On Queen Bees and Featherless Chickens

January 7th, 2010 12:40 pm by Kelly Garbato

Update, 1/14/10:

In the comments, Helen points out that all three animals – (pussy)cat, beaver and chicken (errr, rooster; read: cock) are euphemisms for female and male genitalia. I know, so obvious! How on earth did I miss it!? Especially when I caught the significance of the beaver! Clearly, I’ve been off my game lately.

Anyhow, it’s my feeling that these gendered/speciesist slurs actually make the whole ad campaign that much more distasteful. While the targeting of men in addition to women might help to level the playing field, gender-wise (well, as much as it can be in a culture that disproportionately values women’s physical appearance and beauty – however it is defined – as opposed to men), we’re still faced with the exploitation and mockery of three nonhuman animals in order to sell…waxing products. Add to this the fact that the animals were specifically chosen for their correspondence to sexual slang, and…yeah. Ick, all around.

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One part “sexy meat,” one part zoo porn, with a little child sexploitation thrown in for good measure, these ads for Queen Bee Waxing are all kinds of creepy, no matter which way you slice ’em. (Not that I’m suggesting that you should slice them! They’re animals, not deli “meat”!)

Queen Bee Waxing operates a Salon & Spa in Culver City, California. Its services include tanning, mani/pedis, facials, eyelash extensions (!), and all manner of body waxing: full leg, half leg, eyebrows, full arm, half arm, back, chest, underarms, lip, genitals, anus – wherever your body generates unsightly hair, the friendly “waxologists” of QB will be there, ripping it violently from its roots.

One caveat: some forms of waxing will cost you extra if you’re a gross, hairy cave-dude. For reals! (Don’t you just love how they assume that all men are hairier than all women? In point o’ facts, my Italian ass just so happens to grow lusher body hair than my husband’s Irish one.)

To illustrate just how childishly smooth QB can strip your bits, they’ve demonstrated their mad skills on unsuspecting animals! (Not for reals – I’m guessing/hoping that the animals below have suffered these indignities in a digital sense only.)

From top to bottom, we have a cat, a beaver [insert obligatory joke re: women’s genitals here] and a chicken. Each of them stand stark naked, seemingly bewildered by their own baldness.

Queen Bee Waxing - Cat

Queen Bee Waxing - Beaver

Queen Bee Waxing - Rooster

Actually, scratch that; the chicken looks fucking insane with rage. Can you really blame her?

So here we have three nonhuman animals, mocked, objectified and exploited, in order to sell men and women – mainly women – an extravagantly overpriced product that 1) they don’t need and 2) may be harmful to their health.

On point #1: Body hair is natural. We all have it. As babies, we are born with a soft, dewy coat, and as we age, our body hair thickens and darkens. By removing this hair – and in such large quantities – men and women are reverting to a childlike appearance. In particular, adult women are taught that to be bald and hairless is sexy and attractive. (Hello, pornification of children and childhood! Infantalization of grown women, how nice to see you again!)

On men, body hair is mostly regarded as “manly” – unless, of course, one man is “wearing” too much of it (as if it’s an accessory!), in which case it’s “gross,” “primitive,” “Neanderthal.”* In contrast, men with little or no body hair are seen as less masculine; feminized; womanly. And what’s worse than being a woman, hmmm?

Women are allowed less wiggle room in terms of “acceptable” body hair. Women are taught to pluck – nay, shape! – their brows, shave their legs and armpits (and perhaps their arms, too), and “tame” their “bikini lines” – all at an early age. Women with “too much” body hair are mocked; they are “ugly,” “manly,” “unfuckable,” “bestial.” Women with too little body hair – well, a woman can never have “too little” body hair, silly! The more a lady resembles a pre-teen girl, the better!

