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 Moderate homophobia aside, it pushes gender stereotypes that even by advertising standards are outdated: that women should shave their legs or risk losing their femininity; that all men are repulsed by women’s bodies in their natural state.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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Leave campaigners are doing down Britain's influence in Europe

As the third biggest country, Britain has huge clout in the EU.

Last week the Leave campaign's Priti Patel took to the airwaves to bang on about the perils of EU regulation, claiming it is doing untold damage to small businesses in the UK. Let's put aside for one minute the fact that eight in ten small firms actually want to stay in the EU because of the huge benefits it brings in terms of trade and investment. Or the fact that the EU has cut red tape by around a quarter in recent years and is committed to doing more. Because the really startling thing Patel said was that these rules come to us "without the British government having a say." That might be forgivable coming from an obscure backbencher or UKIP activist. But as a government minister, Priti Patel knows full well that the UK has a major influence over all EU legislation. Indeed, she sits round the table when EU laws are being agreed.

Don't take it from me, take it from Patel herself. Last August, in an official letter to the House of Lords on upcoming EU employment legislation, the minister boasted she had "worked closely with MEPs to influence the proposal and successfully protected and advanced our interests." And just a few months ago in February she told MPs that the government is engaging in EU negotiations "to ensure that the proposals reflect UK priorities." So either she's been duping the Parliament by exaggerating how much influence she has in Brussels. Or, as is perhaps more likely, she's trying to pull the wool over the British people's eyes and perpetuate a favourite myth of the eurosceptics: that the UK has no say over EU rules.

As the third biggest country, Britain has huge clout in Europe. We have the most votes in the EU Council alongside France, Germany and Italy, where we are on the winning side 87 per cent of the time. The UK also has a tenth of all MEPs and the chairs of three influential European Parliament committees (although admittedly UKIP and Tory sceptics do their best to turn their belief the UK has no influence in Europe into a self-fulfilling prophecy). UKIP MEPs aside, the Brits are widely respected by European counterparts for their common sense and expertise in areas like diplomacy, finance and defence. And to the horror of the French, it is English that has become the accepted lingua franca in the corridors of power in Brussels.

So it's no surprise that the UK has been the driving force behind some of the biggest developments in Europe in recent decades, including the creation of the single market and the enlargement of the EU to Eastern Europe. The UK has also led the way on scrapping mobile roaming charges from next year, and is now setting the agenda on EU proposals that will make it easier to trade online and to access online streaming services like BBC iPlayer or Netflix when travelling abroad. The irony is that the Europe of today which Eurosceptics love to hate is very much a British creation.

The Leave campaign like to deride anyone who warns of the risks of leaving the EU as "talking down Britain." But by denying the obvious, that the UK has a major role in shaping EU decisions, they are the ones guilty of doing our country down. It's time we stood up to their defeatist narrative and made the case for Britain's role in Europe. I am a proud patriot who wants the best for my country, and that is why like many I will be passionately making the case to remain in the EU. Now is not the time to leave, it's time to lead.