The blog Jezebel recently published an article called “Horrible New Veet Ads. If a Lady Has Hair on Her Legs, She’s a Man.”
On the article-page, beneath the headline, there’s a link to the advertisement on YouTube, (their link is broken but the commercial is here). Further down the page, the author of the article offers a feminist reading of the video. She writes, “While plenty of hair removal campaigns for women are subtly trying to indicate that the only way you’re attractive is without body hair, Veet’s new campaign “Don’t risk dudeness!” goes one step further and suggests that without their wax strips, you risk turning into a man… Despite the fact that both men and women have body hair, the campaign reinforces a standard of beauty dictating that body hair is only for men.”
After watching the clip, and smirking to myself at how ridiculous it was, I began to wonder why it was remarkable enough for Jezebel to take issue with. Like most ads for hair removal paraphernalia, it presents the product as a means of making oneself more attractive to a man, insinuating that beauty is defined by hairlessness. We’ve all seen the touchable legs campaigns by Venus, where smooth-legged women steal kisses from excited, virile male model-types, or the Schick “Trim Style” commercials that compare a woman’s pubic hair to an unruly (and unappealing) decorative plant. Each is offensive in its own way, and Veet’s commercial is no different. So what’s with all the hullaballoo?
As women, we’re so often forced to take sexism in stride, to look the other way, or ignore it completely, and go about our lives despite the hurt and anger it causes. We look to websites like Jezebel, and read the grumpy articles they post, in an attempt to find support through solidarity. We feel justified in getting pissed off because we know that other women out there are angry, too—and we start discussing complex issues like feminism on a daily basis, in part, because we know that other people want the hardships that women face to stop, too.
Jezebel is so popular because of this, but the site’s way of going about finding a solution to the problem troubles me.
What Jezebel does, and does so well, is the labeling of particular individuals and companies as “anti-feminist.” In other words, the blog looks to eradicate sexism by attacking particular companies, magazines, and people and making them scapegoats for the problem of sexism at large. Their criticism of the Veet brand, and their analysis of the dudeness commercial is just one example, and it isn’t constructive or productive.
Simply pointing a finger and crying “shame!” isn’t doing anything for the feminist movement — yelling at the media every time it puts out something annoying simply doesn’t add much to the discourse.
If we think about it, by playing the blame-game, isn’t Jezebel just adding to the problem by picking at our feminist scabs? Aren’t they just contributing to the chaos by pointing out the obvious (the media is mean to women!), rather than rallying around a solution and beginning to think about why sexist advertisements and media campaigns are conceived of in the first place? What women need is a real analysis of the problem, not a simplistic “heads up” every time something sexist crosses our paths. We need thoughtful articles that are willing to articulate complex thoughts and echo our sensibilities, not excuses to throw a temper tantrum at everything that might ever make us roll our eyes.
In short, what we need is this: sophisticated, feminist media outlets that choose to discuss disturbing issues and trends that really and truly make the world a more dangerous and troubling place for women.
The Veet commercial was stupid. It pretends that waking up next to a woman with stubbly legs is somehow a man’s worst nightmare, joking that a woman might grow a penis alongside her leg hair if she fails to use the new Veet product. Jezebel took issue with this absurd message and printed an angry article about it. But, to be honest, I was completely indifferent to the commercial. I watched the video and took it for what it was—a stupid commercial— and went about my day.
Women aren’t dumb enough to take empty, misogynist media messages at face value.
We don’t look at individual commercials as the ultimate purveyors of the extreme sexism that we encounter up and down every day. We see them, and we roll our eyes, and we go about our lives. They have no ownership over us.
We, as women and consumers, have some degree of agency and power. We have the ability to choose which products we get behind, and we purchase and invest our money in items and companies (razors or shaving creams or anything, really) that we like and know will work. We don’t need Jezebel to sound the alarm every time the sexist media rears its crude, dopey head—we’re just too smart get pissed off at a silly advertisement, and we’ve learned to pick our battles and grow angry and call out misogynist practices when they truly merit our attention.
At the end of the day, I think Jezebel just needs to give women a little more credit. We’re busy educating ourselves and going to work and making names for ourselves and engaging in serious discussions about the problems we face. Getting angry at a Veet ad just isn’t all that high on our to-do lists.