Aside

Why Is There A Naked Woman On My Son’s Shampoo Bottle?

photo-2The other day, through circumstances out of my control, I was forced to shower in the “boys’ bathroom.”

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While I was in there, I noticed that there was a picture of a naked woman on my teenage son’s body wash. See her? Right next to the 33%?

I mean, she might not be naked. She might be a member of the crew of the Starship Enterprise, in which case she’d have a better chance for a long-term relationship with my eldest. But I’m pretty sure that hair hasn’t met regulation since Deanna Troy.

In fairness, though my son chose the body wash, I purchased it myself in an effort to Promote Diligent Personal Hygene. I didn’t notice the naked woman when I bought it, and I doubt (hope) that he did either.

But I’ve noticed her now, and now I have a conundrum. Do I ban Axe from my shower stalls for it’s ridiculous objectification of women, and make my son use Suave (so he smells like a cheap mom), Irish Spring (so he smells like a middle-aged man), or Scooby-Doo (so he smells like mystery berry bubble gum)? Do I concede to having the silhouette of a naked woman in my sons’ shower stall? If I use it as a talking point with him about the sexualization and objectification of women, as I would do if I found other things related to naked women among his belongings, will he ever not notice the naked woman again?

*sigh*

48 Responses to Why Is There A Naked Woman On My Son’s Shampoo Bottle?

  1. Samuel Miller March 30, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Jenny,
    If I was thinking Biblical. I would tell you that there is no place for that in the home. Especially around your son. Though it was an accident…. it promotes sex and the lust of women. If I remember correctly.. it also talks about the smell it gives off to attract women. I would throw it out. There are other alternatives to Axe body wash. Like.. Dove for men? I use Dove for Men and it smells just as good. There’s 4 different scents. I would definitely get rid of the Axe so your son understands that there is no room in the house for such things that go against the Lord. That’s just my advice. Not that my advice means anything. lol

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 30, 2013 at 10:34 am #

      I remember those ads about pheromones! It’s true, Axe has based all its marketing around being sexually attractive to women. Hmm.

    • john April 13, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

      You are crazy! Where do you see a naked woman?

  2. Noel March 30, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    For what its worth, as a Dad, I would use it as a touchstone for conversation, much as you had suggested. And I would ban it, just to make the point. Apart from being in bad taste, I would tell him that trying to be pure in heart is struggle, because our culture is bent on sexualizing just about everything. Thanks for the heads up (I’m not sure if Flex) has made it into our home yet, but I’ll keep my eye peeled.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 30, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      I think I’ll definitely use it as a conversation starter, and then see what he wants to do about it. I’m thinking we’ll peel the label off, but I’m interested to see what he thinks an appropriate response would be.

  3. Aubrey Sampson March 30, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Ahh!!! I have three sons and this terrifies me. One day my TWO-YEAR-OLD was looking at laughing babies on youtube…babies must have led to nursing which lead to BOOBS. AHH!! I say, take it out…but talk to him about why you’re taking it out, get him thinking about women being objectified and why this matters. And yes, buy Scooby Doo, definitely Scooby Doo…or Ninjago. We love ninjago (the only girls are made of lego parts–all squares, no curves.)

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 30, 2013 at 10:30 am #

      I love Ninjago! But, well, my fifteen-year-old isn’t incredibly enthusiastic about using his brothers’ character shampoos. 😀 And oh, I hear you about the YouTube thing–it’s EVERYWHERE!

  4. Steve D March 30, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    I just went and checked my Axe body wash. I was devastated!!! No naked woman on MY bottle :( . Seriously, I have bought Axe products for a number of years and never noticed if there were naked women on the bottle. Chances are, your son didn’t either.

    I know that there are some people who will argue that it’s subliminal sex. I went back to Axe after using Dove simply because the Dove men’s soap kept clogging the nozzle making it difficult to get it out and me washed at 6am. Naked women had nothing to do with it…

  5. Jessi March 30, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    I wrestle too with wondering what is overreacting and what is just ‘life’ (and not making things a bigger deal than they need to be). The same struggle can be related to Sports Illustrated. Do we refuse a subscription (in reality, they were being given to us for free, passed on from a friend) in principle b/c of the ads and swimsuit edition? I opted for allowing the magazine, but it came to me first, I previewed and removed all inappropriate ads (sorry if half a story went missing) and still allowed them to read the actual sports articles. But I suppose the same principle could be applied that we shouldn’t support them at all…

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 30, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Yeah, there is the question of how buying something supports questionable marketing tactics. And then weighing that out against the benefits of the product…hmm…

  6. Tim March 30, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    I’d take an exacto knife or box cutters and slice that corner off. If he notices, then you can talk to him about honoring women. If he doesn’t, then there was probably no problem in the first place. If he notices and he’s too embarrassed to say anything to you, then he’s just a typical teenager.

