Laurie and Debbie say:
Maybe there’s been another piece of exploitation and body-hatred news in the years we’ve been doing this work that has outraged the two of us more than this one has … but neither of us can remember it.
Last year Nair, makers of hair-removal products, released their Pretty range, aimed at 10 to 15-year-olds, or, as they call them, “first-time hair removers”. Yes, you heard right. Ten-year-olds. Girls — children — in grades 5 and 6, encouraged to wax and chemically remove hair from their barely pubescent bodies.
The product is called NairPretty, and if you can stomach it, you can look at their campaign at www.nairpretty.com. We wouldn’t dignify them with a live link, but here are a few particularly repulsive quotations from the site:
“NairPretty Soft Peach Hair Remover Cream is for you if … you want truly silky-soft skin … you want to use it on your legs as well as your underams and bikini area …”
“NairPretty products have been specially developed for teens.”
“NairPretty can be used on your legs, underarms, bikini and arms.”
From the “Mom’s Corner”: “As adolescence sets in, it’s not uncommon for girls (and their mothers) to notice childhood fuzz turning into thicker, stronger body hair. Your daughter may feel self-conscious – but also nervous about first-time hair removal. You might feel anxious about it too. Your daughter needs your help so guide her to the best option. Before you choose a method, it’s important to know the facts.”
The article we linked to above, by Larissa Dubecki, is an excellent source of facts and outrage on the topic:
There are countless reasons to be angry about this piece of misogyny dressed up as big-sisterly advice. Let’s start with the semiotics of the campaign. It’s hard to be angry about “Pretty”.
But “Pretty” here is a (hairless) wolf in disguise. It might come in a range of fruity fragrances, but it’s also a non-threatening induction into a society that sets ridiculous standards for female appearance (among them, the notion that being hairy is ugly). “Pretty” ignores the fact that young people are progressing into adulthood at lightning speed, making the “tween” stage a mere formality as they rush from skipping ropes and jelly sandals to midriff tops and glitter make-up.
The line between childhood and adulthood is increasingly blurred. And it cuts both ways, with the older generations keen to hold onto their youth and, in the case of the Brazilian, their pre-pubescence. But while 30 is touted as the new 20 and 50 as the new 40, is it really appropriate for 10 to be the new 20?
To take Dubecki’s entirely appropriate outrage one step further, we need to deconstruct what’s happening here, because it is profoundly and repulsively twisted.
Take one strand of “hatred of living in a woman’s body,” the same kind of motivation that leads to “mummy jobs.” Put next to it a strand of “ambivalence about growing up,” which every pre-teen feels in one way or another. Add a strand of “sexualizing younger and younger girls for male availability.” Okay, that makes a pretty upsetting list. When you braid in the fourth strand, which is “wanting those sexualized very young women to look prepubescent,” suddenly you have a horrifying tangle.
Bottom line: the message of NairPretty is “we don’t want you to ever look like you are growing up, dear, but we do want you to be childlike and pretty for us to possess.”
Nair is a product of this company which makes Arm & Hammer, Aim Toothpaste, and many more common household items we won’t be buying any more.
In case you think we’re over-reacting, here (again from Dubecki’s article) is what this kind of thinking is already leading to:
Australian website girl.com.au is now promoting a feature about Brazilian waxes, otherwise known as a torture device in which all the hair in a woman’s nether regions is ripped off with a combination of hot wax and a high pain threshold. The website, which appears to be mostly read by girls in the nine to 14 age bracket, says of the Brazilian: “Nobody really likes hair in their private regions and it has a childlike appeal.”
Very wry thanks to Stef for the pointer.