Having body hair will literally turn you into a dude, according to Veet’s new ad campaign

I seem to remember a time when sexism in advertising was subtle enough that critiquing it involved some skill — or least a keen eye. It was fun, truth be told, to tease out the sexist subtexts of so many of the commercials that inundate media consumers every day. Perhaps I’m romanticizing the not-so-distant past, but these days — and I don’t know if it’s due to pure laziness or some increased gender anxiety that advertisers are picking up on — it seems that, more and more, subtext is becoming straight-up text. 

While Hardee’s told us recently that you have to literally become a man to enjoy a burger, Veet’s new ad campaign warns us that women will literally become men without their wax strips. And, again, that isn’t what the ads imply — which obviously wouldn’t be all that rare for a body hair removal product. The campaign’s tagline is “Don’t risk dudeness!” and features a few different videos showing women whose one-day-old stumble has turned them into men being shamed by a paramedic, taxi driver, and even a professional salon worker. Yep, just one day will do it, ladies! The whole thing is vaguely transphobic, relying on the idea that “dudeness” is determined by body hair and that there’s something inherently funny about a man in a dress. And the ad featuring a disgusted boyfriend above throws in some homophobia — “Eww, two guys in bed together, gross!” — for good measure.

Of course, the irony of Veet’s campaign is that the very existence of its product undermines the idea that there is anything naturally “womanly” about a hairless body. Most men and women have some body hair. (If this is news to you, I hope you are someday blessed with the chance to see the range of bodies that exist outside the fantasy world of porn.) The cultural norm that leads many women to remove that hair, while men typically do not, is pretty much arbitrary — and one that necessitates some artificial intervention by razor, cream, laser, or, say, Veet’s wax strips.

Look, I generally like having freshly shaven legs and armpits. It feels nice and smooth. But there is seriously nothing that makes me want to let my naturally robust and thick body hair run wild more than someone saying that I need to be hairless to be (attractive as) a woman — especially if that someone is a company that is looking to profit by stoking anxiety and shame about gendered beauty norms. So I’ll be swearing off the razor for the rest of the month in Veet’s honor. The rest of you, men and women alike, should or shouldn’t remove your hair as you please — but don’t do it for anyone but yourself and definitely don’t use Veet’s wax strips.

Maya DusenberyMayas leg hair could compete against any dude’s.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/kellyford/ Kelly

    “a company that is looking to profit by stoking anxiety and shame about gendered beauty norms”

    this commercial is literally so appalling – thank you for writing about it! i don’t see many commercials these days and had no idea that things like this were even still being made. just when you think something can’t surprise you anymore. where did these standards and norms come from? they’re not good for anyone.

  • http://feministing.com/members/ljepotica/ Ana CL

    Translation: “Inside every hairy woman is a pair of undescended testicles, waiting to bust out. BUY OUR PRODUCT!”
    For another feminist response, go here: http://womenworthy.blogspot.com/2014/04/dont-risk-dudeness-warns-hair-removal.html

  • http://feministing.com/members/beatheist/ Hugo

    “The cultural norm that leads many women to remove that hair, while men typically do not, is pretty much arbitrary”
    Is that correct, are there actual numbers to back it up? Men typically remove hair daily, a lot (self included) also remove armpit hair, granted a lot of women remove hair from more areas of their bodies but tend to do it less often. The ad was sexist and needed to be called out.