Veet, the popular hair removal brand, has stirred up a great deal of controversy following the airing of its most recent advertisement in North America. The uproar surrounding the “don’t risk dudeness” ad is that it reinforces gender stereotypes by implying that having body hair is something inherently male. However, the very fact that Veet as a product exists is because that, shock horror, women have body hair too. The sooner this is accepted, as opposed to incessantly concealed, the better. Why is something we cannot help depicted as abhorrent and unnatural in society?
In the ad, which has now been taken down from the internet, a woman forgets to shave and is thus transformed into a man and ostracised from society. It conveys hair removal as a constant struggle, and that women must be hyper-aware of the fact that the beauty regime is vital to their acceptance. Of course we needn’t worry because Veet is apparently our saviour, promising to keep us “womanly around the clock.”
These parameters used to define “womanly” are narrow-minded because they succeed in alienating women who do not strive to be hairless demi-goddesses on a daily basis. There are a lot more pressing issues in women’s lives that do not revolve around being hairless, therefore it is neither realistic nor practical of Veet to suggest that women will be cast off from society if they do not pay vigorous attention to their body hair regime. It also sends the message that men are in a privileged position because they are unquestionably accepted into society in spite of their body hair, whereas one of the women in Veet’s ad is so helpless she cannot even hail a taxi by herself.
The polarised notion that individuals fit comfortably into only two categories, feminine or masculine, is against the very nature of individuality. However, the pervasive nature of the media has unfortunately resulted in the acceptance of this very idea. Arguably, it is only a bit of lighthearted humour; Veet themselves have even stated how “while the current advertising campaign for Veet running in the USA has been well received by most consumers who appreciate its wacky, tongue in cheek humour, it has also provoked a great deal of comment.” Nonetheless, the influence of the media, especially in regard to permeating personal ideals and opinion, is often more powerful than most of us would like to admit.
While it is very easy to trivialise the whole issue by accepting that, well, it is just hair, it is also a matter of confidence for many women. Many feel incredibly insecure without shaving, so to have this collective insecurity exploited is quite despicable. The Independent’s Orla Tinsley describes here how the ad is ‘misogynistically driven’ and a ‘narrow minded idea of gender construction.’ Indeed, the social media backlash which Veet has already received is encouraging; it shows that women are not passively accepting this unrealistic yet seemingly imperative image. That said, it remains a matter of personal choice as to whether women wish to remove body hair or not. It should not be perceived as something solely masculine because the bottom line is that it is not, and it would be delusional to believe so. It goes against the hard facts of reality.
Hair removal is not absolutely imperative. What is imperative though is Veet ensuring that they make money. And to make their money by subtly but assuredly shaming women is undoubtedly even more shameful on their part.
As published on studentjournals.co.uk April 18 2014