Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Head & Shoulders: For Hair That's Sexually Assault-able!

There is an ad for Head & Shoulders shampoo and conditioner that's about a year old. I have seen it many, many times, and it is still pissing me off. So now I'm writing about it.

Why does it bother me? Because the ad basically depicts sexual assault.

For those of you who may be unable to watch the video for whatever reason:
A romantic French song is playing throughout the scene. A woman sits in a salon, reading a magazine, waiting to have her hair done. A conventionally attractive man - one would assume, the hair stylist - comes up behind her, and takes her hair in his hands. In the mirror, they smile at each other. The man pulls his fingers through her hair, seemingly fascinated by how "smooth and silky" it is. He lifts her hair and lets it fall. He runs his fingers down a lock of her hair, and rakes across her scalp.
A small, bespectacled, balding man clears his voice. The woman brushes her hair out of her eyes to see that the real hairdresser has arrived. The attractive man looks sheepish and scampers off. He passes by again, pushing a dolly of water cooler jugs, and hands the hairdresser the tab. He smiles at the woman over his shoulder as he leaves, and she shyly smiles back, charmed.
The voice-over says: "When your hair is amazingly soft, and up to 100 percent flake-free, people will find it irresistible. New formula Head & Shoulders smooth and silky shampoo: Eight out of ten hairdressers agree it leaves hair touchably soft. Head & Shoulders: making heads happier."

Personally, I would not be charmed by someone who pretends to be a hairdresser so that he can get off on feeling women's hair. I doubt that many women would be. Because it's not charming. It's creepy and intrusive, and who the fuck do you think you are, touching my hair?!

The ad seems to be based on the idea that if a woman puts herself in a situation where she lets one guy touch her hair, then she's okay with other guys coming along and touching her hair too. Kinda like how if a woman goes out looking sexy, and maybe intending to have sex with someone, then she must be willing to entertain any guy who comes along and tries to impose his company on her. Except, no. It doesn't work that way. One cannot irrevocably cede one's bodily autonomy.

The ad also perpetuates the notion that men are not responsible for their actions, but women are responsible for tempting them. The delivery man couldn't help but feel up the woman's hair! It was just so "irresistible," and "touchable."

Worse, Head & Shoulders is telling women that being sexually assaulted is something that they should aspire to. Don't get upset when complete strangers fondle you - take it as a compliment!

And, the ad contributes to the myth that women don't mind being assaulted by attractive guys, and women are at fault for being so darned shallow and not reacting the same way to the attentions of all men. A myth charmingly captured by YouTube commenter carnifex2005, who wrote, "Of course, if this guy was fat and/or ugly, she would have cried rape." His comment had three thumbs up. No, sexual assault is sexual assault, no matter how much you assume the woman "wants" a guy's attention. What matters is whether the woman was actually consenting, which is a matter of fact, not opinion.

To summarize: This Head & Shoulders ad is horrible in every way. It is basically the embodiment of rape culture. I'm really sick of seeing it on TV.


  1. Thank you! This commercial has been pissing me off since I first saw it months ago. My husband even commented on how horrifying it was. There is no way I will ever use their product ever again.

  2. Thanks! I agree with you on how terrible the ad is but based on my experience I would say that unfortunately lots of women would be charmed by such foolish behaviour. I have seen many girls who actually like a rude boy like that much more than a polite and respectable one. I don't understand why but I think it should be because of being under the influence of sexist ads of this kind.

  3. @Moji

    The delivery man in this ad is not rude and impolite so much as really creepy and invasive. I would avoid making assumptions about how women react to situations like that.

  4. It is not an assumption, it is based on studies. Interesting that Kimmel argues in his book "Guyland" that how girls contribute to the guyland by following guys' rules and adapting themselves to it...

  5. Okay, I don't have any argument with that. But I would rather focus on what's wrong with the ad itself, than slide into an evaluation of women's behaviour.


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