Women finally experience shaming in marketing; feminist response is predictable


Lo and behold, the tables have finally turned. After the thousands of commercials aired day after day that mock and degrade men, portraying them as utter buffoons, as large children that cannot handle the most simple life task without the aid of their always intelligent and capable wife, we finally get to witness a commercial that makes a joke out of female bodily maintenance – even if it does utilize men as a comedic tool to make that joke.

International hair removal company Veet has found itself in the cross hairs of many an angry feminist for daring to suggest that women use their product to remove body hair. The company recently released a series of commercials with the tagline “Don’t risk dudeness” in an attempt to convince women to use their product – by suggesting that the worst thing that could happen to a woman is looking like a man. One of spots that has come under fire portrays a man waking up in bed with his female significant other who wraps her leg around him. However, when he goes to run his hand down her leg, it is hairy and he feels around her leg in confusion. When his female significant other sits up, we see that she is portrayed as a hairy man. When the original man sees that his female significant other is unexpectedly male, he recoils in horror as she apologizes for her “stubbly” legs. The tagline then implores women not to “risk dudeness.”

Enter angry feminists.

Apparently Ms. Orla Tinsley of Independent.ie is upset that marketing agencies are starting to exhibit a bit of equality in their comedic ploys. She seems to think that Veet – a company that profits off of the social norm of women removing their body hair – is exhibiting misogyny by joking about the topic.

Let’s take this piece by piece, because it is just too good not to.

The TV ads which were first shown two days ago on US television have garnered a slew of complaints on their Facebook page and across the internet. They seem to be suggesting that without the almighty Veet product to guide us, women, with our less than smooth legs and prickly armpits will in fact turn into men. Let that sink in for a second.

Okay, is this really your platform? Criticizing a company that specializes in body hair removal products for daring to try to convince people that they should buy their product? That is the purpose of marketing! Would it ease your victim complex if Veet made commercials that went more to the tune of “No no dear, you look great! But if you ever feel like removing your winter coat, give us a try!” Who knows, maybe that would sell a couple of units, but the purpose of marketing is to convince as many people as possible that they NEED your product so that you can move as many units as possible. But I have a solution for you. I’ll add a trigger warning, because it includes some agency on your part: don’t like it? Don’t buy it. It really is that simple.

In addition, I just have to turn a little feminist victim mentality back on them. I often hear feminists claiming insults that suggest a man is less valuable if he exhibits feminine qualities, ie. calling a man a “bitch,” a “pussy”, or other supposedly feminine based insults, are based on misogyny by claiming that the worst thing you could call a man is a woman. Well, in this case, Ms. Tinsley claims that Veet is suggesting that without their products, women will turn into men. She says “Let that sink in for a second.” Yes, let it sink in, because it suggests that the worst thing you could call a woman is a man. If the reverse is misogyny, then this example, by definition, would be misandry, not more misogyny.

Now, let’s count the rest of the deeply problematic depictions going on here.

It’s early morning and a man wakes up on a whiter than white duvet as his partner wraps their leg around him. The man slides his hand reaches back to find, horror of horror, hair! Not just any old hair, turning to look back as his partner the man finds that his companion is in fact a man. The caption reads ‘Don’t Risk Dudeness’.

Firstly, what is dudeness? Newsflash Dude, the word ‘dude’ itself is now pretty much a term used for both men and women by both men and women. Major fail there, Veet. But we’ll take it you mean some misogynistically driven, narrow minded idea of gender construction. Now that that’s clear, let’s talk about the alarming hint of homophobia and transphobia going on.

Interesting. So when a term is used in a derogatory manner to suggest that femininity is bad, ie. “bitch,” “pussy,” “bossy,” etc, it is gender specific and harmful to women, but when a term is used in a derogatory manner to suggest that masculinity is bad, ie. “dudeness,” it is somehow NOT gender specific or harmful to men. Anything that will allow women to play the victim, right? Major fail there, Ms. Tinsley.

I also find it intriguing that a supposed “narrow minded idea of gender construction” is automatically misogynistic. Whether you believe that gender is a social construct or not, the belief that narrow definitions of gender can only be driven by a hatred of women speaks volumes of one’s worldview. It may come as a surprise to Ms. Tinsley – maybe she hasn’t spoken with some of her more fair-minded sisters – but a narrow definition of gender can also be driven by a hatred of men. Women are just as guilty of enforcing gender roles on men as men are to women.