    Exacto knives and box cutters, cousins in the fight against oppression.

    • Steve D March 30, 2013 at 10:05 am #

      Also, a good ole Magic Marker could work as well. Less noticeable.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 30, 2013 at 10:24 am #

      I think I’m going to talk to him and peel the label off. He’s used to me embarrassing him on topics like that. 😀 He handles it well.

  7. Steve D March 30, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    I wouldn’t ban it. At least until I had a conversation about why he chose Axe. The root issue isn’t that there is a silhouette of a nude woman on the label. That, in my opinion is not the primary discussion. My question would be why he chose Axe over other products. Does he like the scent? Does he think that Axe will make him more attractive to girls? How much of the advertising has he bought into? The reason he’s chooses will determine the fate of the product. If he likes the scent, I might remove THAT bottle. However, I would just have him be more careful in making choices in the future.

    If, however, he believes that Axe makes him more attractive, that is a whole different conversation.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 30, 2013 at 10:18 am #

      I think I’m going to go with Tim’s and your advice–have a conversation with him about it, and peel the label off. I am quite sure he chose Axe because his friends use Axe–all the TV we do watch is online, so I don’t think he’s seen those weird commercials. If Axe makes him feel a little more confident socially, excellent–I just want him to be aware of the ways marketers use the female body to sell products, and be able to think critically about the implications of that.

  8. Beth Lattery March 30, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    I had never noticed naked women on the Axe bottles but if I remember correctly they had some advertising that was along the same lines so when my son asked me to buy him some body wash I switched brands. I wish now I would have used it as a conversation starter but I do get tired of “oh mom it’s only a bottle, advertising, tv show, magazine, song,” etc. every time I object to some image or message or product. I guess I have made my kids more aware of all this but it is a huge battle to be in the world and not of the world. Sometimes I want to gather my family in the house and shut off the outside world, but as someone from MCC reminded me “you can’t you are called to be salt and light to the world” (sigh) so we just keep on fighting….

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 30, 2013 at 10:23 am #

      I get the “oh Mom, it’s only a bottle” thing. (Actually, my kids have never said that, but I’ve said it to myself!) Oh well. Like you said, I think just making them AWARE of the issues is huge. I’d rather have my kids make a conscious choice about things like that than just float along wherever society is drifting, even if allowing the drift would let them stay ignorant and innocent a little bit longer.

  9. Jenn March 30, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    Just wanted to note that Dove and Axe both owned by the same parent company Unilever, so you’re not actually costing Axe any money when you switch to dove. http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/the_axe_and_the_dove_managing_across_brands_at_unilever

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 30, 2013 at 10:27 am #

      Well, rats!

      There’s no sanctified, Christian body wash out there? ;-D

      • Steve D March 30, 2013 at 10:59 am #

        There’s a niche market that hasn’t been covered yet…

        Possible fragrance names…

        Roman Centurion

        Galilee Fishermen

        Lazarus (smell like you’ve just been risen from the dead)

  10. Jenn March 30, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    My husband uses an Old Spice body wash. No naked women, and he doesn’t smell like an old man. They have a bunch of different fragrance choices.

  11. Valerie March 30, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    It’s not only the outline of the woman, but also the way the commercials are advertised, that I won’t support this company. Old Navy does not seem to do this as much, the commercials are aimed at being funny more than objectifying anything, in my opinion. My boys love it! =)

  12. Sarah March 30, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Even if it didn’t have the woman on the bottle and they didn’t objectify women in the rest of their marketing, Axe is overall a terrible company. All of their products smell horrible! No female I’ve ever met likes it when their friend, boyfriend, relative, whoever puts it on! I can clearly remember all of the murmured complaints in high school whenever someone with Axe-anything on walked into the classroom. “Uck, he smells terrible! I hate Axe!” “Me too!”

