But I Shaved Yesterday
Apparently a woman’s hair is her crowning glory; as in her hair ranks ‘numero uno’. But according to Veet’s notorious (and now retracted) series of advertisements, women with hair risk being mistaken for ‘dudes’. That’s right, men.
Women’s blogs are currently up in arms and third-wave feminists are letting the whole world know why such a statement isn’t only offensive but down right inappropriate. However, if you’ve managed to miss the internet literally pulling its fibre optic hair out, here’s a simple breakdown, expertly captured in the tagline: ‘but I shaved yesterday.’
One advertisement features a man with supremely hairy legs, dressed as a woman, hailing a cab. He is denied. After the taxi pulls away the camera pans back and we realise – shock and horror – it’s a woman with unshaved legs and armpits. Another uncomfortably inappropriate shot features a woman being taken into an ambulance, neck brace and all. As the paramedic begins a routine check and tries to cut through her trouser leg, the traumatised woman becomes even more afraid. Finally able to remove the clothing, the paramedic’s face is overcome with disgust as the injured patient says with remorse, ‘but I shaved yesterday.’ The list goes on, from a woman getting a pedicure (and being chastised by her perfectly stereotyped Chinese beautician) to a male lover going into mock cardiac arrest because his girlfriend’s hairy morning legs make him think he’s just slept with a man. Perplexed and disgusted? Me too.
Now, the whole hair or no hair debate that impinges upon not just new-wave feminism but the very identity of the modern woman is contentious at best. As Laurie Pennie articulated in her article in the New Statesmen, we have to be dubious when we associate being ‘natural’, a.k.a. not getting a ‘Brazilian’, with being ‘real’ women. What these adverts distastefully imply isn’t just another example of women policing other women’s bodies, but an actual threatening of identity – gender identity.
As a woman, who is naturally hairy, I’d like to believe that more than just the follicles that sprout from my arms define my gender. Yes, it is difficult to put a finger on just what makes men men and women women. Liberal thought argues that gender is not only a social construct, but also fluid, while conservatives base it on biology. Wherever you stand, I think we can all agree that in the grand scheme of things superficial attributes, like hair, really don’t (or at least shouldn’t) hold much weight in how we perceive ourselves. Put it this way, last week we had a look at the ‘selfie’ trend that swept across social media. Women went ‘naked’, as in no make-up ‘naked’, for Cancer Research. Pros: it raised a ton of money; cons – it highlighted just how far society has distorted women’s identity so that we are now ‘brave’ for not smearing plastic on our faces. When my grandmother was going through chemotherapy, chunks of her hair fell out. At that point in time I don’t think she was having an existential crisis on whether or not she was less womanly because she had no hair! Or what about those of us who like an extra layer in the cold months? I’m pretty sure we’re still women come Christmas. In fact, why should our hair, or lack of it, even be related to our gender? Why is it even relevant?
The idea that women should have less – less weight, less height, smaller shoe sizes, less attitude, smaller pay checks, less hair – it’s all a process of diminishing us until…oh wait, where did we go?
What we do with our bodies is our personal choice, and thankfully most of us live in societies were we do have autonomy over our bodies. Yes, it’s important that we use that freedom wisely and seek always to improve our health and wellbeing rather than damage it. But the fact of the matter is, removing or retaining our hair does not threaten or even question our womanhood. So what if you shaved yesterday (or didn’t)? You have a whole life to live today. So live it, knowing that your womanhood is not defined by whether you’ve waxed or not.
Words: Justina Kehinde