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.