April 28, 2010

Advertising trimmed, shaped or shorn lady parts

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , , — Melanie @ 4:14 pm

We know it’s not just arm and leg hair that is considered unattractive. 90s porn culture targeted a new area of hair growth on women and deemed it unattractive and unacceptable. In fact, trimmed, shaped or completely removed pubic hair has become normative. It is difficult many to remember the previous aesthetic, an aesthetic that did not require a woman’s vulva to be shaved, waxed or shorn to be considered “attractive” or desirable. As quoted in the Times Online UK piece from 2007:

But then around the mid-90s some mysterious memo went out to twentysomething women that it was no longer sufficient to tidy the “bikini line” so it didn’t cascade down the inner thigh like a spider plant. The gyms of Britain were suddenly full of women waxed into weeny welcome mats, with all the stubble, bruises, pimpled hair follicles and burst blood vessels that accompany this excruciating sexifying of the sex.

Like a trend for comedy-size breast implants, inflatable lips, hair extensions, extreme nails and high street daywear revealing more tittage than a ten-quid hooker, waxing filtered down from the porn industry. Here defuzzing makes the action, as it were, easier to follow. And for male performers depilation adds the illusion of an extra inch. Maybe Hitchens had that in mind.

The aesthetics of porn reigns in an age when sex is so commodified that lapdancing is deemed “empowering”, prostitution glorified in TV drama, sex less concerned with pleasure than display. Young women have swallowed the idea that they must look so “hot” that men would pay to sleep with them: pity the poor cow so badly maintained that she’d have to give it away for free.

And bikini-area maintenance is, after all, big business. I mentioned the latest trend in pubic hair removal in the form of “virgin waxing” in my post from September 2008.  Virgin waxing is being offered in salons across the country as a type of preventative maintenance. This salon’s website states:

I call it the “Virgin”- waxing for children 8 years old and up who have never shaved before [my question, why would an 8-year-old be shaving?]

What’s the motivation to subjecting your pre-pubescent daughter to bikini waxing before the hair has even arrived? Apparently, virgin waxing is a pro-active measure designed to eradicate pubic hair in 2 to 6 sessions, eliminating the need for lifetime waxing. The salon claims that the savings can be applied directly to a college fund. Well, I am guessing that these virgin waxing treatments aren’t cheap in the first place and the notion that a girl’s pubic hair will be removed before she gets it, maintaining her pre-pubescent appearance is inherently disturbing.

Aside from all the glaring problems revolving around women’s sexuality and women’s bodies, hair-free or neatly groomed bikini-areas are expensive. According to UK author, Janice Turner:

You don’t need to page Dr Freud to wonder how the craze for bare pudenda might be tied to some unsavory fetishisation of youth. And now the waxed look is supported by a massive industry — hair removal in Britain is worth £280 million a year.

We plan on writing about the the relationship between patriarchy, porn culture and pre-pubescent privates in an upcoming post but this post is devoted to the products sold to women to maintain trimmed or hairless vulva.

Remember this ad that I posted for the Schick Quattro Trim Style (the gadget every gal needs to “stay groomed”) for women last year?

Well, Schick’s European counterpart, Wilkinson Sword takes the campaign for a step further in a series of less subtle advertisements.

On their interactive website, women can trim the pooch at the Poodle Parlour (I guess shaving a pussy cat would be too obvious for these folks). There’s also a series of extended ads called The Neighborhood (“the neighborhood is open, come and see”) with titles like The Landing Strip and Tidying Up Downstairs.


April 16, 2010

"The Great Underarm Campaign" 1915-2010?

So, of course it would fall to me to write this piece as I am the hairy feminist of the bunch. I never shave my armpits and so rarely shave my legs that it’s a special occasion to my partner. Literally. I present my freshly shaven legs as a gift (oh, you only think I’m kidding). As a woman who doesn’t shave AND is a feminist, I feel like it’s incredibly taboo to even be having this discussion, but here it goes.

