Tag Archives: Advertising

#UseYourAnd What? by Aimee Bea

I know I sound like a broken record but I’m going to have to talk about body hair again. Unlike gainful employment, steady cash flow and a room of one’s own, body hair has remained a niggling constant in my life. This afternoon whilst trying to waste my life on a YouTube binge I was confronted with the most outrageous body hair themed interruption to date: NOT catching a reflection of the spring sun bouncing off my milky moustache, but the new Venus #UseYourAnd campaign.

The advert itself is so outstandingly patronizing, inherently sexist and above all ridiculous that it caused me to completely forget about being able to skip it five seconds in, and I watched the whole thing. I’ve included a link to the offending video – but in case you haven’t seen it yet I’m going to break it down for you, starting with the imagery.

The advert opens with a shot of a little girl’s legs. Whether or not you chose to shave, it is impossible to deny a lost-at-sea-worthy undercurrent of infantilisation embedded in the pressure on women to remove their pubescent body hair the second it starts to show. Women are expected to carry their childhood hairlessness into adulthood, which leads the more skeptical among us to question whether woman are allowed to progress fully into adulthood at all. Presumably Venus are showcasing the bare-legged little girl in all of her pure, hairless abandon as an aspirational figure for all of those many women who strive to regress back into childhood.

Not content with a healthy eyeful of pre-adolescent girl thigh, the advert then dissolves into a montage of close up leg shots, each one lingering slightly longer than its predecessor until the whole thing starts to feel a lot like watching someone spy on a high school changing room. This unnerving and unrelenting focus on the body is reminiscent of Foucault’s interpretation of the panopticon, in which the presence of an anonymous power is able to individualize a subject, in this case women, and place them in a state of perceived constant visibility, thus keeping them on edge and more willing to conform. What Venus is doing with their all too conspicuous leg ogling is reinforcing a culturally ingrained paranoia that the female body is under constant scrutiny. It is impossible to know who’s clocking your armpits as you wave down the bus in a moment of reckless abandon, or whom the next hand to graze your thigh will belong to, but Venus is here to remind you that they could strike at any time and you MUST be prepared.

The second disturbing aspect is Venus’ snappy new slogan #UseYourAnd. Oh wait – did I say snappy? I meant completely inane. It makes no fucking sense. The unconvincing slam poet that Venus have propped up to represent women nowhere spends a lot of time spouting about how ‘They told you you could be anything’. She goes on to accuse the presumably very same They of trying to put you in a box and whack a label on you. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m having a little trouble discerning who They actually are. When They said ‘here’s what you really are,’ did they then follow up with ‘so take this, lock the door and try not to make too much of a mess on the bathmat when you’re done’?

I might be mistaken, but wasn’t that You, Venus, the commercial faculty of unrealistic and barbarous beauty standards? Aren’t Venus and their contemporaries the very representatives of the box that they’ve just told you to step out of? Besides, it’s more than a little patronizing for the #UseYourAnd campaign to assume that women and girls need to be told that they are in fact multifaceted humanoids.

‘Someone says your smart,’ chimes the slam-ish poet. ‘Say yes, AND…’ And what, exactly? “I’m smart AND I shaved my legs earlier, would you like to have a feel?” I could go on about how utterly puerile this is but I think we’ve had more than enough stating the fucking obvious.

Something that is not made explicit however is what exactly Venus is trying to sell. This commercial vagueness is not uncommon in the marketing of supposedly intimate female products, and is a subject I have approached in a previous post. As female hairlessness has become standard within our beauty dictatorship and voyeurism so commonplace, advertisers no longer need to explicitly refer to the functionality or purpose of their products. We – and by we, I mean women – are expected to inherently understand and dutifully comply.

While to some it might seem admirable that Venus are taking a stab at re-branding themselves with a membrane-thin coat of pseudo-feminist gloss, it doesn’t take a lot of squinting to see the real roots of their makeover. The last few years have seen a rise in feminist activists and thinkers breaking into mainstream media, the most recent example being the No More Page Three campaign. As feminism is no longer confined to the academic realm, it has become something of a bandwagon to jump on and be exploited by corporations, who take a fundamental interest in the policing of women and their bodies. In their #UseYourAnd campaign, Venus are making a tragically desperate attempt to remain relevant by appropriating language and imagery associated with the new feminist movement, but driven only by a fear of dropping sales.

I don’t have a problem with women, or anyone for that matter, choosing to shave their legs, underarms, face, cunt, butt-crack or otherwise. Though I think that this decision should come with an AND. Say for example: ‘I choose to shave AND I don’t wish to be patronized by an international company with a vested interest in keeping women conforming to a rapidly ageing beauty standard by using bullshitty, empowering-sounding hashtags while I’m doing it.’ It might be a bit long for Twitter, but I urge you to #UseYourAnd.

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Petition for a No Shave Summer by Aimee Bea

Hands up who hasn’t shaved in a while? Oh wait no put your hands down – all the way down, and keep them there because someone just saw the state of your wayward underarm-stubble and now they’re choking on their sandwich.

I don’t know about anybody else in the world but when I shave my underarms, or any other part of my long-suffering body for that matter I almost always come out in the most unholy shaving rash. No matter how many aloe-vera magic strips venus load onto their tarted up bic-razors, my delegated shaven area never quite resembles the fine silk finish that is presented in magazines/television/movies/basically everywhere I look, all of the time.