  13. Patty March 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    The best words of parenting “pick your battles”. I am 56 and the talk around our mom’s coffee group is that we over-reacted way too many times and it took the focus off the really important. Teens started hiding in order to prevent the over-reaction.
    This is a road every man in our time will have to deal with-on a soap bottle, the side of a bus, television, Internet, magazines, etc etc. I would actually take some time to evaluate his behaviour-how does he treat you, how does he treat other girls his age, is he respectful and honoring to your women friends. You can marker out the naked girl but I guarantee tomorrow he will see 10 more unless you put him a bubble. The real issue is what kind of man is he becoming. I once knew someone who cut all the sexy ads out of the newspaper so her husband wouldn’t be tempted-20 years later he is still dealing with a porn addiction. Is he a youth group where their real issues are talked about-temptations put out on the table and prayed over, is your husband involved, etc. All things to consider.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 30, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      Good advice! Thankfully, he is a great kid who is very respectful of women. I just think it’s unfortunate that a product that is so popular among his young peer got that way, apparently, by objectifying women in their marketing.

  14. Carolyn Custis James March 30, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    I haven’t raised boys, although I did grow up with 3 of them. And count me in on standing up against the objectification and devaluing of women. I also know about overreacting, the removing labels and using black markers mentality and think that teaches a kid more about what mom will approve or disapprove than how to cultivate and live out their own values as they learn to walk with God. The simple fact is your kid will one day soon be heading out the door where he won’t have parents to inform his choices and supervise what he sees and what products he purchases. Better to guide him how to think than to think for him.

    I really liked the piece Ann Voskamp wrote to her son. In a way, those bigger kinds of conversations are better than aiming at a 1 inch image on a bath soap bottle. Looking back on things I’d do differently, if it were me, I’d leave the soap bottle alone and give him room to make his own decision. It’s one of many opportunities you’ll have to let him grow up.

    http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/03/after-steubenville-what-our-sons-needs-to-know-about-manhood/

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 30, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

      You’re absolutely right. My concern is not with the image on the bottle–it is that my son learns to think about these issues critically and carefully. I’m going to point it out to him, talk to him about it, and see what he thinks is the best way to respond. Now, if he were younger, I’d probably just buy him a different bottle. But at fifteen, this is a good conversation to have.

      I loved Ann Voskamp’s post as well! SUCH good stuff!

      • Carolyn Custis James March 30, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

        Well not objectifying women is a far cry from where we hope he’ll end up in his regard for women. He’s blessed to have a mom like you who raises the bar for him as a young man and a marriage like the two of you have for him to see how men and women value and bless each other.

  15. Mark March 31, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    First, Axe is a disgusting product (both as a brand and the actual physical stuff). I think a conversation with him around the exploitation of women’s bodies in advertising is a really appropriate step here. It’s a really important moment, as he’s transitioning into a culture where he’ll have to evaluate a lot of imagery critically, and on his own.

    The adult consensus around Axe is that it’s gross and juvenile. It’s sort of like having a poster for cheap beer featuring a bikini model. Participating in objectification isn’t good, but an equally immediate worry is that the owner is sending a message that they’re a real neanderthal. The message that a young man puts out about himself in these instances is not a positive one.

    It troubled me, however, to see the some of the comments here that focus on the problem with this body wash being non-Christian, or “against the Lord.” Troubling images of women are both perpetuated and opposed by members of all, or no, religions. I can assure you all that secular feminism has just as much of a problem with Axe.

    And Christians hardly have their own side of the street clean when it comes to problematic images of women. No less a man of faith than Jimmy Carter recently spoke out against his own (and other) religion’s troubling record regarding women. I hope everyone who’s participating in this conversation will read the below essay, because they are related.

    http://www.womenspress-slo.org/?p=11440

    I’m sure it’s tempting to associate the evils of Axe body wash (which are many) with non-Christians, but, as Carter’s piece shows, the subjugation of women can just as often be perpetuated BY Christians as anyone else.

    Finally, it will probably remain unknown whether he saw this image when picking out the product; however, it would be very unusual for a 15-year old boy to overlook a picture of a naked woman! I think it’s important that education about objectification of women, which is so important, not inadvertently send a message that emerging adolescent sexual feelings are something to be ashamed of.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong March 31, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      I love that essay by Jimmy Carter! He actually wrote it quite a while ago–I want to say 2009-ish?–but I’ve noticed it making the rounds again lately. I love that he connects the dots between oppressive interpretations of scripture and the persecution and abuse of women worldwide. Ideas have consequences. If I get five free minutes before the end of this semester, I’m going to put together a pitch for an article that talks about the correlation between religious belief and domestic violence–there are some fascinating and strange stats out there that could stand a lot more attention and research.

