To Nair, or Not To Nair — Why is that a question?

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“The less you wear, the more you need Nair!”

What a catchy singalong slogan for such a chemically caustic product!

Has anyone ever thought about exactly why Nair came into being? Not necessarily how — it would not surprise me if a few scientists made one too many booboos in the lab and all of a sudden the compound that they were handling burned their hair off. And, like Lucy from the Peanuts Christmas special, they shouted “THAT’S IT!” And then there was Nair.

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Yes, I do acknowledge that Nair and other hair removal products are probably more effective for that newly shaven look many days longer. I will also admit that Nair takes many steps to be sure that their customers use the product for the short time period required. But I ask once again: Why do we use Nair?

I think that part of my answer can be found by a simple game of comparison of two different websites: Nair for Women, and Nair for Men. (Perhaps I live in the Stone Age, but I had never heard of Nair for Men until I Google-searched for the hair removal product in general. Or maybe, like most of the general public, I had never seen a commercial for Nair for Men, so I simply assumed that their only consumer audience was women.) Anyway, I started searching the websites to look for any explanation for the use of Nair. It was much easier than I thought — both sites have a “Why Nair?” tab on their home page.

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For the most part, these tabs were the same — they provided a short blurb on the Nair products, and then had little video demos explaining how each product worked — lotion, waxing, etc. There was one glaring difference, however, and that was in the delivery of the product’s social benefits. The men’s page was stating that Nair was convenient because of what appeared to be rational reasons: no itchy stubble, and apparently  “there’s a formula to suit every guy’s personal preferences”.

The women’s Nair page used the same language for the most part, except they throw in this little nugget after expounding the negative effect of shaving: “When those cut edges emerge, you can feel that rough, stubbly sensation as you run your hands over your skin. Not to mention how it feels to someone else!”.

Ah. So that’s why we use Nair.

Old habits die hard: a 1940 Nair ad, using similar language to sell their product.

Old habits die hard: a 1940 Nair ad, using similar language to sell their product.

The advertisers of Nair Hair Remover take advantage of established social implications for women’s bodies and how they are meant to be represented. Instead of giving the realm of the body wholly to the woman, like the Nair for Men explanation, their bodies must also fulfill the purpose of enjoyment for “someone else”. Any autonomy that a woman has to control how her body looks and feels was eliminated with that advertising tactic. The burden of social expectation was placed on the woman, as though it is her duty to have extra-smooth legs for other people.

It would be a stretch to claim that Nair is brainwashing women into a socially constructed corner about their bodies. But they are most certainly not helping women reclaim their bodies and establishing what is an acceptable image to present to the rest of society. You don’t “need” Nair, but they would like that to be true.

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“Blurred Lines” Parodies Take the Stage

Hello! It’s been a while. How have you all been?

Yes? Mmhmm?

That’s good.

This summer, Robin Thicke’s single “Blurred Lines” was released to the general public and proceeded to dominate the charts in multiple countries around the world. And why not? It has an infectious rhythm, a moving bass line, and a melody that is fun and unique. The minute that I heard it on the radio, I  made it a part of my daily musical routine. In the moment, I had come to enjoy the song for exactly what I thought it was; it only bothered me a little that the lyrics were “rape-y”, because How can a song with such a groove be so bad?? The song did not necessarily restore my faith in humanity, or in my faith of people supporting women on a public level, but it was just too funky for me to worry too much.

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It wasn’t until about a month into my Blurred Lines-mania that I came across the original music video. The censored video caught my attention because it emphasized the focus of the song around the appearance of the woman to whom Robin Thicke is referring within the lyrics. But it was the unrated video that unnerved me and shook me from my little reverie of ignorant bliss. To be blunt, the topless models were ogled by the men in the video and placed in a situation of extreme scrutiny due to their sexual actions and bodily exhibitionism. I was worried that these women were acting as role models and “real representations” of how women must look and act to attract the attention of a man.

How pleasantly surprised I was, then, to see that many people had posted parody videos in response to the overall negative messages that they gleaned from Robin Thicke’s original video and lyrics. There are a few that place great import on the aforementioned “rape-y” lyrics of the song and perform a video that criticizes the sexist behavior of men and emphasizes a woman’s right to her body and sexual decision-making skills. Aside from some inflammatory language, I thought that this parody was effective in its message while maintaining a level of satire and humor in its delivery.

I also liked the Mod Carousel version of this song because it remains very true to the structure and representation of the original video, with a few exceptions. Namely, the women are placed in the male roles of the video, and relatively nude male models take the place of the sexual objects. It was not over the top, but I found the gender role-reversal tasteful and just the right amount of bitingly sarcastic in presentation.

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One of the best I have seen thus far, however, was the “Defined Lines” video created by New Zealand law students Adelaide Dunn, Olivia Lubbock and Zoe Ellwood. The lyrics are direct, intelligent, and, again, direct. It is a very feminist perspective, but that perspective appropriately addresses a woman’s right to her body, her body image, and how she chooses to be appreciated by men and larger society.

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Screenshot from “Defined Lines”

All in all, Robin Thicke was right to receive some criticism from the public about his blatant sexual objectification of women. It is refreshing, though, to see women from all over the world take a stand and expose archaic representations in a progessively changing social environment.