After the hairy alarm is raised the suggestion becomes that it is two men in a bed together that is in fact a nightmare. That anything other than a conservative perception of gender identity or sexual identity – including hair – would cause your partner to leave. We suddenly live in some 1950’s throwback era and also some sort of gender marker panic machine has been made that can be pressed by the hysterical advertisement devisers at hair removal HQ if you’re failing at womanhood.

That is quite the leap, assuming that the commercial is portraying the idea of two men in a bed together as a nightmare, simply because the original man gasped and pulled the sheet up to his chin. How about the fact that a man is being portrayed as waking up next to someone he does not recognize? Would that not be terrifying? And even if you do want to bring sexual orientation into it, why SHOULD someone be portrayed as comfortable and accepting waking up next a stranger that does not embody their sexual orientation? I would expect a gay man to be portrayed as surprised and possibly aghast if he was to wake up next to a female stranger, a lesbian to be portrayed as surprised and possibly aghast if she was to wake up next to a male stranger, or a heterosexual female to be portrayed as surprised and possibly aghast if she was to wake up next to a female stranger. Just because someone is uncomfortable with the idea of being in an intimate position with someone who does not embody their sexual orientation does not mean that they are homophobic. Heterosexual people are just as entitled to their sexual orientation and their comfort with it as homosexual people.

To label the advertisement as a “conservative perception of gender identity and sexual identity” is an assumption rooted in a victim complex, as it assumes that the individual would not react similarly given a different combination of characters with a different sexual orientation. A rudimentary understanding of marketing would lead someone to the realization that the purpose of an advertisement is to reach as many people as possible, and there is nothing homophobic about the fact that heterosexual women make up one of the largest consumer demographics.

Also, “anything other than a conservative perception of gender identity or sexual identity – including hair – would cause your partner to leave”? But, the man in the commercial never left… He merely jumped up in surprise. What was that again about a major fail?

I find it interesting that Ms. Tinsley takes such offense to the concept of a hair removal company advertising the normalization of hair removal for women, yet remains distinctly silent on the normalization of clean dishes by dish detergent companies, clean clothes by laundry soap companies, clean teeth by toothpaste/toothbrush companies, dyed hair by hair dye companies, makeup application by makeup companies, general hygiene by soap companies, etc.

Because according to Veet the slightest sign of stubble demonstrates your lack of commitment there ladies. The usually irritatingly light handed woman shaming that hair removal advertisements court unfortunately feels mild in comparison to this full on moronic series of advertisements. They are insulting, rude and have nothing to do with women.

“The slightest sign of stubble demonstrates your lack of commitment,” in what sense? Commitment to basic hygiene? Commitment to your relationship? I would go so far as to say that you have the responsibility to maintain whatever image you personify in order to garner the attention of your significant other in the first place. It is selfish to assume a facade in order to attract the attention of another, and then shed that facade once you have obtained that person’s attention.

Ms. Tinsley makes sure to maintain her victim status by reminding us that all hair removal advertisements utilize some form of “woman shaming,” despite the fact that many women participate in body hair removal due to their own personal preferences, and body hair removal companies merely capitalize on those preferences. But apparently portraying a woman who has not thoroughly removed her leg hair as a man is “moronic,” “insulting,” and “rude.” Meanwhile, the suggestion that portraying a woman as masculine is “moronic,” “insulting,” and “rude” is somehow not incredibly degrading to men.

Some lessons for Veet : shockingly, both women and men have hair. And by the way some women have so little hair they choose not to shave. Others have thick hair, curly hair, flat hair .. I could go on. They keep it or they remove it and will remain to do so as much or as little as they like. Whether it’s on our legs, our arms or other parts of the body. Men also have hair, shockingly. Some choose to be hairy, some smooth, some ruggedly in between. Hair is a normal indicator of a healthy developing human being. One would wonder if whoever came up with these advertisements has ever met an actual woman.

Fair enough. No one, not even Veet, can force you to remove your body hair. However, amidst all of this incessant whining, Ms. Tinsley seems to have forgotten that there are a number of brands and lines of products directed at men in regards to shaving as well. This includes both their face and their body. Ms. Tinsley also seems to have forgotten that ALL beauty products work in this same manner. Some people choose to dye their hair while others don’t; some people choose to wear lipstick while others don’t; some people choose to purchase designer clothes and accessories while others don’t.