Speaking of pre-teen girls, while researching this piece, I unintentionally stumbled upon a morsel of information that I wish to Cheesus I could purge from my brain. To wit (and don’t say I didn’t warn you!):

Young children also get waxing treatment with children as young as eight receiving wax treatments such as eyebrows, legs and genital waxing. Such genital waxing on young girls has been called “virgin bikini” waxes, and is aimed at either reducing the girl’s need for pubic hair removal in the future or stopping hair growth permanently with as few as five or six treatments as long as the child has never shaved before. The increase demand for preteen waxing is being met by spas, with some 10,000 spas in offering services only for young girls and early teenagers in the United States of America alone. The International Spa Association has reported that 16% of teens who have had spa treatments have had waxing done. The association has not been able to give figures for younger children because it is illegal to survey them.

While the 10,000 figure seems a bit dubious, the cited resources do check out – see, for example Too young? Preteen girls get leg, bikini waxes at MSNBC and Trend: Pretty babies at Philadelphia Magazine.

I don’t think I need to parse out the high hilarity of the Wiki author’s reasoning,** but I will say that subjecting your minor child – girl or boy – to completely unnecessary and potentially harmful cosmetic procedures is child abuse, full stop. Especially when performed on the genitals! (And yes, I do think male circumcision ought to be outlawed – though I don’t consider it as grave an injustice as female genital mutilation. It’s like comparing apples to pigs, people!)

On point #2: Waxing is potentially dangerous; the more sensitive the area, the greater the danger. I think you know where I’m going with this, yeah?

All Jennifer (not her real name) wanted was a smooth bikini line. But within 24 hours of getting a bikini wax at a reputable New York City salon, an infection crept in. She developed a fever of 102, chills, and pain in her left thigh. “I thought I’d caught a cold,” she says, “but after five days, the pain was worse.”

Her doctor diagnosed her with cellulitis, a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection of the skin and the underlying tissue. Jennifer spent the next 15 days in the hospital hooked up to an IV that pumped her full of antibiotics and heavy-duty painkillers. She also had surgery to drain the infection. “One doctor said I could have lost my leg!” she recalls. “It took me months to recover physically and emotionally from the whole ordeal—a steep price to pay for a little vanity.”

While there are no reliable stats on body wax related complications, Jennifer’s experience wasn’t unique. This past March, the state of New Jersey nearly banned Brazilian bikini waxes after two women landed in the hospital as a result of them (one of the women filed a lawsuit against the state cosmetology board). And in 2007, an Australian woman with type 1 diabetes almost died of a bacterial infection she got after a bare-it-all wax.

What makes them risky? “Pubic hair is there for a reason—to protect the sensitive skin and mucous membranes in the genital region,” explains Linda K. Franks, M. D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine. “Getting a wax literally strips away that layer of protection.”

Waxing can also pull off tiny pieces of the skin’s outermost layer, creating a portal through which bacteria can enter the body. What’s more, the process creates inflammation, which can trap bacteria beneath the skin. All of this sets the stage for skin infections (including staph), folliculitis (infection of the hair follicles), and ingrown hairs.

“Anytime you compromise the integrity of the skin, you’re going to increase your risk of infection,” Franks says. She advises people who have diabetes, chronic kidney or liver disease, skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, or weakened immune systems to avoid waxing altogether.

(By the way, I have had folliculitis – not related to waxing – and it is brutal.)

Radical suggestion: Since waxing body hair (pubic hair in particular) is an unnecessary and risky procedure that primarily serves to conform to and reinforce sexist beauty standards*** – and also perpetuates rampant consumerism – why not forgo it altogether? Just sayin’.

And then there was the chicken. As disturbing as I find the first two images, it’s not often one sees a cleanly plucked cat or beaver. These ads are creepy, yes, but almost cartoonishly so. Chickens, on the other hand, are routinely “plucked” clean (read: defeathered) as part of the slaughtering process.

