Averting disaster with a few swipes of a razor
Found by way of Feministe, Wilkinson Sword, the UK-based distributor of Quattro disposable razors, seems to be taking a new and decidedly unsubtle approach to advertising towards ladies. First they put out an ad showing women in miniskirts and hooker heels cheerfully trimming unruly bushes down to small, attractively shaped tufts of grass, while another woman is shown stroking a cat and singing about she wants to “mow the lawn” so that she can see “just tulips on the mound.” Now a new ad shows a woman sitting on a crowded bus with her pushy boyfriend, who keeps trying to touch her legs in spite of her protests. When he succeeds, he is so startled to discover that she OMG HAS HAIR THERE that he abruptly draws his hand back and accidentally hits someone, causing a chain reaction that results in the bus crashing through a sign that reads DID YOU SHAVE YOUR LEGS THIS MORNING?
Well, no, Quattro, I didn’t get a chance to, but now that I see it’s a matter of public safety I’ll be sure to get right on it. I get that both commercials are meant to be broad and funny, but it still plays into two deeply ingrained stereotypes: one, that women are prettier and more feminine when they shave off all the hair below their necks and two, that men are like children when it comes to gender characteristics of females, such as periods and body hair, reacting with shock and repulsion whenever they’re confronted with them. Further in regards to the latter, men will never change, so it’s up to women to protect their delicate sensibilities by never revealing evidence that they have periods or grow hair in places other than their heads. This message is clear in the second ad, where despite the accident being the boyfriend’s fault, the girl is shown at the end all but cringing in embarrassment and trying to cover her legs with the hem of her skirt. See, if she had just shaved her legs like she was supposed to, none of that would have happened.
I suspect that the “women can still be attractive with hairy legs/pits/vag” argument is one feminists will never win in the mainstream media, despite how many men who honestly don’t give a shit either way will back it up. Hairy legs, or other parts, on a woman are still treated as a sight gag, usually applied to a character who is meant to be weird and off-putting (not to mention the straw feminist archetype), and always met with disgust. Even in the supposedly woman-friendly Sex and the City, one character’s untamed bush, partially revealed in a bathing suit, is treated with mocking derision by another character who is supposed to be her friend. One can assume that it’s the character who failed to go through the discomfort of waxing that is meant to look bad, rather than the one who has a curious, misplaced interest in her friends’ pubic grooming. It’s not even a losing battle, because that would suggest that we ever had a chance of winning it in the first place. It’s been ingrained so far into our culture, even into our subconscious, that we probably can’t even explain why smooth, hairless skin is more attractive, just that it is, and it’s our job to keep it that way. The majority of women who let themselves go without shaving for extended periods of time, Yr. Correspondent included, tend to be apologetic or embarrassed about it, or we make excuses for it–“I’ve been sick,” “It’s been too cold to wear skirts or dresses,” “No one’s seeing me naked right now anyway.” We have to pick our battles, and there’s just too much other more important work to be done to spend time trying to convince the world that there’s nothing wrong with a little extra hair.
That being said, I don’t know who Quattro thinks they’re kidding by claiming that shaving is fun and feels good. It isn’t and it doesn’t. It’s irritating, it’s itchy, and we further buy into the notion that once we’re shaved we have to cover our newly smooth skin in a variety of emollients and unguents to render it even more smooth and kissably soft. And we do it for the stupidest of reasons, because we’re “supposed to,” so Quattro might be better served running an ad that shows a more realistic depiction of shaving, with a woman letting out an exasperated sigh and balancing herself on one leg while shaving the other on the edge of her bathtub, trying to avoid nicking herself on the back of the ankle like we all fucking do. At the end the ad could say “Quattro: It Might as Well Be Us.” There’s your truth in advertising.