I received a blog tip last week from Jenni Sager, who encouraged Shameless to shed some light on the Bic razor ad that was running in many Canadian cities. In the ad, a leggy 50s-pinup-style woman is bending over and shooting us a confident smile with the overarching slogan: “For legs that beckon.”
Sager, upset by what she viewed as the objectification of women, launched a petition called “Women Aren’t Objects,” writing:
When I saw these advertisements for Bic’s razors on the subway I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was shocked that no one seemed to be quite as shocked as me.
Though I’m sure Torontonians have grown a thick skin to media bombardment, I doubt I am alone in finding this poster distasteful, offensive, and a push in the wrong direction for women’s equality.
In Toronto, many of the ads were vandalized. According to the Toronto Sun, messages like “Aren’t we past this?” and “‘50s values” were scrawled across them.
Some people went as far as to paste homemade stickers on the ads, including one that read, “Retro-sexism,” and another that said, “Hey Ladies! Don’t kid yourselves. Your gams are for glaring at[…]NOT for kicking ass, standing tall or marching. Like a slab of meat or a tasty cake treat, you are an object to be consumed and don’t assume otherwise. If you are wise you will do everything you can to look pretty because that’s all that matters.
Sager’s petition says that the “old style of less feminist times is trendy” (Mad Men, anyone?), which promotes the idea that “women are sexual objects who who dress up in heels, makeup and sexually provocative clothing when they go out and do their job - grocery shopping.”
Before Sager even had the chance to send her petition, Bic pulled the ad, stating that the company had received numerous complaints and never meant to offend. She even received an email apology from Bic on Sept. 16.
Here’s the thing: I like this ad and I don’t think it needed to be pulled. I think that examining it requires us to view it in a context beyond second-wave-style interpretations. I don’t consider the referencing of less feminist times offensive, mostly because I believe it was done for aesthetic reasons (who doesn’t like pinup cartoons?!). Furthermore, this isn’t the 50s, I have a job (and it isn’t grocery shopping, though sometimes I wish I got paid for doing it), and looking at this ad makes me feel powerful because I know that my legs can be attractive and kick ass.
It’s important to note that the woman in this ad is not necessarily misrepresenting women. Many choose to wear heels, makeup, and provocative clothing, and are very happy about it. Some women enjoy bending over and giving a little show at the grocery store. (Personally, I enjoy being ogled from time to time. As I walked the streets of Victoria, B.C. in a fairly short dress this summer, a girl told me: “I like your legs. They’re very womanly.” I beamed.)
I like this ad I because I see it as a playful and sexy throwback that successfully reaches its target market: women who shave their legs because they consider it attractive. While many women rock hairy legs like Mo’Nique, others prefer to keep their gams smooth. To shave or not to shave is a decision made with very personal reasons. For me, it’s just my preference. My skin feels great afterward (aside from the annoying, few-days-later stubble).
I realize that there are women who shave because they feel pressured to or because their partners prefer it, and these reasons are unfortunate. But many women shave because it’s their idea of what looks good, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Obviously, this ad is about more than leg shaving. It’s using sexuality and prevailing beauty standards of Western society to sell a razor, which encourages both. I understand the arguments made by Sager and others, but I believe that women can be sexy and appealing to others without being objectified, and that considering choice and context is essential.
What do you think? Should the Bic ad have been pulled? Is throwing back to “less feminist times” regressive and harmful to women’s equality? Can sexuality and attractiveness be used in advertisements and media without objectifying or misrepresenting women?