But that's it. Otherwise, it's still a kind of boring and fairly unsexy part of the body that is best known for being sweaty.

When you shave a leg, though, the way you experience it changes completely. The wind feels different against it. It feels nicer. You can feel it so much more clearly. It's cool and pleasant, brushing directly against smooth skin. The same can said of lots of things - of warm sunshine and long grass and clean bedsheets. It feels different on a smooth surface than a furry one. In a positive way.

With that as the focus, I'd be far more inclined to buy hair removal products. The way that I will enjoy the world because of it, when I choose to experience that luxury. I don't want to be told that I have to shave my legs every day in order to be accepted.

But I do like having the option of going out as smooth as possible in short shorts on a sunny day and appreciating how different the world feels that way.

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