Apr 17 2011

Be confident of your daintiness

A propos of shame- and fear-based advertising: this amusing article in Slate recounts Misogynist Advertising Ploys Through the Ages.

The Massengills would be a pretty good all-lady indie rock band name

You already know all about that megatheocorporatocratic tactic of ladycontrol, the one wherein it invents ladyproblems that can only be fixed by the toxic ladyproducts it sells, so this piece won’t be blowing your mind so much as taking you for a little saunter down Ladymemory Lane. But what could be more entertaining than revisiting the fabled Lysol douche of yore, the invention of halitosis, and the horror of “intimate odor” of your “most girl part”?

The phrase “often a bridesmaid but never a bride” was made famous by Listerine ads. In one 1925 image, a woman reads another woman’s wedding announcement with a troubled expression on her face. “Her case was really a pathetic one,” the copy intones, describing the woman as nowhere near marriage “as her birthdays crept gradually toward that tragic thirty mark.” The culprit? Halitosis, of course.

The article also contains a deeply satisfying indictment of the supremely misogynist, Ditwuss Award-winning Dove company, to which company I raise my glass of All-Purpose Raw Vegetable Slurry and cry “Go fuck yourself!” We hadn’t been made aware of it down at Spinster HQ (too much butt-dancing, I suppose), but apparently Dove has recently invented a brand-new beauty problem. Their brilliant addition to the Canon of Feminine Deficiencies That Can Be Solved By Greasy Ointments? Fugly (quoth Slate) pits.

Dove recently unveiled its latest campaign, and it hinges on the idea that your armpits are ugly. Dove Ultimate Go Sleeveless is supposed to give women “softer, smoother underarms in just five days”—in ads for the product, which Stephen Colbert calls a “breakthrough shame-o-vation,” women cut the sleeves off their tops with joyful expressions, as if they’ve been liberated from a terrible scourge. If it’s news to you that this part of your body is not so hot, Dove says you’re in the minority, citing a survey in which 93 percent of women said they “think their underarms are unattractive.” And if you doubt statistics culled from 534 women in an anonymous online poll, rest assured that Dove’s best advertising efforts will be directed at making those numbers true.

Once your softer, smoother Dove armpits have liberated you from the vile tyranny of sleeves, maybe you can creep out into public again, and maybe say something out loud.

There’s a slideshow, too. From which I swiped the Massengill photo.

Thanks, Bobby and Antoinette


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  1. That33Girl

    I’ve been so worried! My armpits have been keeping me inside for years. Only five more days until freedom. Thanks Dove!

  2. Comrade PhysioProf

    According to Wikipedia, armpit depilation was first recommended by the Prophet Mohammed in the sixth century. Figures something so fucken stupid was invented by a religious fuckewadde.


  3. Frumious B

    I think the “smoothness” to which they refer is lack of stubble. Removing your armpit hair to solve all your problems in life was invented way back when – hairy pits were framed as a problem when sleeveless styles came into fashion, maybe beginning of the 20th century?. So now they’ve got us buying their razors, but the stubble, the stubble! IBTP.

  4. Orange

    Dove’s been hinting at The Armpit Problem for years, ever since they trotted out antiperspirant with moisturizers. You know, the “Ultimate Beauty Care with Moisturizers Anti-Perspirant Deodorant.” When they first launched it, I wondered who exactly has been fretting about dryness of the armpits, given that antiperspirants are all about eliminating moisture there. Has anyone ever anywhere in the world strived to exfoliate and moisturize their pits?

    Oh, wait. Maybe the folks who shave their pits every single day have dry, chafed pit skin. I wouldn’t know. But razors aren’t exactly a boon to the skin, are they?

  5. Raven

    Mystery solved! So that’s why the local pitchfork and torch brigade has been outside my house lately! I know I’ve been fortunate not have been lynched so far, what with being a childless woman who can read and write. Apparently, unsightly arm pits has been the last straw. I’d better get some Dove products quick! A lot of infractions can be forgiven or ignored under the P, but we all know unsightliness just cannot be tolerated! Thank dog this company has come along to save stupid little me from myself.

  6. Sylvie

    When I were a youngster there was only one moisturiser – Johnson’s Baby Lotion – pink, slimy, unpleasantly sweet smelling. Fast forward forty years and every square inch of skin has its own care/health/pamper/love yourself gunk – that’s what I call progress.

  7. D.

    Such was the mojo and taboo of Massengill (I believe my mother might have had a package of it somewhere) that I never did find out what it was for.

    The pits get shaved once a month because if I can smell the sweat, it’s probably pretty strong. (There have been periods in my life when I relished the scent of sweat. That’s past, though.)

  8. Jill

    Massengill, jesus. You know what fucking stinks? That fucking awful FDS pussy-spray combined with menstrual effluent on a fucking Kotex. It was 1974 and I can still smell that shit.

