Step in the shower. Wait for the water to soften your leg hair. Exfoliate. Apply shaving cream to one leg. Shave. Apply shaving cream to the patches of hair you’ve missed. Shave again. Apply shaving cream to other leg. Notice the hairs you missed on the first leg. Cry. Rinse. Repeat.
Girls, like boys, grow leg hair naturally. Leg hair on girls isn’t unsanitary or naturally disgusting — it’s just like a boy’s. The societal expectation of unnaturally hairless female legs is absurd, and given the difficulty of the process, expecting girls to shave every day is doubly so — but that’s exactly the message being delivered by Veet, a depilatory cream company.Veet’s televised advertising campaign, “Don’t Risk Dudeness,” has multiple variations of a common plot: A girl goes out and engages in a normal activity, like talking to someone or hailing a cab. She looks down, and… oh, no! She hasn’t shaved in a day! Her legs suddenly sprout veritable forests of hair, and the person talking to her flees in horror and disgust.
In these advertisements, Veet implies that girls not only grow enough hair in one day to be noticeable, but that doing so is absolutely repulsive. As if the basic premise of the advertisement is not insulting enough, it states outright that girls with more than 24 hours of leg hair growth risk “dudeness,” as if only boys can grow leg hair. Apparently, Veet thinks that the only way to market a shaving product is to insult girls by saying that without shaving, they look like boys with hairy legs.Society expects girls to naturally look more put-together than guys, and if they don’t, it’s assumed that something’s wrong with the girl. The scruffy, messy, just-rolled-out-of-bed look may be considered hot on guys, but girls are expected to be clean, classy and put-together. Girls’ legs are supposed to be smooth and hairless, a seemingly simple but actually difficult and annoying feat to accomplish. On the flip side of the razor, guys are expected to have hairy legs — if they shave their legs, people assume they’re shaving for swimming or some other non-cosmetic reason.
The shaving process constitutes only one part of a modern girl’s standard cosmetic routine. Even ignoring other monumental processes like makeup, the combined acts of shaving, doing your hair (shampooing, rinsing, shampooing again, conditioning, drying and carefully arranging and rearranging) and choosing an outfit take far too much time. In contrast, boys’ cosmetic routines often seem to be as simple as throwing on some clothes, stretching and shaving off the occasional facial hair.
It’s perfectly reasonable to want to shave. Shaved legs are nice and soft, and there are few things that feel more pleasant than smooth, moisturized skin. However, it’s ridiculous to ostracize girls with hairy legs or arms. Veet’s ad campaign tries to not only reinforce but perpetuate outdated gender roles.
Our society needs to reject this absolute need for shaved female legs. Whether she likes smooth or hairy legs, it remains each girl’s personal choice to keep or remove leg hair, not a sexist society’s decision and definitely not the decision of a company just trying to make a profit by maintaining sexist stereotypes.