Veet’s latest advertising campaign takes on the ultimate enemy of all things ladylike: leg stubble.
Obviously, you say, as they are a body wax company, whose primary purpose is to remove leg stubble. But stay with us: In their series of 30-second spots, otherwise beautiful female models are transformed into a Zach Galifianakis-look-alike in the eyes of their paramour, pedicurist, taxi drivers, — and, worst of all, their paramedic, because they “shaved yesterday.” In other words, they did not use said wax strips.
Basically, if you’re not wax-smooth, you’re now a man. Sorry.
In one clip, a shirtless and notably hairless young man rolls over in his bed, discarded distinctly feminine clothing from his dalliance on the ground beside him, in a flawless luxury apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows. He then shrinks back in disgust after grasping the leg of the woman laying next to him. Why you ask? Because that’s not the model-smooth leg he anticipated!
“Yeah, I know. I’m a little prickly,” says a hairy, bearded guy, wearing striped panties and a pink camisole. “But I shaved yesterday.” Then the ads’ catchphrase, “DON’T RISK DUDENESS,” slam dunks in extra bold font over the snuggled silhouette of this foolish woman who didn’t wake up in the middle of the night to shave that 1/8 inch of leg hair that grew before her lover woke in the morning.
SHOULDA USED THE WAX, SISTER!
The other ads follow in a similar fashion, but the worst of the batch is perhaps one where a woman is being rolled into the back of an ambulance wearing a neckbrace. As a female paramedic cuts the woman’s jeans off, both parties look alarmed when they’re faced with a hairy man leg. No, gender-swapping-limbs are not the reason this woman is being hospitalized. “I shaved yesterday,” the injured bemoans, before grabbing the paramedic’s upward traveling hands. “Please, not the panties,” she adds, implying that she also failed to wax down there — a clear concern on the forefront of the mind of a woman on her way to the emergency room.
We can all argue and say that things in the advertising world aren’t what they seem. It’s an ad! It’s (meant to be) funny! This chubby hairy man and this not-so-freshly-shaven woman obviously aren’t the same person! Plus, it’s the brand’s job to sell their product — which claims to remove body hair for a 28 glorious days!
Black tights are my best friend. I always wear them on those days when I'm too lazy to shave. But when those days turned to weeks, I just knew it was only a matter of time before my hairy Dudeness would strike. Lo and behold, in the middle of a client meeting, I crossed my legs and saw a forest of leg hair poking out of my tights! The rest of the meeting was smooth, but all I could think about was my dudeness.
One winter, I tore my ACL and Meniscus in my knee while skiing. I don't remember how long I was on crutches for. What I do remember is my first day of physical therapy when I found out my road to recovery would be accompanied by the hottest therapist in the city. That's when I also found out that I had to roll up my hairy dudeness hiding sweatpants. I don't know what was worse, the pain or the embarrassment.
OMFG! You didn’t wax before physical therapy!? What were you thinking.
The brand then asks customers to submit their own “hairy tale” and is sure to add, “next time make sure to use Veet so that you don’t risk dudeness again.”
Maybe what’s bothering me the most is the sheer sexism of all of it. The archaic belief that women are obligated to keep their legs and armpits (and possibly other areas) hairless and smooth, specifically for approval on a social or romantic plain. There also seems to be this idea that body hair is mutually gender exclusive, and if you have body hair, in any form, you must not be woman.
The ads aren’t just shaking things up on a personal level (for me, at least), they’ve caught the attention of several outlets today that are calling out the brand for their blatant ignorance.
“In an age when marketers like Dove are seeing great response to ads about accepting one’s imperfections, any products that demand women be squeaky clean 24/7 is rowing against the tide,” writes Ad Week’s Roo Ciambriello. “Even cartoony humor can’t gloss over that kind of regressive message.”
Ciambriello counted down the top five things wrong with the commercials, citing number one that they shame women: “Telling women that they’re less womanly if they miss a spot shaving their legs in the shower, or if they’re part of an entire sect of women who choose not to shave at all, is closed-minded. And shame is a weird marketing tool.”
Time’s Jessica Roy has an equally unamused perspective on the commercials, writing: “In another spot, a woman tries to hail a taxi but finds out that in less than 24 hours her armpit hair has gone from nonexistent to a veritable follicle jungle, demonstrating both an unnecessary haterism towards women’s choices about body hair and a warped understanding of how fast it takes said hair to actually grow.”
Jezebel’s Kate Dries touches on the underlying prejudice of it all: “This last situation reads as homophobic, as though it’s obviously the worst thing in a world, because men can’t have sex with men.”
And the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri adds some overarching insight: “Shaving, make-up, heels, hair products — ladies do them, we even enjoy them, but we are led to believe that they’re a little less than optional. It’s the subtext of every ad. But it’s never quite so blatant as this. And once it’s made explicit, it’s laughable. That’s not how being a woman works. You can’t mandate this. Take your strange wax and get out of here.”
Veet has yet to speak up in defense of their new campaign, but just do a quick Twitter search for the brand to feel the experience the rage against the display.
We’d tweet some of our own — but the brand doesn’t seem to have a US handle to reply in comment.
h/t JezebelRachel Raczka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweeted @rachelraczka.