If you’ve ever watched a women’s razor commercial, you’ve probably observed one of the weirdest hypocrisies of advertising. Despite selling products for the removal of body hair, razor commercials targeted towards women rarely actually show said body hair. Instead, viewers are left to infer the effectiveness of fancy five-blade razors from watching slow motion shots of razors sliding along lathered, hairless legs. But apparently, a new razor start-up is hoping to change that. According to Racked reporter Cheryl Wischhover, Billie—launched in late 2017—is “the female response to Dollar Shave Club.”
In a new video, Billie portrays several women with thatches of armpit hair, leg hair, lower belly hair, and toe hair, all shown in graphic close-ups. Pop-up text declares, “Hair. Everyone has it. Even women.” As some of the women shave, viewers see a realistic image of what a razor head looks like afterward. Princess Nokia’s song “Tomboy” is the soundtrack over the top of the video, adding an ebullient auditory middle finger to the whole thing. The entire ad is defiantly joyful.
And indeed, the ad’s imagery, with its roster of diverse Glossier-adjacent models happily baring their armpits to each other, is depressingly revolutionary for a market reluctant to show the very thing that ensures its survival. “We went through a hundred years of women’s razors ads,” Billie co-founder Georgina Gooley told Wischhover. “You’re in the business of hair removal and you’re not even allowed to show hair because body hair on women is such a taboo!” The softly-lit video seems to fly directly in the face of that century-long history, and no doubt it’s a first step in the right direction. But that’s all it is: a first step.
The Billie commercial does showcase the existence of hair on women’s bodies, something that’s still taboo enough to garner headlines when an actress chooses not to shave her pits for a post-apocalyptic movie. But by the end of the 55-second video, with the exception of one model who keeps a light dusting of armpit hair, the hair is gone, and we’re left with the same effect of any other shaving ad. Not to mention the fact that all the thin, attractive models have the kind of barely-there, wispy hair that’s as unobtrusive as body hair on a woman is going to get.
Wischhover tries to head off any criticism, writing “It is absolutely reasonable for cynical viewers to question the motives of a razor company trying to make body hair acceptable, which could be perceived as hypocritical.” Ultimately, she believes that the campaign is nuanced enough to forego that hypocrisy because at the end of the video “the text basically says, ‘If and when you feel like shaving, we’re here.’” But it doesn’t take a cynic to know that women rarely begin to shave because they feel like it. They shave because they feel like they have to, because it’s been beaten into our head since we were children that women just don’t have body hair. It’s true that at this point in life, I enjoy the feeling of a smooth leg as much as anybody else. But I wouldn’t have started shaving had I not been convinced by the age of 11 that there was something fundamentally wrong with having body hair. Until the removal of body hair is an entirely voluntary choice rather than one made with the full weight of societal pressure, there’s little defiant joy to be found in the act. Or in a company whose mission is to “make the internet a little fuzzier” while selling products to strip that fuzz from real life.
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