 

The portrayal of women as hairless, aerodynamic seals (but with significantly less blubber) by mainstream media is undoubtedly a direct trickle-down from pornography. Now I am not of the school of thought that calls for an outright damnation of pornography, I believe that in it’s broadest sense it has a deserved place in society and if executed correctly has the ability to both educate and titillate – but that’s an argument for another time. What I’m talking about here are the effects of the kind of pornography that one might find if they were to type ‘porno’ into Google, minimum effort, bog standard and distinctly un-feminist.

 

The balding genital’s that initially diverted us from our full-bushed godmothers were made as such in order for the consumer to get a better view, presumably because they didn’t harbor enough imagination to gaze beyond the ‘pubic curtain’. As advertising has become more openly and aggressively sexualised, particularly in its representations of women and the female form, the aesthetical expectations for women have become more and more extreme, costly and both psychologically and physically damaging.

 

In modern society, complete hairlessness (with the exception finely preened eyebrows and a glossy ponytail) is commonplace, a widely accepted cultural norm. Somewhere along the way, women have lost ownership of this particular area of their bodies and I think now is a perfect time to gain it back.

 

I am aware that in the depths of online counterculture the revolution is already rumbling away. I don’t have to scroll too far down my Tumblr dashboard to find encouragement that I am not alone in my moderately hairy dimension. My main concern with the fem-blogging revolution is that it is so absorbed into it’s subcultural universe that it (quite justifiably) doesn’t want to represent the norm. I am suggesting that we take aspects of these radical feminist movements and try, subtly but surely to appropriate them into everyday life.

 

The lack of diversity we are offered by way of female bodies across the media perpetuates the social control that is being exercised over our own bodies. Just imagine how great it would be if some of our more mainstream pop-culture icons weren’t too afraid or ashamed to show a bit of leg fuzz or more than a few hours worth of underarm regrowth.

 

Personally I don’t find body hair offensive. I even think that a slick of underarm hair is kind of sexy and suggests more of a strong feminine vibe than a body waxed clean and buffed to a high-shine by societal pressure. The thing I would like to see change are peoples attitudes towards body hair, and by people I mean women judging other women. Just because I (or anyone else) sometimes choose not to clean shave my armpits (or any other body part) it doesn’t make me a fierce radical feminist, or unclean, or masculine. It also bears absolutely no correlation to my sexuality. All it means is that I’m not afraid of my body’s natural state and refuse to give into patriarchal cultural boundaries that try to tell me otherwise. The sun only comes out for about three days a year in the UK and I’m not going to waste anytime acquiring more razor-burn when I could be out enjoying it as I am.

 

So why not try out a no-shave summer? Even if it’s just for a couple of days it will contribute towards the fight to normalize the natural female body and you never know you might just like it. 

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(GO TEAM JULIA!)

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Thrush: A Feminist Issue by Aimee Bea

Recently I have been watching a LOT of bad television. Top of my list this week was channel 4’s 40 year old virgins, a bizarre journey following a couple of mid-to-late thirtysomethings over to the States to throw money at hippies in Portland to hug them naked until they feel ready to penetrate.  As far as documentaries about ageing first-timers paying for sex go it was pretty standard. There was however one part that struck a chord, one of the virgins had a problem articulating words that he associated with sex or sexual activity. In order to combat this he was assigned the task of repeating ‘clitoris’ and ‘shagging’ in front of a mirror until the words themselves lost their power. As well as making unnerving yet ultimately hilarious viewing, it started me thinking about my own relationship with the literal language of love and the ways in which bodily language immerses itself into our cultural lexicon.

It seems to me that the language that we as a society use to refer to male genitalia is a lot more varied and intergrated into everyday slang, like it’s pretty commonplace to ask people if they have the ‘balls’ to take something on.

When it comes to female sexual organs the choice is comparably limited and polarized, with words often falling into two camps: the childish (there is not a single person on earth who can say, hand on heart that they don’t laugh on hearing the word fanny.) or the obscene. Take cunt for example, everybody knows what it means but it’s probably one of the most severe swear words that can come out of our collective mouths, words for male genitalia just don’t have that impact. Even when mentioned to in literature we tend to lyricize vaginas to a point of twee-grotesqueness, I’m referring directly to a particularly cringe-inducing line in an Adrienne Rich poem, ‘her rose wet cave’ which has haunted me everyday since I read it.

Our societal avoidance of directly referring to vaginas is reinforced by televisual media and other mass-marketing campaigns that seem to have a total inability to spell out the realities of what they’re selling. The most obvious example of this is the infamous beaker of blue liquid representing menstrual blood – which caused me to believe for many years that when the time finally came my womb would shed bubblegum panda-pop. The worst campaign for literally beating around the bush are those for thrush medication, the main offender being ‘vagisil’ whose adverts seem to rely on a series of wink-wink, nudge-nudge codes in order to tell us what exactly the product is and where we should be putting it. Statements such as ‘feminine itching and burning’ and ‘the relief you need – right where you need it’ may seem subtle and modest enough, but wouldn’t it just be better all around if we learnt to articulate it properly? The trickle down effect of this vagueness becomes all the more apparent when trying to purchase aforementioned medicines, more often than not you find yourself faced with an impenetrable coffin of plastic security casing. It’s hardly surprising that women are trying to steal their medication, if we’re having trouble even mentioning the word ‘thrush’ (even my mum calls it songbird – which is kind of genius but still…) how can we be expected to comfortably stand by and watch a teenage shop-assistant wrestle it out of it’s beanie babies display case?

Instead of politely tiptoeing around the subject of vagina ‘issues’ we should be promoting an awareness of self-care and the best way to do this is by addressing the problem directly, starting with the language that we use. The more comfortable we are talking about our vaginas, the more comfortable out vaginas are ultimately going to be, so find the nearest mirror and repeat after me: thrush, thrush, thrush, thrush…

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