The average American consumes 15.5 hours of media per day. Viewing this many ads has to have some sortof impact on girls, otherwise they wouldn’t exist. Razors wouldn’t sell. With people consuming more media than ever these days, I wondered what effects they might have on women’s thought processes. Other than managing to sell them products, that is.
At very least, we know that they probably have an impact on young girls’ self-esteem. But I was interested in how what I had discovered about women’s views of themselves, and of shaving, might relate to the messages the adverts were putting out.
How women’s statements about shaving reflect adverts
I often heard the phrase ‘silky smooth’ when researching women’s views of shaving. And who hasn’t heard the phrase ‘silky smooth’ used in an advert?
‘don’t be a man’
I also noticed that some of the women were worried about looking ‘like a man’ or like ‘a gorilla’.
In Veet’s most recent advert the theme song argues that young women should not shave, but use Veet, because they are ‘not a boy’, and don’t want to be ‘like a bear’. It’s put humorously here, so they get away with it, just about. But they didn’t so much in their ‘avoid dudeness’ ad campaign, which was taken down following the many complaints about it.
I found this ad hilarious, because it is so offensive, and feels almost like a parody of a hair removal advert. At worst, though, it feels like someone mocking someone’s insecurities.
Funnily enough, the campaign was written by female writers, and was created following feedback from ordinary women, who told Veet they felt ‘like a man’ if they hadn’t shaved.
Fresh or clean feelings are associated with shaving, which is why a lot of women think that it is dirtier not to shave. Ads also imply that you are cleaner if you shave, with words like ‘fresh’, ‘clean’ and ‘breeze’ used. But then, science seems to be saying that hygiene is not the reason for women shaving, and it makes little difference to our levels of cleanliness. A few women even noted that they actually smell less with armpit hair!
But adverts are not the only thing going on in our heads.
As discussed in my last post, shaving has been around since ancient Egyptian times. So this idea of shaving is way deeper integrated into our psyche than I had originally anticipated. So we can’t say that ads are the sole reason I have mixed emotions and thoughts about shaving.
What science says… SEX
Scientists say that the point of armpit hair is likely to grow because it helps share our scent with the opposite sex. Now following this logic, we should all be wanting to grow our pits out, so that we can share our pheromones and attract a mate.
But apparently, according to psychologist Lisa Miller, having body hair also implies that we are able to bear children; that we are full-grown adults and pregnancy is a risk if you sleep with us.
And so the theories that some women have about shaving being a way of making us look like children may not be too far off. That is, if subconsciously you and your partner are not worried about a child being made, sex becomes less of a threat. It becomes harmless fun.
As Miller says:
It (hair) triggers disgust because it reminds humans how dangerous sex can be. And that’s why we shave it off. Because armpit hair betrays the western fantasy about sex, which is that sex is fun, pleasurable, innocent, and inconsequential, a fantasy that elides the evolutionary truth. The revulsion at armpit hair might be evolution’s way of saying “proceed with caution,” and its removal one less barrier to cross.
Sex is one of the reasons women who mostly refuse to shave, do. So if sex is the main reason we shave…
What do men think?
“I prefer girls that aren’t hairy and I like it when they get their arms and legs waxed and eyebrows threaded in particular.”
“I prefer a bit of hair because otherwise it’s too childlike. Ultimately though, I don’t really care that much – if a woman’s hot, I’ll get down and dirty whatever’s going on down there!”
“I’d say sex feels better when there isn’t any hair, so I’m more of a fan of the smooth look because of that fact alone.”
“I don’t like girls with moustaches.”
“I can go with not shaving my legs, but the hubby points out if I need to shave my pits!”
“My message to all ladies in the whole wide world would be: Feel free – bald, hairy or in between. Don’t let yourself be pushed around, don’t let others decide for you, don’t consider your body a uniform that must meet all possible standards, but instead embrace it and love its uniqueness.”
Basically, men express many different views for and against shaving, just like women. But they seem mostly to be about how attractive the man finds the woman, and if he would sleep with her.
I don’t know whether I’m ok with this or not. I know, however, that there has to come a point where I accept, that we are mammals. And that all animals, in fact, are picky about who they mate with. And that the physical is, naturally, something to be considered before sex.
So, certain men like shaved, certain men, don’t. I guess if the man (or woman) you want to copulate with, does or doesn’t like hair, then that’s your personal choice; whether you want to shave for them or not.
Is it all about sex, though? Of course not.
(Next up – hair psychology (part 3) – culture, choice, reasons and, the verdict for my pits)