don’t risk dudeness: public disgust for veet’s sexist campaign
It has been a few weeks since Veet aired their latest campaign; a series of adverts all showing different shaming scenarios a woman apparently finds herself in one day post-shaving, all carrying the tagline ‘Don’t Risk Dudeness.’
I am a fairly confident woman, and I am perfectly capable of taking a joke and laughing at myself. But I can also clearly remember that awkward teenage period of my life when I did not feel comfortable or attractive within my own skin. There is an entire generation of young girls out there whose bodies are changing before their eyes, and going through puberty is stressful and scary enough without being told that they now resemble men for having body hair. Media companies who are influencing the minds of millions have a certain responsibility to control what messages they are sending out into the world, and I am completely shocked that this campaign was even allowed to move beyond the board room. Young girls are being told that they should be ashamed of their natural bodies, and strive to be perfectly groomed at all times.
Despite the rather obvious fact that both men and women have body hair, Veet has created a whole new standard of beauty. In all the ads the woman exclaims that she ‘only shaved yesterday.’ I personally do not shave my legs every single day of my life, does this make me a man? Not only is this level of perfection utterly ridiculous, it is also completely contradictory, as in order to actually use the waxing products Veet are advertising, you must first grow out your leg/underarm/whatever-else hair. This makes Veet’s whole marketing campaign senseless, as by their own reasoning everyone who uses their product is already ‘a dude.’
As can be expected, this ridiculously old fashioned display of gender stereotyping caused quite a stir. Women were outraged at Veet’s disgusting display of sexism, and after an abundance of negative feedback, Veet published a formal apology on their Facebook page, and the ads have now been removed.
‘Hi…this is the Veet marketing team in the US. We just wanted to let everyone know, we get it—we’re women too. This idea came from women who told us that at the first hint of stubble, they felt like ‘dudes.’ It was really simple and funny, we thought. To be honest, the three of us could really relate to these real-life moments and they made us laugh. Not everyone appreciated our sense of humor. We know that women define femininity in different ways. Veet helps those who choose to stay smooth. Our intention was never, ever, to offend anyone, so we decided to rethink our campaign and remove those clips. Thank you for letting us know how you feel.’
I for one remain unimpressed with Veet’s apology. Along with the fact that this statement doesn’t actually include the words ‘sorry’ or ‘apology’, it doesn’t even scratch the surface of repairing the damage they has done. Veet’s marketing team defend their creative choices by implying that the campaign was ‘just a joke’, and everyone who is offended by these ads clearly doesn’t have a sense of humour. They also make sure the public knew that (a small pool of) women created the ads. Does that make it okay? Are women not capable of being sexist too?
The statement gives the impression that only women were offended by these adverts, but I believe Veet also owes a massive apology to the LGBTIQ community. One advert in the ‘Don’t Risk Dudeness’ campaign shows a man’s utter disgust at finding himself in bed with another man, another shows a taxi-driver publicly shunning a cross-dressing man, and all relay the message that a woman turning into a man is the worst thing imaginable. These adverts are sexist, homophobic and transphobic.
As if this wasn’t enough, Veet’s campaign also gives the message that women should make decisions based on what society wants. In every adverts the woman is treated with disgust by her boyfriend/taxi driver/pedicurist, and we see her self-shaming reaction to these brush-offs. It is not the woman’s feelings about her own body that are called into question here, as in all the adverts the woman is acting perfectly naturally – cuddling up to her boyfriend, hailing a cab and enjoying a pedicure – before she is judged and humiliated by those around her. The title woman seems comfortable in her own skin, until society dictates that this is wrong and shameful.
Veet has adopted the offensive marketing technique of preying on women’s insecurities by saying that if you don’t buy their waxing strips, you are a man. Veet is alienating women; shaming them and bullying them into buying their products.
Most beauty campaigns force women into a very limited niche of what is considered feminine and attractive and what is not, and in these adverts femininity is held aloft as the highest form of beauty. Does this mean that only feminine women can be considered sexy? The utterly ridiculous tagline ‘Feel womanly around the clock’ seems to imply that being ‘womanly’ is a standard we must constantly strive to maintain, and not something that is true no matter what beauty regime we implement. The irritation of finding myself with prickly legs and underarms despite having recently shaved is something I can definitely relate to, as I’m sure most woman can. But I have never felt ‘like a dude’ due to this – I feel womanly because I am a woman, no matter whether I shave or wax or not.