All of her points are great, and you should go over to Feministing and read them, and then follow the link from her fourth point to her essay on media depictions of trans women. Personally, I shave my legs about twice a year, and mostly so I don’t have to be aware of disgusted stares from random assholes. So I’m especially glad that Serano pointed out how myopic this portrayal of trans-feminine spectrum folks as hyper-feminine propagators of sexist stereotypes and beauty rituals is. (If you really want more examples of that, just click on the Youtube link and look at all the sex-objectastic “related videos.”)
I want to add one meta-point of my own. Serano says:
Memo to Phillips: The “Like all men he’s not great with pain” line isn’t funny. Making fun of men is just as sexist as making fun of women.
Besides the question of whether “sexism” is only misogynist by definition, I also don’t think that’s all of what’s going on here. It’s not just a joke at men’s expense… or rather, there’s a lot more to the myth that women can inherently handle more pain than men. If you turn this idea over a few times, it’s not that much different than saying “pain is a woman’s lot in life.” Of course, that has a lot to do with childbirth as well as other kinds of less biologically rooted, more socially inscribed “women’s pain.” But when you invoke that idea inside an advertisement for a device that rips your hairs out of their roots, it also adds up to “you must suffer for beauty.”
My first thoughts when I got to the end of the commercial was that Philips is trying to hawk a combination of beauty and painlessness to their customers: the beauty of this drag performer, along with the lack of pain that is the prerogative of men — a prerogative that’s been transformed into gentle “you can’t handle real pain” mockery. I mean, when was the last time you heard of a guy (other than an easily goaded men’s rights wingnut) actually getting bothered by this joke? Anyway, that’s why it’s so important that the subject of this ad be a man — and fair enough, he does identify himself that way. He has several things that Philips thinks their customers desire: glamour, beauty, rail-thinness, attention, smooth legs, and no obligation to pain.
Also… the hardest part of looking like a woman is hair removal!? I think he must have meant “the hardest part of trying to conform to standards of femininity.” Paired with footage of him strolling down the street, I initially assumed he must mean “the hardest part of being seen as a woman in public,” so my jaw dropped. Not the sexual harassment? The creepy stalker guys who won’t leave you alone or try to touch you on the subway? The patronizing comments from guys who think they can talk down to you? Well, I guess none of that sells epilators, huh. Neither does the fact that I’d guess any facial hair he deals with is probably ten times more difficult to deal with than body hair.
- Lady Looks Like a Dude by Holly May 22, 2009
- “Women and Trans” Health Care Really Ought to Mean It by Holly June 27, 2009
- Update on the New Orleans Women’s Health Clinic: It’s Down by Holly July 1, 2009
- It’s ain’t easy being television’s most eligible transsexual bachelorette… by Holly March 1, 2008
- Siriano, your license to fierce is hereby revoked by Holly May 28, 2008