Every summer, it's hard to miss the messages beamed from subway ads and sponsored Instagram posts suggesting we should each make like a car and magically swap in our body for something entirely different.
What does this so-called "beach body" entail, exactly? A new shape, for one. A smaller size, for another. Oh, and hair? Not unless it's growing out of your scalp — especially if you plan on wearing a bikini!
We call bullshit — and shaving brand Billie is the latest to join the fight in disrupting that narrative. Though it might seem counterintuitive for a razor brand to embrace all forms of pubic-hair grooming (even the nonexistent), Billie is choosing to show women of all body types proudly displaying their body hair in its new summer campaign, "Red, White, And You Do You."
"Every summer, the media pressures female-identifying individuals to achieve that 'beach body,'" Ashley Armitage, the director and photographer of this campaign, tells Refinery29. "Everywhere we look, we see ads telling us that the only way to look good in a swimsuit is to be thin, fit, and hairless. In this film, we wanted to normalize body hair and show that we have options."
The ad comes one year after the release of Billie's Project Body Hair, which was the first-ever women's razor campaign to show people actually shaving (as opposed to gliding a blade over already hairless skin). As obvious a choice as that sounds, it led to a real domino effect in the industry, with brands like Gillette Venus and the Walmart-exclusive Joy launching similar ads months later.
"I think when we brush topics to the side and don't address it, it’s a form of body shaming," Georgina Gooley, the co-founder of Billie, says. "You’re saying it’s so unacceptable that we’re not even going to talk about it, and that's how we treat pubic hair. That’s why it's important to have a strong message that says, 'No, no, we are talking about it and it is OK.'"
In the new ad and accompanying images, you'll see women laying out on the beach and taking a dip in the pool with tufts of their pubic hair visible in their high-cut swimsuits. To source the models for the shoot, Armitage and Gooley searched Instagram for women who were already open about their choice to grow out their pubic hair — including Lindsay Zae and Yaminah Mayo.
"They didn't expect a company that sells women's razors to approach them for content like this, but once we explained what we’re trying to do and the intent of it, we found that they were very excited," Gooley says. "With Ashley, we shot everything with a more female gaze, not in a way that made these women feel like it was strange to have their pubic hair visible in a setting like this, because it's not."
Visible body hair has been a hot topic as of late, largely in relation to non-male celebrities like Amandla Stenberg, Lourdes Leon, and Halsey, who each showed off theirs on social media, red carpets, and magazine covers, respectively. While some people reacted positively to the idea of these celebs making independent choices about their bodies, there were plenty of others who expressed shock and even anger at the sight of unshaved pits and legs on a person who isn't a man.
"Body hair on cisgender men is seen as attractive," Armitage says. "Body hair on cisgender women, transgender women, and non-binary individuals is seen as unattractive, unhygienic, and unacceptable. I want people to feel free to do what they want with their bodies this summer and every summer. Body hair is a personal choice. Shaving it, waxing it, or growing it are all valid, and all up to the individual."
With this campaign, Armitage and Gooley are aiming for a future in which seeing someone's pubic hair is no different than seeing someone's mustache. They're both personal grooming decisions, after all. "Women are just opting to keep their hair, similar to how a man might like to shave his beard or not" says Gooley. "As we see more of this imagery, and as society becomes more accepting that the choice shouldn't be imposed on women, hopefully we see all types of body hair and it’ll get to a point where, whether you see it or not, you won't be raising your eyebrows."