Friday, 18 June 2010

be free to wear whatever you want!

This stupid ad appeared at the bottom of my last blog post (i think i'll ditch google ad words)

 Apparently i am now free to wear whatever i want because i can get smooth skin.

thank goodness for that! there i was, agonising over my summer wardrobe - what shall i wear! what can i do! someone might see my stubble!

I shave my legs and armpits. I have experimented with not shaving and i just happen to prefer the way i look this way. lots of people feel differently from me and i appreciate that, this is just my preference, a preference that i know is influenced by social and cultural factors.

But ads like this make me want to throw my razors away and join the hairy awarey gang. because, ffs. i am sick of advertising co-opting the language of feminism and empowerment to sell products that maintain the patriarchal status quo. apparently this product will liberate me from not being able to wear the clothes i like. it gives me the freedom to wear anything. anything!

it's like that nivea ad 'women feel more sexy when their underarms look good', or veet and venus saying that depilating your body hair will unleash your true femininity. when really, really really, if we take true femininity to mean the fact of being a woman, true femininity would in fact be nature: hairy, not artifice: shaved.

and anyway boots marketing team - i am, in fact, not totally free to wear whatever i want if i am delightfully hair free. not in this culture of rape myths in every paper. or street harassment at every summer-drunk turn. short skirts? strappy low cut top? skinny jeans? Not free to wear those according to a terrifying number of jury members and court judges. Or your average street harasser, who sees the wearing of these clothes as a free for all for commenting on me.
And i'm not free to dress in an unfeminine manner, not unless i want to attract some trans or homophobic abuse.
And if i work at one of the high profile london banks say, with their seminars on appropriate female dressing, i wouldn't be free to wear anything that wasn't 'sexy but not slutty' (i quote!), even if i had smooth, smooth underarms.

And what about women forced to wear burquas (i am talking about countries where wearing the veil is law not a choice, i would never invalidate a woman's choice to wear the burqua, chador, niqab, hijab etc) - could shaving their legs free them from this oppression? should we throw up our arms and exclaim 'aha! the answer was there all along! shaving liberates women! not education, not respect, not freedom from violence, not freedom from poverty - shaving!'

I know it is only an advert. i know the marketing exec didn't think about all this when they came up with the concept. i know sometimes i copywrite lines that make my feminist conscience wince. but ads tell us something about what our culture values and what our society thinks. trust me, a lot of time goes in to making sure ad campaigns speak to people with messages they appreciate and understand. so this kind of bullshit pisses me off. it's a throw away line, a silly bit of aspirational marketing, but it is also symptomatic of why women spend so much time and money conforming to a silly idealised model of femininity. ads sell us this nonsense as liberation. they ignore the truth in what they're really saying.

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