      Re. the “non-Christian body wash”–there are certainly some people who are used to thinking and speaking in those terms (Christian vs. “the world”), but I think the majority of people who have commented here and on Facebook would happily cede that this is not a “Christian” issue; it’s an issue for anyone concerned about the objectification of women. My guess is that lapses into “Christianese” are not meant to be exclusionary, but in any case, you’re right–perpetuating and opposing objectification happens in every subgroup, even if they all have their pet ways of going about it.

      On the upside, I think I may fund my retirement by stealing Steve D.’s idea about starting a sanctified soap company with scents like “Galilee Fisherman” and “Roman Centurion,” made with olive oil grown in the Holy Land and water from the Jordan River. ;-D Iy yi yi.

    • Sophie April 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

      Great comment.

  16. Sarah Tun April 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    First, as I scroll through, the number of comments is astounding (and I confess I stopped after about 15). Second and even more telling is the unanimity of reaction.
    Personally, I think a magic marker is a great idea … but I would discuss first and then ask him what to do about the bottle/product and give him the opportunity to make the call. He’s fifteen, old enough for conscience. Ask him if he’s at a loss of direction, ‘would he want his five year old sister to be on the bottle (if he had one) when she was old enough to look like that?
    Cheers and God bless.

  17. Matthew April 12, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Suave has a line of men’s products that compare quite favorably with American Crew and other middle market men’s toiletries. He won’t smell like cheap mom wearing those. Or Old Spice, which will have him smelling like a man, not a man-child, which is what Axe is will about.

    That said, I have always had issues with the ideas behind Axe. Using it won’t taint any eternal souls, but the hyper sexualization their advertisements have always embodied has bothered me. And really, there’s nothing special about the scents either.

    You could also use this opportunity to explore the realm of manly scents such as Bay Rum, or Tea Tree Oil. Trader Joes has some very good bar soaps that smell crisp and clean for a good price.

    • Don May 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      Try Every Man Jack products. Scents like cedar, mint tea tree, etc. Great smelling and better yet will set him apart from the herd of adolescent males who haven’t yet learned that “swag is for boys; class and style are for men.

  18. Renee April 29, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    I have to ask- what is the problem here?

    There’s a silhouette of a possibly naked female on a bottle of nasty-smelling soap. Is there a magic chant that turns her into a full-sized succubus that romps around in the shower with your son? If not, I sincerely doubt that he’s ever noticed. If so- well, talk to your doctor about the wonderful things lithium can do for you and your family.

    I’m the mother of four- count that, FOUR- boys. 13 years to 16 months. Do all of them notice attractive women? Yep. However, with the exception of the baby, who sees an attractive set of breasts as the Super Size version of his favorite meal, none of them turn into ravening, lunging lust-beasts. This might have something to do with the fact that rather than trying to sanitize the world in which they live, and freaking out over small stuff, we’ve taught our boys to be polite, respectful and decent human beings. Sure, my boys will tell a girl they find attractive “You’re really pretty/smart/nice/fun to hang out with. If my mom can drive us will you go to Friday Skate with me?” They SHOULD. They should be having normal, healthy interaction with the opposite sex. They should be learning to be kind and generous with their praise, and how to have conversations and deal with emotional reactions. And amazingly enough- despite the fact that Mom worked for AXE Promotions (and ended up with more of than awful-smelling stuff than I EVER wanted in my house), despite using the products and watching the commercials, my kids haven’t turned into sexist, pillaging pigs.

    Trust me- it doesn’t matter whether or not your teenage son has a naked woman or Mr. Clean on his shampoo bottle- he’s doing the same thing every teenage boy does in the shower- singing into an invisible microphone, making shampoo mohawks, and yes, masturbating (because that’s what teenage boys do, ask anyone who WAS a teenage boy). That’s what normal, healthy teenagers do. I would be much more concerned with the fact that YOU are having a crisis of conscience over a bottle of cleaning product, that you purchased, and just now noticed had a possibly naked woman on it.

