You know fair skinned women in fairness cream ads are shown to be unhappy and dark by being poorly lit for a while and then are miraculously transformed into a person with ten times the happiness quotient and a skin hue ten shades fairer? They’ve been doing the same strangely unrealistic thing to promote hair removal products.
If fair-skinned women are seen in fairness cream ads, we see smooth-limbed hairless women in adverts for hair removal products: razors, epilators, waxing strips et el. Watching Deepika or whichever model shaving smooth skin or ‘removing’ nonexistent hair always puzzled me (and doubtless most other viewers out there) - why shave if one is hairless already.
What was the point of showing already hairless limbs for a hair removal product? It did nothing to demonstrate the efficacy of the product sought to be sold! It also puzzled me that there were different, more expensive razors for women – shave like a woman? What does that mean? This ad evidently cautions dark, terrible misfortunes befalling a woman who dares to shave with a man's razor presumably. And note, those limbs are still completely bereft of hair.
Billie is a brand that claims to be a “a female-first shave and body brand”. Project Body Hair by Billie shows women actually shaving their arms and legs and underarms and well… apparently a cactus as well. We see things like the hair surrounding the navel, the unibrow, actual hair that the razor removed… we even see some cellulite (score for reality!).
Billie says here is a product if you want to shave. It shows realistic looking women and normalises body hair. The ad was much applauded on social media. The fact is that body hair is thought to be so antithetical to social conventions of ‘female beauty’ and so undesirable and so ‘unwomanly’ that even products meant to address a ‘problem’ did not actually show the said ‘problem’. According to the manufacturer Billie, razor ads have always been directed at men not women; which is the reason for this bizarre hairlessness.
We saw this earlier when the model in an Adidas ad was mercilessly trolled for appearing in an ad with visible body hair. No man was ever trolled for being hairy, but women who dare to show, say, armpit hair the way Julia Roberts has done in the past are reviled. Why are women held up to such exacting standards of ‘beauty’ which require them to work hard, endure pain and be vigilant at all times?
It isn’t just men, women also have certain ideas about what constitutes ‘beauty’, personal grooming and what a woman is ‘expected’ to look like. Thus far, women have always been expected to behave in a certain way, merely in order to gain the type of social and even familial approval that men expect as their right without any effort. There is disapproval and discomfort with when women choose to reject these narrow, circumscribed roles and images. There is discomfort and disapproval; even anger when women in particular reject gender roles that are ascribed to them. Our social conditioning is so strong that we see nothing wrong in expecting women to be hairless; so much so that the presence of natural hair shocks people and is seen as somehow disgusting; and that disgust is apparently perfectly normal.
Perhaps generations to come will raise their (perhaps un-threaded) eyebrows at the kind of chest-beating this razor (non) issue has triggered. Perhaps in times to come, society will permit women to be more comfortable with their bodies as they are. Perhaps women will forgive themselves for choosing to be comfortable rather than careful. Perhaps in times to come we will be able to accept that ‘beauty’ comes in all shapes, sizes and colours and hairlessness is not an essential prerequisite. Perhaps we will all be less exacting about what it is we expect of women? Maybe one day women will stop being shamed and trolled for images such as these? I suspect we’ll have to wait a while for this.
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