On Monday an article was published in the New York Times “Unshaven women: Free Spirits or Unkempt.”  It was prompted by Mo’Nique (winner of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “Precious”) lifting her dress at an awards ceremony to reveal her unshorn legs. She is not the first celebrity to make this decision (mistake or not): Julia Roberts, Alicia Silverstone, Gillian Anderson, Britney Spears and Amanda Palmer of the Dresdon Dolls have all done it. I was kind of excited both to read this article and to see what responses it elicited from bothmen and women…the most annoying of which are men complaining about how it’s gotten so hard for men now, as well. I’m not even going to validate that with a response. Of course, the vast majority are men who basically say, “Do what you want, but you and your hairiness would never have a shot at me.”  How about this one:

I’m sorry. I will vote for a woman for president. I will work for a woman. Women should be priests, soldiers, equal pay, whatever. But hairy women are seriously unappealing.

Well, in all your glory, I can only imagine what we’re all missing! There are also a great many women who share a similarly grossed out sentiment, and have been indoctrinated to believe that it is somehow dirty or unsanitary to not shave your body hair. And, not just the ‘pits and the legs….ALL OF IT HAS TO GO! But, I’d like to backtrack and review a little bit of the history of shaving. Here’s a condensed timeline for you……

Around the time of dinosaurs OR 100,000 B.C.E.     -     Neandertal men first start pulling body hair and tattooing (they also enjoyed filing down their teeth. Enjoyed? Yeah….right.)
3,000 B.C.E.      -     Invention of metal tools; Egyptian & Indian priests use copper tools to shave their heads
400      B.C.E.     -      Alexander the Great advocates shaving to prevent “dangerous beard grabbing in combat” (also, Alex hated the five o’clock shadow)
Middle Ages, Rome, and The Crusades OR 300 B.C.E. to 1603     -     Various strange and painful methods of hair removal from plucking eyelashes, to using resin, pitch, white vine, ass’s fat, she-goat’s gall, bat’s blood, and powdered viper to remove body hair are employed
1603 – 1700′s     -     Both women and men shave/remove their eyebrows and forehead hair, and wear artificial wigs and mouse fur for eyebrows…..again, really? : /
Late 1700′s – 19th century      -     Shaving becomes something that only “dandy’s” engage in…and, mostly in London; as well, as “women of the night,” but they only shave to prove to their sirs that they don’t have lice.

And, that brings us to the juicy stuff (no, not the lice)…..the important stuff…..the stuff that still matters and compels me to write this blog. In 1901 King Camp Gillette along with MIT engineer William Nickerson patented their first safety razor. This was the beginning of the creation and domination of the shaving market. In a large and profitable marketing venture, Gillette teamed with the U.S. Army and gave every enlisted man in the army a razor during World War I (for those of you who were asleep during history class, that was 1914-1919). During the same time, Gillette was trying to find a way to expand his reach. He was motivated, of course, by the same thing that motivates any corporate campaign. Greed. That coupled with a seemingly mundane development in fashion - the popularity of sleeveless dresses marked the beginning of “The Great Underarm Campaign.” In 1915 Harper’s Baazar published the first advertisement featuring a woman with shaved “underarms.”

    

From this point the campaign turned female body hair into something “objectionable,” and “the woman of fashion says the underarm must be as smooth as the face.” And, by 1922 (two years after women won the vote), Gillette and the advertising barrage had won the underarm hair fight. They didn’t win the leg hair fight as easily as the length of skirts didn’t mandate shaving. However, by the 1930′s we’re not only shaving it all off we’re waxing it off!

Okay….so almost 100 years later why are we STILL shaving? Why do a lot of women shave, pluck, wax (which can actually be very dangerous), burn, trim, bleach, dissolve, laser or otherwise remove every inch of body hair?? It is not dirty, unsanitary or unfeminine. Contrary to everything you have ever been told, that hair is there to hold in your essence and protect the skin (note: your skin doesn’t develop those annoying little red bumps for nothing). This may seem counter intuitive due to all of the bad press your body hair gets! It has become such an ingrained, unconscious part of our culture that it’s an assumed responsibility as opposed to a choice. The first time a former boyfriend of mine commented on the fact that I hadn’t shaved my legs in a couple of days….it hit me. How ridiculous! And, how dare you! To be rebellious - I stopped shaving. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you have to be hairy to be a feminist. I like the way Amanda Palmer summed it up…..wake up every day and make your decisions. But, I’ll take it a step further and say wake up and make informed, conscious decisions.

March 27, 2009

Big bush not allowed

Filed under: Body Image,Gender,Media,Media Gallery — Tags: , , , , — Melanie @ 12:42 pm

My student, Roscoe, alerted me to the latest commercial for the Schick Quattro razor with bikini trimmer:

Enough said.