    Advice from a rather experienced Momma- ignore it, and focus on the more important battles of the teenage years, like getting them up for school in the morning.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong April 29, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      I tend to agree with you, Renee, and props from a fellow four-boy mom! The picture on the bottle isn’t anything so horrible–I know this. And they are certainly going to see far more interesting things elsewhere. However, I want my sons to be conscious of the ways sex is used in marketing (which, as many commenters pointed out, Axe is infamous for), and I think it’s interesting that the whole thing just slipped past me. It’s NOT a big deal, but it is an interesting discussion, I think, for parents and teens to engage in.

  19. Stacia April 29, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    Your teenage son will not find some 1 inch piece of vector art on his cheap body wash sexually arousing or as objectifying women. That’s what free online porn is for.

    • Tim April 30, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      Actually, and take it from one who lived through those years, he may.

  20. Commentor April 29, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    Why not switch him from Axe to its non-objectifying sister product, Dove? Same manufacturer.

  21. Bill April 29, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    From the picture it appears that the bottle is slightly curved inward in the center. This is gives the entire bottle a female form, with a waist and hips. The logo at the top suggests a bikini top or perhaps a low cut shirt. Such subtle bottle shapes are very typical marketing ploys. It’s why cleaning products are larger at the top, to suggest broad shoulders and manly strength.

    Making sure your son respects women and does not objectify them is a wonderful thing. However, I’m not sure that a small piece of art work in a package is a good starting point. Discovering why he chose Axe to begin with would be a good place to start, as has already been pointed out. Who knows, maybe he thought getting 33% more was a good deal and was trying to save you a little money, thus being a respectful son. You won’t know until you ask.

  22. Bunny Rabbit April 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Naked women are everywhere, and to avoid seeing certain topics/themes in the media is impossible. Chances are that he’s already seen many things parents may find to be horrifying. I believe that such ‘racy’ marketing is birthed from old human culture and biological tendencies.
    :)

    That being said, Axe is a terrible brand because they are owned by Unilever who tests on animals. Animals are forced to consume toxic shampoos and other beauty products. They have the burning chemicals rubbed to their eyes and are left in cages with no hopes of ever being adoptable. They die and suffer in pain.

    In my opinion, personal hygiene is important, but the life of every living creature is important (actually, i’d venture to say more important), as well. You had many other cruelty-free options, but chose Axe. Axe.
    ='(

    Also, ironically, the same company that owns Axe (woman objectification) also owns Dove (woman-centric). Unilever is a very cruel and lying company.

    Bunny is ashamed in so many ways.
    Ashamed, I say!

    I thump my foot at this.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong April 29, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

      Ugh! Well, there’s one more reason not to buy Axe! Seriously, who does that anymore?! Haven’t we drummed animal testing out of business yet?

      Naked women are everywhere; I just don’t typically buy my sons products featuring them. AND, I think it’s important for them to be critically aware of how sex is used in marketing, because it IS so prevalent. I should mention, I noticed this bottle the day after I had just had a long talk with him about human trafficking; he had brought up something he had seen on TV about prostitution that freaked him out, which led to a more thoughtful conversation about viewing people in the sex trade as human people who God absolutely adores, not people to be scared of or freaked out by. So that was the context this was happening in.

      Yes, I know that my kids are going to be exposed to countless images of naked or nearly naked people every day. But my hope, strange as it may seem, is that when my sons see those pictures, they won’t just see a beautiful body to be lusted after–they will see a human being, beloved by God, with a family, a story, dreams and a precious life. I don’t think using sex to sell products, pervasive as it is, supports that goal, but I still work toward that with my kids.

      • Commentor April 30, 2013 at 1:04 am #

        If your hope truly is that when your sons see those pictures they won’t just see a beautiful body to be lusted after, but a human being, beloved by God, with a family, a story, dreams and a precious life, then step 1 is obviously to stop trying to remove those pictures from their sight.

        Otherwise how are they ever going to learn to see them in a new light?

        • Jenny Rae Armstrong April 30, 2013 at 7:24 am #

          Well, like I said, I’m not trying to stop him from running across those pictures (which would be impossible), but I probably shouldn’t be buying them for him, either. That would be pretty hypocritical of me.

  23. miconjxshoan January 29, 2018 at 1:10 am #

    Deep Cleansing Shampoo is a standout amongst the most reasonable shampoos.

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