A still from the new Veet advert.
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Veet’s “Don’t risk dudeness” ads are a sexist attempt to shame women for their bodies

In the new ad, a woman who hasn’t shaved for 24 hours is transformed into a hairy bloke who struggles to perform everyday tasks. When are advertisers going to stop trying to sell products by inventing ways for women to be ashamed of their bodies?

Hair removal cream is weird. Even its advocates should fully admit that. That there exists a chemical that is genuinely capable of dissolving hair, and that we sometimes consent to smear that chemical all over our bodies so that it can dissolve said hair, is undeniably strange. Moreover, if you leave it on, that chemical is capable of dissolving skin. Rhiannon once saw these amazing flesh-dissolving capabilities first hand, at a party, and to a male friend’s crotch, no less (there wasn’t much to do in Wales, growing up). It’s a good thing most lads steer well clear of the stuff. As Veet for Men users discovered, no one wants a scabby nob.

Veet is one of the bestselling hair removal creams in the UK and is a brand that has met with internet consternation this week following the launch of its idiotic US marketing campaign “Don’t Risk Dudeness”. In a series of ads, we see a woman who has failed to shave for 24 hours transformed into a strapping, hirsute bloke as she apologises to the alarmed people she encounters (mostly men) for her God-awful hairiness. For anyone who failed to grasp its clunking message, the advert is suggesting that body hair is something that only men should have, and that if you neglect your militaristic hair removal regime even for a matter of several hours, you risk becoming manly, or dude-like. The “dudeness” of the woman in the advert, furthermore, disadvantages her in her everyday life: lovers are turned off, beauticians overwhelmed, and taxi drivers high tail it after catching a glimpse of her armpits, which sport a mere fifteen hours of hair growth. “But I shaved yesterday,” she keeps saying, bewildered.

The advert’s attempt at humour may fall flat (since when was seeing two men in bed together the opening of a joke? Oh yeah: the Nineties) but that is by far the most alarming thing about it. Moderate homophobia aside, it pushes gender stereotypes that even by advertising standards are outdated: that women should shave their legs or risk losing their femininity; that all men are repulsed by women’s bodies in their natural state. It’s unkind to both men and women, but particularly women, who are essentially being marketed a new insecurity: that of “overnight hair growth”. Very few Caucasian women have hair that grows back noticeably overnight, so shaming them for an almost non-existent problem is a daring move. Women who do have thicker hair – often women of colour – are also shamed by the advert. Both groups will represent a significant customer group and it does not pay to alienate them.

We also wonder how a trans person would react to the advert. The suggestion that only “feminine” women are sexy is unlikely to make anyone who doesn’t fit this narrowly defined stereotype feel like shit, and as we know, there are more of us who don’t fit into these media-defined boxes than those of us that do. We have just finished writing a book about women’s negative portrayal in the media, and, while we never assumed our work was done, the fact that it is amounting to something of a never-ending story is incredibly dispiriting. As women, everywhere we go we are reminded that, in order for our bodies to be deemed acceptable, we must necessarily alter them. This advert takes this a step further by implying that our failure to make alterations will lead to our being deemed disgusting. Like many beauty brands, Veet place themselves in a position where they can guide women towards acceptability. Their website shows “case studies” of women whose “dudeness” embarrassed them – in work meetings and medical appointments or while having tapas (in the latter scenario, a man tells a woman she has something on her lip – it is a moustache). Women are then encouraged to ask Veet to “help me stay smooth” by clicking on a button marked “Un-dude me”. Nothing about it makes you feel good about yourself. Nothing about it feels positive.

It’s alarming that advertisers are so slow to cotton on to this. Women who are made to feel bad by advertisers can, and will, take their custom elsewhere, and via social media are becoming more and more vocal. Most men, especially those who live with women, are also aware that women don’t always resemble the hairless gazelles we see on television. Indeed, their partners might go months without shaving, or choose not to shave at all. Any alteration that any woman makes to her own body is her own choice, and it our hope that, as consumers become more cognisant of the issues at play here, advertising such as this will cease to be effective and may indeed become a thing of the past.

In the meantime, you could always send Veet a picture of your hairy legs. They’re at: facebook.com/veet, where the backlash has already begun.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

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Metro mayors can help Labour return to government

Labour champions in the new city regions can help their party at the national level too.

2017 will mark the inaugural elections of directly-elected metro mayors across England. In all cases, these mayor and cabinet combined authorities are situated in Labour heartlands, and as such Labour should look confidently at winning the whole slate.

Beyond the good press winning again will generate, these offices provide an avenue for Labour to showcase good governance, and imperatively, provide vocal opposition to the constraints of local government by Tory cuts.

The introduction of the Mayor of London in 2000 has provided a blueprint for how the media can provide a platform for media-friendly leadership. It has also demonstrated the ease that the office allows for attribution of successes to that individual and party – or misappropriated in context of Boris Bikes and to a lesser extent the London Olympics.

While without the same extent of the powers of the sui generis mayor of the capital, the prospect of additional metro-mayors provide an opportunity for replicating these successes while providing experience for Labour big-hitters to develop themselves in government. This opportunity hasn’t gone unnoticed, and after Sadiq Khan’s victory in London has shown that the role can grow beyond the limitations – perceived or otherwise - of the Corbyn shadow cabinet while strengthening team Labour’s credibility by actually being in power.

Shadow Health Secretary and former leadership candidate Andy Burnham’s announcement last week for Greater Manchester was the first big hitter to make his intention known. The rising star of Luciana Berger, another member of Labour’s health team, is known to be considering a run in the Liverpool City Region. Could we also see them joined by the juggernaut of Liam Byrne in the West Midlands, or next-generation Catherine McKinnell in the North East?

If we can get a pantheon of champions elected across these city regions, to what extent can this have an influence on national elections? These new metro areas represent around 11.5 million people, rising to over 20 million if you include Sadiq’s Greater London. While no doubt that is an impressive audience that our Labour pantheon are able to demonstrate leadership to, there are limitations. 80 of the 94 existing Westminster seats who are covered under the jurisdiction of the new metro-mayors are already Labour seats. While imperative to solidify our current base for any potential further electoral decline, in order to maximise the impact that this team can have on Labour’s resurgence there needs to be visibility beyond residents.

The impact of business is one example where such influence can be extended. Andy Burnham for example has outlined his case to make Greater Manchester the creative capital of the UK. According to the ONS about 150,000 people commute into Greater Manchester, which is two constituency’s worth of people that can be directly influenced by the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Despite these calculations and similar ones that can be made in other city-regions, the real opportunity with selecting the right Labour candidates is the media impact these champion mayors can make on the national debate. This projects the influence from the relatively-safe Labour regions across the country. This is particularly important to press the blame of any tightening of belts in local fiscal policy on the national Tory government’s cuts. We need individuals who have characteristics of cabinet-level experience, inspiring leadership, high profile campaigning experience and tough talking opposition credentials to support the national party leadership put the Tory’s on the narrative back foot.

That is not to say there are not fine local council leaders and technocrats who’s experience and governance experience at vital to Labour producing local successes. But the media don’t really care who number two is, and these individuals are best serving the national agenda for the party if they support A-listers who can shine a bright spotlight on our successes and Tory mismanagement.

If Jeremy Corbyn and the party are able to topple the Conservatives come next election, then all the better that we have a diverse team playing their part both on the front bench and in the pantheon of metro-mayors. If despite our best efforts Jeremy’s leadership falls short, then we will have experienced leaders in waiting who have been able to afford some distance from the front-bench, untainted and able to take the party’s plan B forward.