“Red, White, and You Do You” is the tagline of the latest marketing campaign for Billie, just one of the crop of new, trendy hair removal companies for women. The ad features a diverse group of women, some who have armpit hair or pubic hair visible against the outline of their swim suits. The images do not show any actual razors, and it’s the company’s first ad to show pubic hair. Already the choice is being hailed as brave and paradigm-shifting, but I’m confused. Am I supposed to shave my pubes or not? I guess I have to buy Billie razors either way?
This isn’t the first time Billie has wielded the taboo of women’s body hair as a convoluted marketing tool: In 2018, the company launched an ad campaign called Project Body Hair. “When brands pretend that all women have hairless bodies, it’s a version of body shaming,” Billie founder Georgina Gooley told Glamour about the ad. “It’s saying you should feel ashamed of having body hair.” But isn’t that... what... razors’ very existence implicitly tells us?
The campaign likely pushed Billie’s competitor Flamingo (part of the men’s razor brand Harry’s) to spin equally feel-good-y ad copy. “We’ve talked to more than 1,000 women [to develop Flamingo products], and everyone has a very unique and personal body-care routine, and body hair is part of that,” Flamingo’s general manager told Well+Good Magazine in 2018.
It must be hard to sell razors for the everywoman—one who waxes or grows out her mustache, it’s her choice!—without straddling an oozing cesspool of conflicting ideas. These ads are trying to say that whether you choose to shave or not, both choices are equally empowering and feminist. But a razor is designed for, um, body hair removal, so however “empowering” the imagery, the ads are by default advocating for getting rid of the hair. I don’t need anyone to tell me it’s okay to not to shave my armpits, but if I’m not, then why would I care about or shop Billie’s products?
In all likelihood, the next logical step for these companies is to offer beauty products for your armpit hair or pubes. But they better move fast because other companies have already beat them to it.