At least this is what Veet wants women to think. Beauty is having absolutely no body hair below the eyelashes. Beauty is having “touchably soft legs” because we all know that touching unshaven legs is a horrible fate to befall any person–it’ll tear your hands right the fuck up. Their website is even nice enough to provide advice for how to dress up for a girl’s night out, or even a big date. Ladies, they care about your well being, not just your legs.
Anyway, why am I bitching about Veet of all things? Well my job just ended and this means watching daytime soap operas. Veet is a pretty big advertisesr on most networks during the daytime, and if I hear one more time about how I’ll be more womanly if I melt the hair off my legs, I’ll be forced to grow my own furry legwarmers out of spite. A few weeks ago I actually discovered that Veet discolors my skin–of course I’m a dunce/would be scientist so I tried it out in a few discrete spots. After the recommended hair removal time (8 minutes) there was indeed no hair, and also a spot of skin about half a shade lighter than the rest. I tried shaving hair in a surrounding area just to make sure it wasn’t an optical illusion–nope. No illusion, all skin lightening. Yeah, this seems real safe.
Disturbingly, I immediately began to wistfully consider the possibilities of a skin creme that could really lighten my skin. At first it was just for a patch on my leg that likely became discolored while I was using this stuff regularly in highschool, then I considered the possibility for the spots here and there on my face–again back from my acne speckled high school career, finally my thoughts drifted to an all over body hue change. I was and am annoyed at myself, I know better. I know about the social construction of race and the invented meanings behind skin shade and color prejudice. Lightening my skin would not and could not change who I am, and I would not be more beautiful for it–despite what society tells me. It’s quite the tangent, but this stuff was bad for my body and bad for my self esteem. To literally tell someone that they will be the epitome of their gender if only they’ll use your product. That they can feel beauty itself in the smoothness of their legs (or the discoloration of their skin) is both untrue and dangerous. While I struggled through puberty I frequently purchased any product that promised me some kind of beauty. I was so busy looking for an answer to my problems that I never realized that my problems were invented by the people who sought to sell me the answer. While I am surely more critical now, these messages still exist and I am still bombarded with their promises of perfection and assurances that there is something wrong with me that they can heal. They still get to me–I hate that.
I realize that feminism doesn’t mean that participants need to be perfect and that understanding and seeing these messages for what they are is an important step. At the same time, I wish I was completely untouched by them. I wish I didn’t still fall for products that promise to cause or enhance beauty–while their advertisements display a beauty standard that I can’t meet (usually very svelte and very white).
So, what still gets to you–even if you know better? Where’s the vulnerability in your feminist or womanist journey?