CW: Body shaming
Don’t tell me you haven’t heard these words uttered time and time again, as each year we approach British summer time: “Are you beach ready?” and “Are you ready down there?” They’re usually heard alongside smiley women with perfect hair, smiles and, let’s not forget, “body confidence”. If you haven’t, I’ll assume you’ve been living under a rock for some time. Otherwise, you’ll have been exposed to the idea that you must be bikini ready by Wilkinson’s colourful display of ads.
Isn’t television meant to be a medium of escapism, of comfort, a progressive feeling of nothingness distracting us from society’s fuckedupness, ongoing battles of sexism, racism and the unnecessary pressure to ‘‘Live life to it’s fullest potential’’? You’d be surprised how quickly an hour or so of the right televised crap can turn a frown upside down. But this once safe haven comes with a downside: advertisements. You either love them or hate them, with some leaving you with feelings of bitter rage, confusion or just gobsmacked, to the point where talk turns immediately to what you’ve just witnessed and will witness again in the next ad break.
You’d think that women on TV had it bad enough, with their character complexities coming nowhere close to the average 21st century woman, and with their constant sexualisation and objectification for branding and revenue purposes. Unfortunately, you and I would be wrong to believe that adverts could do a better job at passing accurate female representation.
With TV coughing up sexist advertisements like they’re going out of fashion, the question is why these companies believe it’s acceptable to place sexism at the heart of their adverts? It’s completely beyond me.
Debate.org recently opened the question ‘Should there be a ban on sexist adverting?’ to the general public. 53% agreed there should be a ban and 47% of people voted against the ban of sexist advertisements. User Conservativelogic argued the point that, “It would only ban sexism against women” adding, “There is no way that advertising that degrades men would be taken away, therefore this would be yet another sexist law benefiting only women. Should special K have to show men loosing weight as well as women? Should beer commercials stop using fat men. [sic]”
It is fair to say that sexism through advertisement affects both men and women but it nearly always affects women more. We’re in a society where sex sells; nearly every item we need for everyday life is sexualised in order for it be appealing, desired, wanted and, let’s not forget, purchased by the everyday man or woman. Women are usually the ones used for this purpose.
Let’s look at Wilkinson Sword, for example, where objectification is cleverly disguised as empowerment.
Take their 2009 ‘Mow The Lawn’ advert’s lyrics, sung by a woman stroking a hairless cat:
Sometimes a girl can’t help but feeling a little blue
When everything’s a mess
My favourite thing to do
Is mow the lawn
Thanks Wilkinson Sword, for indicating that the only thing worth doing in times of boredom, depression and anguish is to run a razor over your intimate area. Let your troubles to float away!
Not only was the ad sexist but it also showed racial discrimination towards the women featured. For example, the black woman’s words, “Some bushes are really big”. I can assure you that the pubes of all black women aren’t the same, nor do they all resemble afros. I do understand that Wilkinson thought they were being clever by making the advert somewhat multiracial but assuming they know what each ethnic group’s pubic hair looks like is another story entirely. The ad is available below for your viewing pleasure. Please don’t make the same mistake as I did and choke on your tea in the middle of Starbucks – you will draw attention to yourself.
Wilkinson Sword ‘Mow The Lawn’ advert – https://youtu.be/_9JZWpZS6-g
If the above wasn’t baffling enough, this year they’ve set out the idea that women should be spontaneous about getting their lady parts out. However, this only possible if we put in time to groom and shave our pubes to nothingness or shape them like neatly trimmed bushes in order to be, “Beach ready… down there”.
Wilkinson ‘Hydro’ advert – https://youtu.be/KiHpibGYrew
The smiley blonde woman in the advert insists that, “You’ve always got to be ready down there” and lets us into a significant moment in her life, as she attends a friend’s pool party. Suddenly, everyone decides to strip off. The words, “You’ve always got to be ready down there” hit me like a sack of potatoes.
But wait, says the woman, her hesitation indicating that she isn’t sure she is, “beach ready… down there”. After a moment of silence, she grins, “Of course I was.” Well, she had me holding on for dear life, wondering what would have happened if she wasn’t “ready”. Oh, to think of what could happened to her. It’s enough to scare the strongest of women.
Could their message be any clearer? In order to be “beach ready”, your muff must be trimmed and properly pruned for the summer months. If you’re a lady, that is. Well, if that’s the case I’m far from “beach ready… down there”. Trust me, growing a forest is tiring work.
Imagine the shock horror of parents that have daughters who are at the awkward age when puberty hits. Does Wilkinson Sword suggest they should also be “beach ready down there”?
I can’t speak for all women on the topic of female-targeted adverts that objectify, discriminate and lower the self-esteem of women all for the sake of sales, but I can tell you that in my opinion, it’s wrong.
The message of loving, cherishing and celebrating our bodies, whatever their shape, size and colour (muff included) should be considered empowerment. Not body discrimination. After all, nobody’s perfect. Advertisements shouldn’t feed us the constant message that we should strive for every element of perfection.
As for what’s going on “down there”… What I do with or to “down there” is my choice, so mind your own business, Wilkinson Sword, and anybody else that has any issue with what I do with or to my body.
– Reannon Licorish is a 20 year old Journalism student and amateur photographer. She writes for Conversations About Her and 55Factory. Follow her on Twitter at @re_latoya.