Once inside the slaughterhouse, fully conscious birds are hung by their feet from metal shackles on a moving rail. The first station on most poultry slaughterhouse assembly lines is the stunning tank, where the birds’ heads are submerged in an electrified bath of water. Although poultry is specifically excluded from the Humane Slaughter Act which requires stunning, the practice is common because it immobilizes the birds and expedites assembly line killing. […]

After passing through the stunning tank, the birds’ throats are slashed, usually by a mechanical blade, and blood begins rushing out of their bodies. Inevitably, the blade misses some birds who then proceed to the next station on the assembly line, the scalding tank. Here they are submerged in boiling hot water. Birds missed by the killing blade are boiled alive. This occurs so commonly, affecting millions of birds every year, that the industry has a term for these birds. They are called “redskins”.

And, from the Vegetarian Society,

Broiler chickens are slaughtered at just 6-7 weeks of age (a chicken’s natural lifespan is around 7 years). Almost 800 million broiler chickens (784.39 million) were slaughtered in the UK in 2008 (798.52 million in 2007). On reaching the slaughterhouse, broiler chickens are removed from their crates and hung upside down shackled by their feet to a moving line whilst still fully conscious. Their heads and neck are dragged through an electrically charged water bath designed to stun the birds, rendering them unconscious. The moving line then takes the birds to an automatic neck cutter. Birds are then bled before entering a scalding tank to make the plucking easier. Broilers often experience pain and struggle while hung in shackles, and they may suffer during the slaughter process. It is estimated that over 50 million broilers across the European Union may be slaughtered while fully conscious.

Or perhaps our dear QB mascot is a genetically engineered “featherless” chicken, so “designed” to “grow” in hot climates? (By the way, this article? Totally makes me reconsider my earlier – albeit ancillary – praise of Dr. Tatiana.)

In this context the waxed chicken ad is even more tasteless than are the others. “Ick” all around.

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* Interestingly, body removal methods are also marketed to both men and women as a means to look less “animal” or “ape” like – as though we aren’t indeed both animals and apes! See, for example, Body Hair Makes You An Ape at Sociological Images.

** The choice is either wax the genitals of a 9-year-old girl between two and six times, or condemn your daughter to a lifetime spent torturing her junk? Talk about a false dilemma! How about not waxing one’s lady bits at all!?

*** Sexist in that they do not apply equally to women and men. Seriously; how many men do you know who are completely hairless? ****

**** Similarly, PETA has employed these stereotypes and differing standards of beauty in its anti-fur campaigns.

On one end of the spectrum, PETA shames women who don’t sufficiently conform to modern norms regarding the grooming of pubic hair. Women with “fur trim” – i.e., unkempt bikini lines – are mocked as “fashion victims,” akin to nonhuman animals who are enslaved, tortured and murdered for their (attractively hairy) skin (!):

PETA (Fur Trim)

The take-home message? Women who don’t look like modern-day porn stars are “a turnoff.” Nice!

In contrast, men are more likely to see their body hair – their natural “fur” – being celebrated (if humorously so):

PETA (David Cross)

That said, most of PETA’s models and spokescelebs are either waxed or airbrushed back to infancy – a practice in accordance with modern trends.

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4 Responses to “On Queen Bees and Featherless Chickens”

  1. gill gillono Says:

    Meet Mark the one with little or NO hair anywhere, tmi??

  2. Helen Says:

    These are all euphemisms for genitals, aren’t they? (pussy, beaver, cock) And the third is, at least, aimed at men. Not that that makes it really any less gross. But I do think maybe there is less of a gendered element here than you thought, even if, clearly, hair removal as a whole is very gendered, and of course the images are still horrible.

  3. Shannon Says:

    Ugh. Those ads are so not sexy. I tried waxing at home once, and not only did it suck, it was messy and didn’t even work. Screw that. I can barely remember to shave my legs twice a month, and my husband can’t even tell the difference. Where is the love for the natural body?! My hotness knows no boundaries!

    Also, I am oddly fascinated by the poor naked beaver’s webbed feet. I don’t know if I ever noticed that before.

    All that said, thank you for another insightful piece. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pass another waxing salon without grumbling. :)

  4. Kelly G. Says:

    @ Helen – Oh, duh, I don’t know how I missed that! Good points.

    @ Shannon – That Red sounds like a keeper! ;)

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