Sunday 8 March 2015

Dark armpits, average penis size and equal-opportunity body-shaming

I have a quick movie trivia quiz for you.

If you know the answer, raise your hand (and show your armpit).

What recent Oscar-nominated movie about Nivea deodorant did Bradley Cooper star in?

Answer: American Sniffer.

What 1992 movie did Sam Raimi direct for Nivea Extra White & Firm Q10 deodorant?

Answer: Armpit Of Darkness.

In the hilarious Facebook video released last week to promote the deodorant starring YouTube personality Maimunah Bagharib, why are people so turned off by her armpits?

Answer: Because of the 50 shades of grey.

Unfortunately, you can't view the video any more to count exactly how many shades there are in Maimunah’s armpits because the video has since been removed after it was criticised for highlighting another body part for women to feel self-conscious about.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) naturally raised a stink, saying:
“Apparently, having the ‘wrong’ colour of armpit makes you unfit to interact with other human beings. This is supposedly humour — but is promoting shame and insecurity about our bodies a laughing matter?”

I guess it’s safe to assume Nivea isn’t sponsoring the carnival at Hong Lim Park from 4pm to 9pm today organised by Aware to celebrate International Women's Day.

When I first saw the video, I thought it was a spoof of deodorant commercials from The Noose or something.

It just seemed so intentionally ridiculous, like the Indonesian vice-president complaining that no one thanked Indonesia for letting us enjoy 11 months out of the year without the haze.

I mean, dark armpits? Really? That’s a thing people worry about? Talk about First World problems. There are kids starving in Africa with dark underarms.

I couldn't believe someone actually came up with a product to help “whiten” your underarm.

That sounds vaguely racist, Nazi-ish, white supremacist to me. It actually says “extra white” in large letters on the product. Heil, Aryan armpits!

Also, are your armpits so frequently exposed that you care what colour they are?

Blue and black! No, white and gold!

But then I'm not a woman — at least according to my IC — so what do I know?

After all, the Nivea Extra White & Firm Q10 deodorant is targeted at the “fairer sex” presumably to help them stay “fairer”.

I couldn’t possibly understand the pressures that women face to conform to the beauty standards set by society.

Or could I?

Have you heard of Nivea Men?

Yes, men get it too.

After the Nivea armpit video was deleted from Facebook, I tried looking for it on YouTube and instead found another Nivea video about armpits, but this one is a six-year-old instructional video on how to shave your armpits — for men.

“Start with short downward strokes from the top of your armpit,” says a soothing male voice over a hunky guy shaving his armpit in the shower with Nivea For Men Active3, “and then work upwards.”

No, I will not.

Wait, are men supposed to shave our armpits?

Have I been obliviously neglecting this vital aspect of male grooming all my life?

No wonder my wife complains that my armpits smell even after I shower.

But the pressure to match up to the male standard doesn’t end there.

Last week, the results of a scientific UK study to determine the average size of the adult penis were widely reported.

After reading the report in The Straits Times, my wife immediately made me pull down my pants and used a measuring tape to determine the length and circumference of my penis to see how I compare.

To my relief, I wasn’t below average.

Hey, I need something to make up for my unshaved armpits somehow.

On the other hand, a Nigerian woman reportedly divorced her husband because his penis is too big. So I could lose either way.

So women weren’t the only ones made to feel insecure about their bodies last week.

I asked my wife if she ever worried about the hairiness or darkness of her underarm.

She said no. She doesn’t wear sleeveless tops.

Oh. No need for the Nazi-ish deodorant then.

Nivea has since apologised for the deodorant video, saying its intention was “never to demean or hold women to certain standards of beauty”.

But so far, no one has apologised for the average penis size study yet.

By the way, how come we didn’t get a carnival at Hong Lim Park for International Men’s Day last November?

- Published in The New Paper, 8 March 2015