My response, while also steeped in rage and incredulity, is a little more retrospective and personal. Yes, a blast from the past! Feel free to leave now, I will not be offended.
If my life was a movie, it would be titled "When Hairy met Salty". My mutt heritage of Mediterranean, Teutonic, and god-only-knows-what-other blood provided me with a wealth of hyperactive follicles that remain unfazed in the presence of shaving, waxing, lasering, and all other ungodly depilatory tortures made available for the sake of our Western standard of female beauty. Now don't get me wrong- I am not an anti-shaving zealot who balks at the sight of a razor blade. I have done my share of shaving for multiple reasons, including, yes, abiding by certain standards of beauty that allow me to blend in and be accepted in various social settings.However, in addition to making me think about my adult depilatory experiences, and how I want to be able to decide if and when I remove what hairs on my body, these horrible ads also made me think back to my pre-shaving days, and how shaving was such a big part of the ritual of "becoming a woman".
I was hairy from day one. In my early childhood, my peach-fuzz was considered cute, or simply ignored, by adults and children alike. However, as I grew older, this changed. I was no longer a careless, chubby-cheeked child who made witty remarks that adults found adorable. By age ten, I had morphed into a buck-toothed, pale, scrawny thing, and I spent most of my time reading and basically avoiding other people, especially girls. In my fourth grade class, girls were mean. And precocious! Conversations in the changing room rapidly shifted from the latest Hello Kitty craze to who made out with whom, and yes, the aches and pains of shaving. I was at a complete loss regarding most changing room topics, but I was becoming painfully aware of my peach-fuzz, which had darkened and thickened over the years. I remember one girl, a lot less hairy than I was, vividly describing how she would soon have to use a lawn mower to tame her rebellious leg-hair. Again, we were ten.
One day, anticipating the growing discomfort of wearing short-shorts for physical education the next day (hint: these were the regrettable and forgettable 80s), I swiped my mother's disposable razor from the shower and ran it repeatedly over my legs until they were strangely smooth. I was admiring my accomplishment when my mother walked into the room and stared in disbelief; she was livid. Given how my prolific follicles had previously been ignored by most adults, I had no idea why I was in such trouble. My crime was so serious that the consequences involved lectures from multiple female family members. "You are too young!" "By the time you really need to shave, your hair will be so thick it will be impossible!", they clamored. At the time, I had no idea why there would be a time when I "really" needed to shave. But after a couple of years, it started to dawn on me. Shaving was, of course, an important part of becoming sexually desirable. And it was clear that ten year old girls had no business making themselves desirable (Ha! Tell that to my then fourth-grade classmates).
Yes, shaving, or otherwise removing our body hair is an individual choice, but for many women, it is clearly a choice that responds to how we wish to be socially perceived, than to our own preferences for comfort and appearance. The Veet ads, in their tragi-comical portrayal, speak this sad and unnecessary social truth. We fear others' reactions to our hairiness. And we anticipate that our forced hairlessness will generate, on the other hand, "positive" social responses, including being considered sexually attractive and available. And as my retrospective reflection on my early days of shaving reveals, this is not something that women suddenly realize when they turn 18. We are taught, from an early age, that smooth, glabrous skin is sexy, and sexual, and we dream of the moment when we acquire the "license to shave". Perhaps this is one less thing that we should be imposing on girls and other women-to-be,and as we make the choice to shave, we should keep in mind that "to shave or not to shave" is not only an individual choice, it is a socially normative action that affects some of the more malleable members of our society.