A wise fiddler once said, “it’s no crime to be poor, but it’s no great honor either.” This came to mind when an advertisement appeared on the subway for Dove’s #FreeThePits promotion. We all have armpits, but why would anyone want to make them the focus? No one (at least to my knowledge) ever walked around admiring women’s svelte hairless pits, although some judged the more natural pits harshly. Not the braided ones, but the hairy ones.
Frankly, I never understood why, and suspected it was mostly women judging other women, as few men I knew spent much time thinking about women’s armpits. Apparently, the folks at Dove picked up on this and thought they could buy themselves some good will with a subway ad that pushed the issue to the forefront.
In passing, I note that the image is not merely one of a hairy armpit, and even hairless might loom too large for its own good. I get that Dove has been into Ordinary Women for quite a while now. Different shapes, sizes and colors appear in their ads in various stages of undress, which I suppose is worthwhile to that cohort that feels the desire to see someone who looks like them.
Going from ordinary women to pits is one thing. But that’s not where it stopped.
Putting aside other issues about harm done by this new Dove spokesperson for its Campaign For Size Freedom, Fat liberation? It’s no crime to be fat, but is it a great honor? Has this gone the way of so many other things that were once considered unnecessary to put on display, like armpits? We all go to the bathroom, but does anybody (fetishists notwithstanding) want to see anyone do it? There is a TV commercial that involves pooping, putatively for women although why they tell women that they poop is incomprehensible since they already know it, and the real purpose is to tell women they’re the poop-edgiest business ever.
I assume Dove believes this is good for its brand, that it wants to be the Soap of Fat Women, or perhaps more to the point, the Soap of Women Who Support Marginalized Fat Women, there being a niche they hope to fill. They may be right, and it’s assumed they did their market research before launching into Fat Liberation and Hairy Armpits.
All of this is really about breaking taboos, challenging norms, going ever more extreme to show capture the hearts and minds of those for whom challenging norms is a good in itself, regardless of whether the norm is there for a reason and whether anybody really wants to see hairy armpits while trapped in a subway train or morbidly obese people who think the world should reinvent itself to accommodate their ample girth.
Some will reward these radical shifts by either buying their products or gushing about their wokiosity. Some will shun them, as they did because a popular light beer sent a can to a transgender person as if transgender people don’t buy beer too. But this trend toward pushing hairy armpits and marginalized fat women, not to mention pooping women, in our faces raises the question of what part of our human existence is too icky to put on a subway sign or TV commercial?
Of course people have armpits, whether clean shaven or not. Of course people poop, even of the male assignment. And of course fat people should be treated with the same courtesy as anyone else. But commercializing them, or as the fiddler might say, turning them from something that’s not a crime into a great honor, takes things too far. Or maybe you find these things compelling because you feel better knowing other people have to see hairy armpits? I know they exist and that’s fine, but they really do nothing to enhance my subway ride.