  9. Paula

    I guess Dove was afraid that we women would run out of ways to hate ourselves so they had to bring up the dreaded rough armpit. They aren’t just referring to stubble, they do genuinely mean rough, unfeminine pit skin. Dog bless Dove for showing us how ignorant we have been.

  10. chines

    Jill, that is hilarious.

    I’m still agog that LYSOL was used as a pussy-burning but otherwise non-effective contraceptive. I can only hope that the burn rubbed off on the peen of dickmen with a fondness for marital rape.

    My bathroom decoration theme is Early Beauty Shame & Torture. I’m interested in finding cast-iron curling irons and other hazardous beauty products to hang on the wall with the framed advertisements for Kotex, Gleem, & Woodbury Soap.

    I like how the ad messages evolved from WW2, “Be beautiful while you work in the factories and marry a sailor!” to post WW2 get-back-in-the-kitchen and marry a veteran. The social engineering is really remarkable–it went well beyond creating needs and selling products to shaping behavior in all walks of life.

    Advertisements still work that way, but I think they’ve gotten much more clever at being subtle. Insidious.

  11. Comrade Svilova

    Wow, the comments on that article are really atrocious, considering how great the article was. A lot of people saying “but women are supposed to not have any body hair!” or “Body hair on women is just objectively disgusting.”

    Sigh. How can they not see that these things are not immutable facts but social constructions?

  12. Hedgepig

    This is only a bit on topic, but I can’t resist venting. I just watched an episode of Boardwalk Empire in which the character Margaret sniffs her armpit before putting on a fancy frock (with sleeves) in her new job as a shop assistant. She had shaven pits! An Irish emigrant in Atlantic City in the 1920s would NOT have had shaven pits. And the show is supposed to be so authentic with period detail but they can’t bring themselves to have a female character with authentic armpits.

  13. Vibrating_Liz

    I recall an episode of Six Feet Under where Brenda was attending a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting, and one of the guys there was sharing how his porn addiction has left him incapable of tolerating the inevitable blemishes or imperfections in real women. He specifically mentions how the little red post-shaving bumps in his wife’s armpits fill him with such loathing and disgust that sex with her has become impossible.

  14. Laughingrat

    I used to think my underarms were unattractive, but then I grew out my armpit hair. Now I can be confident of my daintiness as I traipse about in a tank-top, with my luxurious hair flowing free. What could possibly be more ladylike?

  15. CrazyQuilter

    awesome. some winner of a commenter made a statement along the lines of, “Waaaahh, men’s lives are SO MUCH HARDER THAN WOMEN’S, why are you whining about shaving your armpits? IT’S NOT THAT BAD, MEN *THEORETICALLY* HAVE TO DO WAY HARDER THINGS, LIKE BE FIREFIGHTERS, SO SHUT UP AND SHAVE, YOU HAIRY WEIRDO!”

    because a) there are no women firefighters, amirite? and b)constantly policing your body because of a set of (corporation-manufactured) social rules, which either incidentally or intentionally make a woman’s body look more like a prepubescent girl’s or a mannequin’s than a grown woman’s, is SO not that difficult.

    i mean, what are we complaining about? it’s not like some of us get painful razorburn, or even have allergic reactions to that strip of white crap on razors that’s supposed to be “moisturizer”. definitely not. it’s not like some of us don’t get ingrown armpit hairs so bad we have to see dermatologists about it. nope.
    and even those of us who don’t have to deal with the above, why, it isn’t as if we don’t have BETTER THINGS TO DO WITH OUR TIME than shave an area of our body that no one ever even SEES, for longer than a few seconds at a time, except for our significant others. why are we expected to waste our time and, in some of our cases, put ourselves through considerable pain, so that someone ELSE can decide that our armpits are acceptable to be seen in public?

    also, when i first heard about douches, i thought they were something from A Long, Long Time Ago. you know, from the era of corsets, or the era where women deliberately ate tapeworms to get that tall, gaunt, slowly-starving-to-death look.
    i think i was maybe fourteen when i walked into a dollar store and saw, in the bath and hygiene aisle, row after row of boxes labled Vaginal Douche, and i was gobsmacked, and genuinely confused.
    i thought, people really still shoot soapy water into their snatches? did they NOT have That Bad Experience with soap and their Special Girl Place when they were little and curious? why on EARTH do those things still even EXIST?

  16. CrazyQuilter

    holy hats, sorry for the book.

    @ Laughingrat:
    i used to constantly experience what we call Beauty Pains of the Underarm Areas, because i was subscribing to the method of attempting to gain daintiness via razor.
    but now, like you, i feel ever so dainty (and completely pain-free!) when i frolic about in sundresses, showing off my curly crop of underarm fuzz to the world. high five!

  17. Smash Patriarchy

    And of course it’s the deodorant in the first place causing rashes and similar for a lot of women, creating a pretty effective cycle in self-hate.

  18. Citizen Jane

    Oh yes, look how far we have come.


    Sheesh, I long for the days when douche commercials were the worst of it. Now I’ve got to feel bad because my vagina isn’t glittery and pink enough.

