A Beauty Salon advertising waxing to young girls has today been slammed by dozens of facebook users as sexualising children and encouraging them to see the changing of their bodies as a necessary way of achieving ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’.
The advertisement from Salon ‘Uni.K.Wax’ featured a child in a bikini jumping in the air, photographed from below with the statement, ‘Celebrate Freedom and Independence all July – 50% off all waxing services, all girls 15 and younger’. The ad sparked an outrage online, with the salon’s Facebook page soon turning into a storm of exclamation marks and erupting into a fierce debate punctuated by various symbols.Mothers and other concerned community members voiced their concerns with the advertisement, suggesting that it was preying on the insecurities of young girls and encouraging them to begin using beauty treatments at a younger age to live up to the impossible standards seen constantly in the media. Sadly, there were some who turned the debate into a personal attack against each other rather than focusing on the issue of the advertisement.
One poor mother was questioned over her parenting skills when she admitted allowing her daughter to have her eyebrows waxed from the age of 11, due to bullying. Some suggested she should have taught her daughter that she was ‘perfect’ as she was, rather than teaching her that ‘bullies win’ by changing her appearance to subside peer attack. Whilst I agree that it is important to teach children about their true beauty from an early age in order to try and combat the alarmingly high levels of poor self-image in our society, and also to learn the importance of deconstructing media advertising, I do not believe this woman should have been attacked for looking out for her daughter’s emotional health.
I really felt for this woman, a mother who clearly cared about her daughter being bullied, and who no doubt thought of her child as beautiful with or without an eyebrow wax. “We did talk about her self beauty and her inner beauty; it was a process of many discussions and after some time she still really wanted to have that done. How are you meant to ‘sort out the bullies’? Ask them to stop, they’re not about to do that. Tell the teachers at school, they’ve got bigger issues to deal with. Speak to the children, then I would open myself up to be accused of bullying a child…” she wrote.
Seeing this mother attacked by other women, for the simple decision to protect her child from one extra thing in life, made me really frustrated. My own mum did absolutely everything she could when I was growing up to instill in me attitudes of self-love and good self-esteem, but as a victim of bullying throughout my entire high school years, and several of my primary school years, nothing she said could stop me being bullied or help me feel normal when other kids were telling me I wasn’t.
I remember a girl at our school who didn’t wax until she was over 18, and although she had many friends and was relatively sheltered from bullying (thank God it was a christian school), the sad reality is that she was/will always be remembered as the ‘hairy’ girl at school. While I don’t believe that we women should have to feel a social pressure to wax/groom every inch of our bodies, neither should we be made to feel that we should have to go through the emotional torment of being harrassed, publicly shamed and bullied because body hair is ‘natural’.
I myself started waxing at the age of 14-15, and there was nothing sexual about getting hair ripped out of my legs – I can tell you that! I had my first eyebrow wax at 16 years of age, for my year 10 formal, and I can honestly say that it made me feel more comfortable about my body. More to the point, all my friends were shaving their legs from the time they were 13 or so, which begs me to ask, why is it so different to be waxing at the same age?
In saying that, I understand that many parents have been outraged by the message behind this ad (more-so than about the product being offered). The issue of sexualisation of children is very real and very worrying, and children’s concerns about their image should never be used as an advertising gimmick to profit a company.
The advertisement in question claims that girls under 15 can ‘enjoy their first waxing experience and find it safe, natural and pleasant’ – and I do believe that this last part is a bit of a lie. Waxing is certainly not a ‘pleasant’ experience, and by coupling this statement with the image of what appears to be a 10 year old girl showing off her ‘hair free’ body, it does give the impression that waxing is a normal and natural choice for a tween-age girl.
Further arguments suggested that such ad’s encourage young girls to see the natural changes in their body as just another ‘thing’ to change in order to improve themselves, and in doing so, encourages them to feel a need to live up to an impossible notion of beauty. As a young woman, I definitely can identify with the feeling of wanting to look like the women I see in magazines, especially around the age of 18 and 19. With the emergence of more and more beauty procedures, and images of ‘perfect’ women being thrust at me from every corner of the media, the idea of any hair on my body became repulsive, and the inability to look like the airbrushed, hairless women I saw in magazines and online (especially with the rise of exposure to pornography) left me, along with thousands of other women, feeling highly dissatisfied.
While there is no need for tweens and early teenagers to be getting their fake-on by getting spray tans, false eyelashes, hair extensions, brazillian waxing, eyebrow shaping, tinting or facials, I grossly disagree that maintaining your personal appearance in an age-appropriate manner (by having a mono-brow plucked/waxed) equates to sexualisation. While changing your image to stop being bullied isn’t something we should encourage, the sad truth is that it is a reality. As several women online said, “Growing up is hard enough without being teased over something that can be prevented”… “Children are so cruel to one another and kids will always find things to tease other kids about”.
Helping your child to avoid one extra thing they have to worry about by plucking or waxing their eyebrows is not the end of the earth (I remember my little brother getting his mono-brow plucked when he was 11 – until he got a little older and accepted the affectionate name ‘manchild’, which he is now proud of haha). At the end of the day, we need to remember who our fight is with. It is with companies who sexualise our youth and spread negative, self-hate attitudes about body image. It is with companies who use the sexualisation of women to profit themselves. It is important that we fight these battles together, and not turn on each other over smaller issues in the process.