Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gillette: The choice of women, girls, and pedophiles everywhere.

Although it isn't technically summer just yet, those of us who are in Toronto right now are experiencing a bit of a pre-summer heat wave. Yesterday was a high of 32.2 degrees and today is supposed to climb to the high 30s as a well. Add humidity and unconditioned apartments and what you'll get is about a billion extra people out in the parks trying to stay cool. Pants are no longer an option, unless you're trying to sweat out a fever. In this kind of weather you've got to be wearing shorts or else you will hate your life and become cranky at everyone in it.

Shorts season can mean very different things to very different people. Style! Comfort! A chance to expose your clammy legs to some sunshine for awhile. For Lorenzo in Christie Pits, shorts season means that he can walk around staring up girls' shorts while he enjoys his tall can of beer. For that dirty old man riding his bike past you, it means he gets to say repugnant things about your vagina, then scream at you when you ignore him.  If you're wearing shorts in the city it's likely that you'll have some crazy person say something nasty to you at least three times a day, to which you'll maybe smile at and try to escape in the hopes that that person won't throw the foul liquid they're clutching in the sun-damaged 7UP bottle into your face.

Shorts season is a hard enough time of the year for women which is why it particularly bothers me to see the hair-removal industry ramp up its advertising visibility right about now. What the company is saying to you is this: if it is 30 degrees plus humidity outside today don't you dare wear shorts unless you first sit in your tiny, stifling bathroom and shave every last hair from your legs. EVERY, LAST, HAIR. And why? Because if you're going to wear shorts you have to be beautiful, and being beautiful means being hairless.

This time of year they have extra ammunition because it was "Winter" and now it's "Summer". This means that women have been lazy allllll season and have amassed an old growth forest of body hair. This particular ad describes it as "winter fur" and apparently men have it as well. The body hair removal industry has found a great customer in men: there are an entire menu of men's services as salons now, including male Brazilian waxes(which one salon lady told me once she would not do, because she didn't like "stretching" the ball skin...), chest waxing, butt waxing, etc. Anything women can have, men can have it too. For men, though, it often seems like more of a choice-- a lifestyle, if you will.

  For women, it's a constant barrage of images and messages reminding you that if you have even a bit of hair on your legs or your armpits, you are so disgusting.My favorite spokesperson for annoying women's products, Jennifer Lopez, illustrates this message: "Be the Goddess of Summer!" Being the Goddess of Summer is made possible by Gillette Venus, which is "easy to use". Effortless, natural. Because not only should you be hairless, but it should probably look like you didn't work very hard to get that way. Gillette Venus is so easy to use that now you can finally enjoy the beach! Hurray!! God Forbid you didn't pack a razor for the beach house, because that means you'll have to stay inside or wear pants and a long sleeved shirt the entire time. That is called oppression. Your body hair is oppressing you, so free yourself you lazy bitch! When you remove the hair from your legs you'll also be revealing the natural "shine" of your skin and a hidden tan. Ta-Da!

I've started noticing these little tiny Facebook ads that are like "shaving tips for girls!" and when you click on it you realize that they really do mean girls and also that you've stumbled into some kind of pink and mauve hell. It is someone's job to create new customers. Sure, women buy razors forever, but what you really need is to get them buying earlier and longer. The perfect target: CHILDREN! What better way to sell razors then to make little girls think that a) Shaving is a rite of passage b)is necessary if they want to be confident and successful,ever and c) that their pre-pubescent legs are as hairy as they should ever get. 

The website features "Tips", presumably based on questions from real girls, about shaving. "When do I shave for the first time?" "How do I ask my mom if I can shave?" "Should I steal her razor and shave secretly?"  The Gillette response is almost always something like this: It's about what feels right for you and makes you feel confident and beautiful. Venus razors give you a close shave, so you can flaunt smooth, beautiful skin no matter what your routine is."

Apparently, if you want to be beautiful and confident your only option is shaving. Nobody is surprised by this because a razor company has to sell razors. Duh. What is very disturbing, however, is HOW they're trying to sell to children. Why does a 10 year old need to flaunt smooth, beautiful skin?  The website has all of these crazy videos featuring this little girl named "Gabby" who "blogs" about shaving. Because, you know, girls should know what she knows, like right?

In this video Gabby says she just HAD to tame the hairy mess that was her legs. She's also not sure if she should tell her mom. The lesson of the video is that your mother knows best and that girls should learn how to be women from their mothers. Interesting, Gillette. Capitalizing on the myth of the perfect, feminine mother. What if your mother is an alcoholic? What if your mother abuses you? What if you don't have a mother! We can ignore all of these variables because the message is what matters: if you are normal you have a mother who will explain how to shave, if you aren't then you should pretend you do because otherwise you aren't normal. Also, you're a hairy little girl.

This next video was where it got extra weird. How on earth can a huge corporation get away with posting a video of a CHILD shaving her legs on the internet?  What all of these videos, culminating in this one, are doing is teaching a young girl that she is for looking at. Her legs are for looking at, which is why they can't be hairy. Her body is for looking at, which is why she has to feel beautiful and confident. Her legs are for the Lorenzo's of the world, and she should accept that early. Teaching girls that they are objects at a young age is really important if you want them to become lifelong consumers of products.
In the video Gabby says "shaving isn't just about getting rid of hair, it's about feeling your best. So if you're playing sports, going on vacation or just looking to wear what's cool having skin that looks good will make you feel good." Because when you're a child you should have to worry that your legs don't look good while you're playing soccer or going camping with your family? And why is that? Because you're not just your own person, little girl, you belong to the world and your legs and armpits are on display at all times. When girls start to think that their decision making isn't about themselves but how other people perceive them, they lose agency. Playing sports is fun, should be fun, and shouldn't be about whether or not you look good doing it. This is how we end up with something like Lingerie Football.

This is horrifying. Of the almost 50'000 hits this video has had, how many do you think are actually young girls curious about shaving? You know what,little girls? Instead of spending your money on razors ask your parents to start a college fund for you. Teach children valuable lessons, don't exploit their insecurities and make them jail bait.

 If you are an adult woman and you like to shave, or want to shave, or need to shave then that is your choice. If you don't want to participate in hair removal, that is also your choice. Or rather, it should be your choice but as we can see from these insane campaigns it really isn't. Why do our legs have to be hairless, tanned, and shiny? Is it really going to be SO horrible if you have some hair on your legs? Are you soooo undesirable? We live in a world where we have to buy so much shit for so many shitty reasons and Gillette is trying to convince little girls that they are sexual objects so that they will buy their stupid razors. So, if you're choosing to shave maybe choose a product that isn't so blatantly hideous and sexist. Oh wait, no company like that actually exists. Oh well, let's all just have a Slumber Party, Gillette Style! (seriously, this exists.)

Sometimes it just really seems like our lives are a George Orwell novel, shocking until we realize that he's actually writing about reality.

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