Body hair: untidy, unpleasant and downright dangerous


First, there was this advert from the US for a combination razor/bikini trimmer, the Schick Quattro Trimstyle for Women:

via Sociological Images.

Yes, the bushes are being trimmed. Ha ha.

The implication here is that now that you have this fancy razor, you can trim your hair into whatever shape you choose. The one thing you can’t do is not trim, and leave your bush in a natural state – trimming is normal, beautiful, and socially expected.

So that’s problematic enough. But here’s an ad for the same razor, from the UK (called here the Wilkinson Sword Quattro for Women Bikini, but it’s the same thing). I don’t know whether both of these ads ran in both countries, or whether they’re separate campaigns – probably the latter, but I can’t be sure.

also via Sociological Images.

Good grief. Where to begin?

The racial stereotyping is pretty awful. There’s a black woman singing “some bushes are really big” while giving a ‘raunchy’ wink (it’s overly dramatic, like a seaside postcard, so less raunchy than some, I suppose) while wielding a chainsaw, and an Asian woman singing “some gardens are mighty small” while trimming a bonsai tree with little hedgeclippers and giving a demure giggle with her hand over her mouth. Black women as wild and sexy? Check. Asian women as demure yet naughty? Check. Great.

Then the main singer, who at the start is all depressed, stroking her fluffy cat, and sitting in a formal room wearing (reasonably) sombre clothing. When she discovers the delight of “mowing the lawn”, she wears a tight pink top, short skirt, lets her hair down, and exchanges her cat for a hairless variety. Really. You see, women who trim their pubic hair have more fun. However they trim it – you can be as expressive as you like, girls, as long as your pubic hair is neat and orderly.

Interestingly, it’s comparatively rare for UK ads to feature American accents – even when it’s the same visuals, they’re usually dubbed by voice actors from the UK. I’m not sure what the intended effect of this is – American women trim their pubic hair and so you should too? American women are naturally inclined to sing songs with copious amounts of innuendo? British houses don’t usually have front lawns (and certainly don’t have lawns without fences between them) and so the idea of all these women doing their gardening together doesn’t work unless they’re in the suburbs of America?

And yes, she really does sing about only being able to see “tulips on the mound”.

So trimming your pubic hair not only feels good, looks good, and makes you socially acceptably, but it’s also a cure for “feeling blue”.

And just to reinforce the message that shaving is great, and not shaving is terrible, here’s another UK ad for a similar product, the Quattro for Women (the same as the above, but without the pubic hair trimmer thing on one end).

via Shapely Prose.

Yes, that’s right, daring to go out in public wearing a skirt more than 24 hours after you last shaved your leg will cause major accidents, injuries, and what appears to be sexual assault (the man falling on top of a woman in the aisle of the bus, with a couple of cutaway shots implying that he’s trapping her) to all the people in your immediate vicinity.

The ‘ripple effect’ (one small transgression sets of a chain of unlikely negative effects) is not new in advertising, but this one is particularly galling. It’s not the woman that sets off the chain of events – it’s her boyfriend. Yet she is very clearly the one to blame in this scene.

Right at the start, she is obviously trying to stop him from touching her leg. But he continues. That’s a pretty unpleasant message to be sending right there. “Ignore your girlfriend’s resistance to be touched in public, because it’s probably just because she’s embarrassed to be groped on public transport, and your right to cop a feel trumps her right to dictate what happens to her own body”.

But then watch what happens next. He touches her leg, feels her stubble (there’s a lovely sound effect of tearing velcro) and recoils like he’s in pain. It’s this recoil that triggers the chain of accidents culminating in the bus driving through a billboard. Not her leg. His reaction to her unexpectedly hairy and completely disgusting leg. But it’s still all her fault.

The tagline for this campaign is “Did you shave your legs this morning?” But based on this advert, what they really mean is:

“Did you shave your legs this morning? Because if you didn’t, if you have even twenty-four hour’s worth of stubble, you’re not conforming to socially acceptable beauty standards. That makes you completely responsible for any damage resulting people’s reactions to your disgusting stubbly legs (even if you recognise their abhorrent nature and try to prevent people touching them). Any such reactions, no matter how over the top or ludicrous they may seem to you, will be completely justified. Skip a day at your peril.”

And the text message she receives right at the end of the ad: “Hey, ever wished U just stayed in bed?” [sic] only drives home this message. If you, as a woman, fail to conform exactly to the standards of beauty and personal grooming dictated to you by society, you shouldn’t even dare to show your face in public, you repulsive monster.

Thanks, Wilkinson Sword, for driving the standards for women even higher than they already were, and implying that failing to keep to their standards is not just a moral failing but a danger to yourself and others. I won’t be buying products from you any time in the near future.

I think this last advert could be edited quite easily into a public service announcements for men, showing the dire consequences of sexual assault. When your girlfriend (or any other woman, for that matter) rebuffs your advances, she means that she doesn’t want them. Continuing to pressure and paw her without her consent is sexual assault, which can result in bus crashes. And even if it doesn’t, it’s still wrong.


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