The hair/bare bunch
Jessica at Jezebel writes about a rather silly article in the continuously less relevant Salon, on yet more victims of the failing economy: spas that provide Brazilian wax services. It seems that women are less inclined to spend upwards of $60 to $100 every six weeks or so to keep their bits hair-free, possibly ushering in a return to the 70s porn bush days. Jessica posits that we shouldn’t mourn the loss of profits to salon owners, because as best as she can tell not nearly as many women go through the torture of professional waxing as fashion magazines and Sex and the City would have us believe at the best of times. Au contraire! say several commenters, who claim that not just they but most of their friends maintain vulvas that resemble freshly polished hardwood floors. Not surprisingly, this quickly devolves into yet another debate over the anti and pro-feminism messages behind whatever it is we women decide to do with our pubic hair.
Before I go on, let me say that I’m going to try real hard to wax philosophical (pun shamelessly intended) on this subject without specifically mentioning my own grooming practices. It never ceases to amaze me how, particularly on the internet, “debating” consists less of backing up your position with facts than with irrelevant personal anecdata. A good example of this occurred a couple years ago when Pandagon linked to a notorious blog post written by a woman who furiously spoke out against performing oral sex on men, believing it to be degrading and anti-feminist. If a nickel shot out of my computer every time someone at Pandagon prefaced their comments with “I just love giving blowjobs!” I would have earned enough to buy a venti chai latte at my local Starbucks. The same goes for the eternal waxing/shaving/going natural debate: claiming that having no pubic hair leads to better orgasms has no basis in fact, it’s personal experience. If you love giving blowjobs, swell, rock on with your bad self, but it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not oral sex could reasonably be perceived as degrading to women. By that same measure, claiming sex feels better without pubic hair has no bearing on how pro-feminist the decision to shave or not shave is. No doubt women who walk around looking like they’re carrying hedgehogs between their thighs believe sex is better for them too.
But see, that’s the thing: what we do with our body hair, particularly that which surrounds our genitals, is such an intimate decision that it’s impossible to not turn debates over it into personal issues. It’s truly bizarre that shaving or waxing off our pubic hair has become political, along with wearing makeup, short skirts and high heels. For a lot of feminists, these are seen as traitorous acts to the Cause, being that these “fascist beauty standards” are generally intended to attract and please men. Women who choose to go bare vehemently defend their decision, claiming that there’s nothing more pro-feminist than being able to choose what you do with your own body. Granted, but you immediately invalidate that argument by claiming that your partner likes it that way, or worse, that you insist that he shave as well. There’s nothing pro-feminist about insisting that your partner shave his chest or genitals; if you want the freedom to groom or not groom without criticism the same should go for him. Taking a defeatist “well, all men like it that way, so what are you gonna do?” stance on it doesn’t work either, because, going by both my own unscientific research and otherwise, the majority of men, surprise surprise, are content leaving the decision of pubic landscaping up to the owner of said pubes. It’s unwise to go by Cosmopolitan, Maxim and TV to gauge the opinion of the average American male on such a subject, you’d get more accurate results by simply asking friends and partners.
And yet, berating women who shave as “giving into the patriarchy” is simply unfair and melodramatic. In the end, it really does come down to choice, and as feminists we continue to show an enormous amount of hypocrisy in regards to decisions over really meaningless things. Staunchly anti-shaving feminists insist that women go through the hassle, mess and occasional pain of ridding oneself of pubic hair solely for the aesthetic pleasure of men; further, those men are obsessed with their partners looking eternally youthful. While I am inclined to agree that there is a certain unsavoriness to men who insist that their partners go bare, I don’t genuinely believe that men who simply have a preference for it secretly want to fuck 12 year-olds. The difference is with insisting and preferring: if you give into a badgering partner who treats pubic hair as a dealbreaker, sorry, thanks for playing, but there’s nothing “pro-feminist” about your decision. No, not even if you manage to convince yourself that you really wanted to do it the whole time. However, if your partner merely states a preference, and you’re cool with that, then the decision does become your own, and no one really has the right to belittle you for it. There’s no need to explain that it’s supposedly cleaner, or that sex feels better, or that you can wear a swimsuit with confidence, just like there’s no need to insist that women who go natural are somehow better feminists. Really? Honestly? No one cares. You watch out for your own bits, and I’ll take care of mine.