I’m going to use the word “armpit” here instead of the more delicate “underarm,” because it’s a fucking pit. As a matter of fact, I even think it should be “shoulder pit.” “Deltoid pit.” Something like that.
Anyway, I was around 10 or 11 years old when I realized that something was seriously wrong with my armpits. I had entered puberty at a fairly early age, so my mother introduced me to Nature’s Touch Tawas to help me curb my armpit sweating and stinking. And then I started seeing ads for Splash deodorants. Those ads made me question the wisdom of using Nature’s Touch Tawas: “Ugh, tawas, that’s so old-fashioned. These deodorants are the ones I should be using!” “Oh, that one comes in a pretty pink bottle, I should get that.”
Aside from that, the ads also made me doubt the quality of my armpits, given that armpits in commercials are often silky smooth and crease-free, plus their skin often looks like a mere extension of a fleshy upper arm. This caused me to cease wearing sleeveless tops so as to avoid subjecting the world to my imperfect, crease-filled armpits.
Those ads were brazen enough to tell women that their non-smooth, slightly-darker-than-their-skin-tone armpits were bad. Over the years, they’ve gotten a lot worse. One ad showed a girl going on dates with different guys, all of them telling her that they find dark underarms to be the biggest turn-off in a girl. One Rexona radio ad from 2003 or 2004, I think, ended with the speakers squealing about how one of them may get a boyfriend soon because she has achieved the Holy Grail of armpits. 1
The expectation for women to have smooth and white armpits is highly problematic in different ways. For one thing, it makes women feel bad about the natural state of our armpits, making us think that what we have must be horrible because they’re not as perfect as the ones in commercials. And so an insecurity is born, and it’s not just deodorants that promise to give us perfect armpits. We have creams for that as well as a whole bunch of costly treatments.
As a result, it has led to many other people expecting women to have TV commercial-perfect armpits. The moment they see a somewhat normal-looking armpit, people gasp in horror and comment, “Ay, ang itim naman ng kili-kili niya.” Like they already forgot what a regular armpit looks like.
Deodorant commercials are also problematic because they encourage women to change their looks and features to be more attractive to men. “Hey, your pits are ugly, and that’s why men don’t like you. Roll some of this on and you’ll be raking in all teh menz!” This feeds the common perception that women only like to dress up, wear makeup and nail polish, and be generally pretty just to attract men and to meet their approval. 2
The global quest to make women feel bad about themselves is legendary, spawning entire industries and publications. Deodorants shouldn’t have to be part of this quest because they’re supposed to be useful, not something to enhance beauty. Women already feel bad about having sweating, stinking armpits. 3 We don’t need to be told that our armpits are ugly and that making them smooth and pretty is our priority if we want to land a man. 4
- As we all know, like a dog show judge evaluating the conformation of a dog, prospective mates first ask you to raise your arms to verify if your armpits are indeed like finest porcelain. Are you intelligent, well traveled, accomplished, and are an overall nice person with less-than-satisfactory armpits? Good luck finding a boyfriend. Your life is over. ↩
- There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be “pretty,” of course, but just do it for yourself, not for an audience, and certainly not because men will like it. Do it because you want to and you like it. ↩
- Especially given the crazy misconception that women don’t sweat or excrete any bodily fluids. ↩
- As if landing a man is all that women want out of life. ↩