You see, Ms. Tinsley? All consumer products work this way. You either choose to consume them, or you don’t. No one is forcing you to use them. All advertisements operate in this manner in which they attempt to convince as many people as possible that they should use their product. It’s called business. One would wonder if Ms. Tinsley has even the most basic understanding of how business and marketing works (I don’t think they cover that in ‘Gender Studies’). My guess is that the person that came up with these advertisements has in fact met many actual women, and many of them most likely participated in body hair removal.

In another of their advertisements a woman, who is being played by a male actor, finds herself in a neck brace at an A and E department where a nurse needs to examine her leg. A female actor takes his place for a mere moment until the nurse rips open the lower part of the trouser to find a fuzzy bed in hiding. ‘I shaved yesterday’, the now male actor says.

He sits in his manufactured shame as society just can’t bear to bare such imperfection is the not so subtle implication. I’m sure this would be any persons main concern while lying in a neck brace. My perfectly functioning legs and their hair fuzz, they are truly the worst. ‘Don’t Risk Dudeness’ pops up again even more stomach churning than the first time.

Yet again, Ms. Tinsley seems blissfully unaware that her hyperbolic interpretation of this commercial implicates shame and imperfection in masculinity. She is so offended that any shame or embarrassment over leg hair would be portrayed as taking precedence over a much more serious injury, that she fails to realize that Veet is using men and masculinity to embody a woman’s embarrassment over something so trivial. Apparently there is no problem with men being used as basic comedic tools, but don’t you dare suggest that a woman be embarrassed over her leg hair.

This crass representation of tiresome stereotypes is massively offensive and the backlash has already started as people in their thousands have been lambasting the company on their Facebook page and across the media. Pitching a product from a place of ancient prescribed gender roles and reducing women to incapable, anxious bystanders who think only of their appearance is not just insulting to women but also to men. Both of which will most likely bypass the Veet section in the supermarket from now on.

Interesting. So stereotypes of women removing their body hair – despite being based on a practice so common that there is an entire section in the supermarket just for hair removal – is offensive, yet the constant stereotyping of men in the media as incompetent buffoons who can barely function without a woman to guide them is just fine, right? You can complain all you want that Veet is “Pitching a product from a place of ancient prescribed gender roles,” but it is women who are happily maintaining those roles. Veet, like the majority of successful companies, is not operated by fools. They know exactly who their target market is and how to obtain their patronage.

In a last-ditch effort, Ms. Tinsley attempts to offer some lip service to men by claiming that the gender roles present in body hair removal and the supposed reduction of “women to incapable, anxious bystanders who think only of their appearance” is insulting to men, too. Never mind the fact that male disposability is ingrained in the concept of using men and masculinity as a punchline, suggesting that looking masculine is shameful, utilizing a tagline like ‘Don’t Risk Dudeness’ that suggests masculinity is the worst thing that could happen to a woman.

Enter hard-working Twitter feminists, focusing on the most important issues. Forget violence, forget poverty, forget starvation. These virtuous ladies want an apology from a company for advertising their product in the context of the product’s purpose. (https://twitter.com/StampEllie)

Keep up the good work, feminists.

**Update: I visited Veet’s Facebook page, and the amount of vainglorious, self-righteous feminists lambasting them is absolutely hilarious. I have to say that my favorite part is how often they claim that their boycotting the company is going to put Veet in financial ruin and destroy the company. You read that right. A bunch of people who are so offended by the normalization of body hair removal that most of them don’t participate in ANYWAY think that their boycotting of products that they already don’t use is going to put Veet into financial ruin. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Jessica Kenney
Latest posts by Jessica Kenney (see all)
Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather

About the author

Jessica Kenney

<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="705 http://blog.honeybadgerbrigade.com/?p=114">6 comments</span>

  • Do they use the word “BOYcotting”? Because that’s cleary not a gender neutral word. Clearly, they must be the servants of the Patriarchy.

  • Hmm – I’ve always known Orla was a feminist but haven’t read any of her feminist stuff until now. She’s been in deep with the feminist set in Ireland for quite a while though.

    Interestingly, she is also a campaigner of behalf of people with Cystic Fibrosis (CF.) She was instrumental in having the drug Kalydeco made available to people with CF there – for many people with CF, depending on the types of genetic mutations they have, Kalydeco is a miracle drug that saves lives and greatly improves quality of life. Orla herself has CF.

    It’s a shame she can’t stick to that type of activism…

By Jessica Kenney

Listen to Honey Badger Radio!

Support Alison, Brian and Hannah creating HBR Content!

Recent Posts

Recent Comments





Follow Us

Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby feather