Although I did have a couple of great talks with Vanessa Willson, the founder of Julyna, earlier this month, I have to rant a little again today.
That’s because I just found this ‘Julyna’ PSA online:
I find it so dumb and so problematic, that I hardly know where to begin!
So presumably, a bunch of (young, fit, mostly white) men and women are playing Red Rover. The men, moustached (presumably in a tribute to ‘Movember’) are playing on one side, fully clothed. The women are, we eventually realize, naked from the waist down (Women naked? In our culture? say it ain’t so!). The two teams call out to one another using their ‘hair styles’ — (ie. “Red rover, red rover, we call handlebars over”. Guy with distinctive facial hair then triumphs across the space between the two lines). Things get gross and weird, however, when the men call out “Red rover, red rover, we call LANDING STRIP over” and a semi-naked woman (the details of their lower halves have been digitally obscured) runs across the field.
Seriously, people: I know you’re probably just trying to be funny with your little PSA, but a whole generation of young women have already internalized the cultural expectation that they sport little more than a landing strip in their day-to-day pubic hair practices. These young women already hate their bodies and already feel so pressured to look and act a certain way in the world.
(In fact, one very bright and beautiful 23-year-old woman recently tried to explain the weight of looking the way she does to me by calling it ‘the package’.. It is her way of describing the expectations people have of her because of her looks. “The Brazilian wax or bikini wax is part of the package,” she explained. When I asked her what else was in the package, she said “not being fat, being pretty… you know.. having the right attitude”.)
Is this little PSA really the most effective way to push your campaign? (and isn’t it weird to pit ‘Movember’ against ‘Julyna’, as if the two were in competition with one another?)
I recently spent some time rereading Naomi Wolf’s classic text, The Beauty Myth. Though it was first published in 1991, it still feels so relevant in so many ways. I can’t help but recall Wolf’s thoughts on what she calls the “officially endorsed double standard for men’s and women’s nakedness in mainstream culture,” which she says “bolsters power inequalities.”
A few thoughts (from Wolf) on the impact (for example) of normalizing naked breasts:
“The practice of displaying breasts, for example, in contexts in which the display of penises would be unthinkable, is portrayed as trivial because breasts are not “as naked” as penises or vaginas; and the idea of half exposing men in a similar way is moot because men don’t have body parts comparable to breasts. But if we think about how women’s genitals are physically concealed, unlike men’s, and how women’s breasts are physically exposed, unlike men’s, it can be seen differently: women’s breasts, then correspond to men’s penises as the vulnerable “sexual flower” on the body, so that to display the former and conceal the latter makes women’s bodies vulnerable while men’s are protected.”
Wolf later writes this (seems pretty apt right about now – hence the bold font):
“To live in a culture in which women are routinely naked where men aren’t is to learn inequality in little ways all day long.”
On that note, I recently spoke with a vivacious, pretty young woman (age 19) who broke my heart when she told me this:
“I hate my body. Every five seconds I’m thinking about how much I hate it. And when I eat something I’m like…Oh my gosh…What is this going to do? So I feel like when I get (Brazilian) waxed, I feel like it’s something I can control like, really easily. It’s an automatic response.”
I asked her if it was fair, then, to say that she was doing the Brazilian waxing for herself, rather than for the guys she has sex with.
“Yeah,” she answered, “but I think it’s both. It’s a little bit for the guys, because having them like it makes me feel good about myself. So…I guess it’s for me, too.”
Enough said, no?
‘Julyna’ is a silly campaign that has, rightfully, generated lots of criticism, even it’s founders were well intentioned and still say they just want to promote a good cause.
But making a video that not only plays on female nakedness and vulnerability, but actually has men calling out for the ‘Landing Strip’ (a woman reduced to her pubic hair style) in a world where many women already face so many inequalities (and spend so much time and energy on body control) is just plain problematic.