  19. Helens

    It’s actually even worse than that: there is apparently some evidence that powdering your nether regions with Messengil or some other talcum-based powder may actually kill you. But better to be attractive and dead than unattractive, I suppose!

  20. orlando

    @ Helens: I think Snow White taught us that, yes?

    @ CrazyQuilter: I so want to tell that dude – “so, are you a firefighter? Because if you’re not, I think you need to shave your pits now.”

  21. Vera

    Somewhere, a plastic surgeon is working on a surgical solution for sagging underarms. For aging armpits beyond repair by creams and lotions.

  22. Tarantella

    Holy gees, why the hell would I want to de my pubic hair?

    OTT much?

  23. Tarantella

    *dye, even.

  24. Sasha CA

    You know, I’m surprised there’s a huge market for this product given that only women with slim, toned upper arms are supposed to be able to “get away with it” going sleeveless in the first place. I’m eagerly awaiting the launch of Dove’s next beauty miracle: the upper arm slimming & toning lotion.

  25. Bushfire

    Citizen Jane: your links: OMG those look like parodies. Dying your labia? Dear goddess, what is the world coming to?

  26. Cycles

    You know, I’m surprised there’s a huge market for this product given that only women with slim, toned upper arms are supposed to be able to “get away with it” going sleeveless in the first place.

    Absolutely. Maybe Dove is hoping that women will see it as a tool in the distraction game wherein one plays up one’s assets (blindingly beautiful underarms that, when raised, pour forth effervescent kittens and bite-sized angel food cakes) to downplay the hideousness of the rest of one’s fucking ugly arm meat.

  27. Jezebella

    Cycles, if Dove sold a product that turned my armpits into an endless supplier of bite-sized angel food cakes, I’m afraid I would just have to buy the stuff.

  28. allhellsloose

    Because men never smell or if they do it’s a manly smell and women should accept it. Musky testicles and underarm swooness abound. But it’s a GOOD smell. Women on the other hand have always been dirty sluts. Not fit for purpose unless they spray, shake the talc or use the wash out. By heavens men like to stick their (clean?) dicks into women but they want it not smelling of fish. Or other such odours.

    Fuck that for a game of soldiers and count me OUT.

  29. La Chica Lucy

    I’m going to start signing all my [corporate-created-consumer-holiday] cards thusly:

    Confident in My Daintiness,

  30. ginger

    Somewhere, sometime, the P got to me so hard and so deep that I feel weird about all armpit hair, male or female. Axilla hair reminds me of pubic hair, and it makes me go all shy seeing it. Put the sweat-damp curls peeking from that cleft of flesh away, everyone. That’s private.

    (I figure if we can talk about our irrational fear of animals here, I can mention my irrational discomfort with Sekrit Body Hair.)

  31. Cyberwulf

    This reminds me of the antifeminist who reacted indignantly to the idea that men should mop up after a wee, claiming that it was impossible and then admitting that he regularly let the last few drops dribble into his underpants. Now why is there no jock liner for men like him?

  32. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Cyberwulf: A bit of doggerel for the antifeminist:

    No matter how you hop and dance,
    The last few drops go in your pants.

    One of warm weather’s pleasures is the feeling of a random breeze whiffling through my silken body hair.

  33. speedbudget

    @Helens: But hey, at least you died with a clean pussy and underwear, amirite?

  34. Blamer From Way Back

    Well, just had to share this from Nine Deuces. Apparently there is a demand and market for bleaching one’s anus. ‘Cause you know we don’t want to remind any dickwads that SHIT comes out of there.



  35. Samantha B

    Twisty, you may have broken your own record for greatest number of made-up, yet perfectly descriptive, words in a single post. Nabokov would be proud.

  36. Samantha B

    That comment was intended for the previous post on irrational fears.

  37. octopod

    Crotch dye?!?

    Now I’ve seen EVERYTHING.

  38. nails

    God, I quit shavin my pits years ago. I tried it once after having gone natural for so long and wondered what sick bastard came up with the idea in the first place (and now I know one theory thanks to CPP)- the growth of the hairs stabs you all day because armpits rub together constantly. Now its supposed to be pretty, too?

  39. Comrade Svilova

    Yes, Nails, they must be pretty! But not too pretty or sensuous, because then you’re a slut. So be careful how pretty you go with your pits. To be a truly perfect woman, you must get that line right, whether with armpit hair or anus hue.

  40. Alex

    There’s no…I don’t…what the?!?

    Okay, let’s try this again. *deep breaths* So we now have armpit prettifiers, anal bleaching, pubic hair dye, labia dye, we still have douches, so what next? I’m betting on ears…they’ll find a “problem” with ears that can’t be solved by wearing earrings or using cue-tips. And then we’ll have only to wait and see how many people go deaf or end up with brain tumors due to using whatever product they come up with. The companies will deny culpability, of course, but will gladly have you donate to cure deafness and brain cancer!

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