Women’s Shaving and ‘The Hair Myth’

Did you ever notice that women in shaving ads don’t ever have any body hair? It’s like they’ve had all traces of hair lasered away. I began to think: what standard is this communicating to females in society? The more I looked into it, I realized that the phenomenon that is ‘the hairless woman’ is an ideology almost one hundred years old. Yet, in the media, we like to naturalize the hairlessness of women. This assumption is problematic in that women feel embarrassed for a part of themselves that is completely natural. But, the rhetoric of free choice in our culture is an interesting one; I would argue there are certain sanctions in place which encourage and reward these behaviours.

 

Photo by Yuliya Kosolapova

Recently, a company called Billie ran an ad that was hailed by social media as one of the only ads to showcase women’s body hair. Their ad campaign is all about body positivity and giving women the choice to shave. Their campaign, Project Body Hair, seeks to celebrate all kinds of women: those who shave and those who prefer not to. Let’s not forget women have a variety of reasons for shaving: confidence, cleanliness, attractiveness, preference, etc. The beauty industry is exploitative; it tells women that they must conform to a set of standards which someone profits from. These societally-set standards denaturalize what is a normal part of the female body. This industrialized view of women is integral to the billion dollar beauty industry. The need to differentiate between the male and female body has created a profitable gap. However, ad campaigns such as Billie are a huge step in dissociating this stigma from the female identity. Their moves toward body positivity and free choice are helping to shift the rhetoric of how women are being portrayed in shaving advertisements.

Photo by Katherine Hanlon

While Billie’s ad is empowering in the sense that it tries to break away from the ‘hair myth’, some women are still being encouraged to shave based on the construction and reinforcement of norms in the commercial. The way body hair is portrayed in the commercial does not foster diverse inclusion, and teaches viewers only certain types of hair are ‘acceptable’. At the end of the day, the company would not be profitable if it told women not to shave entirely. However, Billie should be praised for promoting a good message through a solid campaign of hair and body positivity. Billie is working to normalize putting hair back into shaving ads – which is something that should’ve happened a long time ago.

Women should not have to be subject to shaving if they do not wish to. A woman's shaving preferences shouldn't make her more or less of a woman, nor should she feel pressured to present herself in a certain manner. In the end, it’s important that women be critical in examining the rhetoric of ads that are directly affecting them. Companies such as Billie are making incredible strides in including women of all kinds - with all kinds of preferences.