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Swimming and camping and… Waxing? Oh my.

When I was 15 years old and gearing up for summertime, my thoughts were much like the thoughts of any other kid preparing for three months of school-less bliss. Beach. Camping. Barbecues. Swimming. One thing that was certainly not on my mind was whether this would be the summer I would get a bikini wax. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for 2012’s teen girls.

As this article from MSNBC describes, Uni K Wax Centers recently released a summer promotion directed at girls age 15 and younger for “all waxing services.” Portraying waxing in a relaxed, even enjoyable, light, the ad features what appears to be a pre-teen, swimsuit-clad blonde girl, jumping for joy in front of a bright blue summer sky. A 50% discount is offered to girls age 15 and younger “all July, Sundays thru Wednesdays.”

In the past few weeks, the ad, and its underlying premise that girls this young ought to begin getting waxed, has endured a lot of criticism, particularly among parents. Some say it’s “horrible;” others find it “no big deal.” Some parents encourage their daughters to get waxed, their only concern being other girls who will tease their daughters “for their body hair.”

But see, herein lies the problem. Middle school and high school-aged girls would not be compelled to tease one another about body hair if advertisements like this were not omnipresent in popular media. If ads like this didn’t exist, beauty routines like waxing — for girls under age 15 — would not become normalized. Are children at fault if they tease other children for “failing” to meet beauty standards? Certainly. But the entity that ought to receive the majority of such fault is our culture, a culture that persecutes unique, un-groomed individuals and values the meticulous, time-consuming “upkeep” of female bodies.

Oh, and of course, there’s that teeny tiny issue that businesses and corporations make a fortune by convincing younger and younger girls that they are in dire need of beauty services on a regular basis. This ad is not so much a political statement as an economic decision, and marketing professionals have realized that promoting the sexualization of young women can yield particularly lucrative profits.

If all goes according to plan, many girls will be unwilling to resist this teen-friendly advertisement. The procedure is “natural” (because, you know, having bodily hair is just SO UNNATURAL), “safe” (what could possibly be safer than having your hair ripped out by hot wax?), and “pleasant” (nothing beats the warm, fuzzy feeling of hair removal!). Not to mention, for girls 15 and younger, there’s the 50% discount! Clearly, businesses like Uni K Wax Centers are intentionally targeting young girls for beauty services traditionally aimed at adults, all for the extra profit.

But in a conversation like this, we can’t forget the opinions of the young girls themselves — after all, they’re the ad’s target audience. Before adolescents reach adulthood, their minds, like the minds of all young teens, are especially susceptible to media ploys telling them that their bodies just aren’t good enough. Whereas young girls’ worries were previously confined to weight loss, make-up trends, and acne, they now learn that beauty can be achieved through waxing, too! (As if they didn’t already have enough to worry about!)

In the middle and high school realms, beauty trends catch on like wildfire. All it takes is for one fifteen-year-old to receive a Brazilian wax, and before we know it, many other students will want (and potentially get) one too. And what about the girls who had never once given a thought to such things? They’ll be on the outskirts looking in, suddenly very aware — and, in all likelihood, very self-conscious — of their un-waxed bikini lines.

Assistant Manager at South Miami Uni K has defended the ad, claiming that “some girls get hairier than others… They want to look good in their swimsuits.” It seems paradoxical, doesn’t it? Because if ads that normalized young teen waxing disappeared, girls’ related worries about “looking good in their swimsuits” might, too.


12 thoughts on “Swimming and camping and… Waxing? Oh my.

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  1. Wow! My daughter is 15 and it breaks my heart to see this kind of message. I’m just a bit speechless at this point…

  2. This is very sad. I feel that waxing can be so painful and refuse to return to the Brazilian.

  3. I’m 17 and I shave down there, I couldn’t afford waxing even if I wanted it done. Sure I don’t think it’s great advertising, but I’ve been removing the hair from my body since it started there and it honestly has nothing to do with meeting society’s expectations. No one else is going to see it and I don’t care what other people think, I just feel more comfortable hairless. There are a lot of people that feel this way, and as much as I love this blog I find it sometimes insulting to people who “conform”
    to the medias standards.

  4. I remember when I was little, maybe 8 or 9, I went to my mom telling her I wanted to, basically, remove my body hair (my arms and legs have pretty dark noticeable hair). My mom just told me “you’re too young”. A few years later I started shaving – everything – every week or so, but my hair would still grow out a bit, a fact that my sister would “joke” about if she saw it. Up until two months ago I was still super insecure and paranoid if she laughed at my hair, because she prided herself on shaving every day – every day! Legs, arms, torso, pubes, back, you name it.
    But then, something huge happened for me — I found this site. And now I look back and marvel at how brainwashed I was to view my own natural body as something ugly and shameful! It’s like, if you step back and just look at the ideas they push it seems crazy how they can even get people to swallow all the self-hate and shame. So thank you thank you thank you About Face for opening my eyes!!! I just hope my sister will also come around and gain a positive body image.

  5. When I first saw this ad I was pretty fired up. Oppressive beauty standards are at it again – ever targeting the more formative demographic, capitalizing on self conciousness.

    Then I thought more about this and I polled my friends as to when they started shaving their legs and their bikini lines. While I certainly don’t condone this ad at all, but I do think that hair removal is an important topic to broach with your child and perhaps these ads are agood jumping off point, a way to usher media literacy into the conversation and turn a critical eye to hte messages, so there is healither communications about tough topics between parents and their kids.

  6. Thanks for all of your comments!

    Heather, I completely agree that ads like this can inspire some important parent/child dialogue about media literacy and beauty standards!

    Kelsey, it’s totally understandable that you and many others feel comfortable hairless; this post wasn’t intended to make you or anyone else feel judged for “conforming.” Physically, many people may simply feel “better” being hairless. Psychologically though, many people may feel more “comfortable” hairless because of the pressures and beauty messages society enforces. I write blogs like this to help people understand the psychological side, and to encourage them to buck the trend if they feel that “society told me to” isn’t a good enough reason to shave.

  7. Oh come, stop seeing demons everywhere. This is not sexualisation. This is basic body awareness and wanting to keep it groomed and if a young teenager wants to groom their body, let them. Who wants hair on their legs on the beach? It also depends on ethnicity. I live in london and go to a waxing salon where half the customers are young beautiful indian girls, because they tend to be hairier than those of white ethnicity and want to remove the hair. Nothing wrong with that.
    Not to mention that being hairless is also much more comfortable, practical and attractive. Yes there is nothing wrong with a teenager wanting to look attractive. It doesnt mean she will get into bed with half the male population of the camp.

  8. Great point here! The blog posts are not meant to shame those who choose to go hairless, but to add another component to the conversation, a line of inner questioning that doesn’t judge, but says, “Hey, let me think about where I got that message that this is more desireable.” Love this post!

  9. I think this is a materialistic disease. Money comes before humanity. I haven’t been blessed with children, but I do teach piano to kids and I focus on instilling virtues. By focussing on their inner qualities so that children value their inner strengths and capacities brings them self-confidence and a focus on higher aspirations. I think is the only way to combat a materialistic society that focusses on the objectification of women, and now girls (how far will they go… will they end up even sexualizing babies???) I get my materials from http://www.virtuesproject.com, a wonderful resource for teaching kids about virtues. The premise is that all children have the seeds of all the virtues, it’s just a question of bringing them out, of “watering” them. Children just love this and end up trying harder! Let’s all combat these materialistic messages with a stronger and more powerful message of love for their souls!

  10. Oh, come on, yourself, Erika! It IS sexualization. When we start encouraging girls to see their bodies as having something wrong with them because of all the media messages that encourage them to think that way, then there is something VERY wrong with this whole situation. This goes for girls on BOTH sides of the “pond”!

  11. OK, what ads are out there, other than acne which are shared gender ads, aimed at boys that need to be changed to be accepted?

    Your right, if someone ends up waxing, so be it. But marketing towards girls under 14 with the obvious message- you need this or you are not pretty, is the problem. Many people will NEVER be in the looks or body image marketed to women in general, so pushing them to conform….to line up and fit into this mold….that young, well to me, it enslaves these girls into stupidity. Fine if they do this or shave whatever. MOST of the country can’t afford waxes, and you don’t want teenagers feeling ugly, out of place, not fitting in. Girls this young can’t possibly rationalize this ad as irrelevant. They put it out there as it makes money. And the girls buying in start their journey of self value of their LOOKS over lets say, academic achievement! This crap is NOT more important than actual accomplishments. Girls who achieve some sort of catalog beauty often neglect the parts of life to make them actually successful, like academics. Girls that cannot achieve the cookie cutter beauty are so often damaged from mocking, insecurity, self-hatred. This also leads to self destruction instead of working on what actually WILL make them successful, be it skills, academics, sports……something to make you valuable other than a mirror!

  12. I think you’ve missed the point on several fronts here, Erika. Women absolutely have the right to shave anything they want, but let’s not pretend it’s somehow empowering.

    “Who wants hair on their legs on the beach?”

    Hm, apparently men do.

    “I live in london and go to a waxing salon where half the customers are young beautiful indian girls, because they tend to be hairier than those of white ethnicity and want to remove the hair.”

    So women of different races are feeling pressured to conform even more to an impossible white ideal–specifically, the hairless, eternally-prepubescent woman. Are you arguing that this is actually a GOOD thing?

    “Not to mention that being hairless is also much more comfortable, practical and attractive.”

    –Again, then why don’t men shave their whole bodies? All I see is ingrown hairs, razor burn, shaving stubble, dry skin, and the potential for folliculitis, if you are particularly sensitive. Not to mention that some dermatologists are speaking out against shaving/waxing the vulva because it appears to make women more vulnerable to infections and STDs. There IS a reason there’s all that hair down there.
    –I’m wondering what your argument is here. All I can see is how much daily time it takes up, how many chemicals are used, and how much money is spent on shaving supplies and waxing treatments…again, that men seem to get along just fine without. You’d think if it was so practical, they’d be doing it too.
    –This is certainly a matter of cultural preferences, but it does seem to be the basis of your argument as a whole. Again, if women want to shave, they absolutely have the right to–but they shouldn’t be expected to have to do it, either. And we shouldn’t pretend that it’s some sort of practical decision born out of empowerment or individual choice when it’s really just another beauty mandate pushed on women as a result of our misogynistic society.

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