Monday, 27 May 2019

TO BUSH OR NOT TO BUSH: A Pubic Tragedy





I was tootling on over to the university swimming pool when I realised, being so busy with uni deadlines, I hadn’t had time to give myself a once-over with the old Venus in my before-bed shower. Legs, armpits, pubes -- all well beyond the prickle stage. And my swimming costume, well, let’s just say, wasn’t exactly the correct attire for hiding undesirable body hair.

That’s it, I thought as soon as I noticed the leg hairs poking out from my sock. I can’t go swimming.

When I volunteered in Fiji for a month, I didn’t have access to any shaving facilities so had an impressive mass of armpit hair during our final few days of debrief. When I was sunning myself, one of my male friends commented that I should shave ASAP. He said to me:

“You go from an 8 to a 5 when you lift up your arms.”

I’m not going to analyse this comment: I’ll leave that to you. I didn’t actually shave afterwards, but only because I wanted to wax it all off when I got home and needed it to be long to do so. I did keep my arms pretty much glued to my sides after that, though.

Back to my swim last week: I’d travelled an hour and decided it was too late not to go swimming, so what if I was a 5? The feminist in me wanted not to care, but I still felt uber conscious as I slipped into the pool. I was envious of the people who don’t ever shave, who didn’t care about having pubic hair. Preferred it, even. How were a few millimetres of keratin proteins, purposed to keep us warm, protect us from friction and manage our sweat making me feel so monumentally insecure?  Why was I letting them?

The more I thought about it, the more I noticed that it wasn’t just me. A girl wouldn’t put her arms up in a warm up-exercise because she was embarrassed by what was underneath them. A friend told me that she wouldn't be able to get intimate that night because she hadn’t waxed her pubic hair. And it’s not even a strictly feminist issue: boys too, who can’t leave the house without shaving, or won’t have their photo taken because their jawline is shaded with a little too much stubble are also affected.

Objectively, it’s easy to appreciate the ridiculousness of it all. Body and facial hair is, well, hair. It is not unhygienic, or unclean, or uncomfortable, even if we pretend it is. I know this. You know this.

So why is it so difficult to withhold our judgement about ourselves/other people who haven’t shaved? I mean, would you really care if you/your partner/a stranger had visible pubes poking out from their swimsuit? And if the answer is yes, are you prepared to recognise that these sort of superficial prejudices are precisely what our society, which already has innumerable expectations for young people and body image, does NOT need?

Us millennials fuel pop-culture just as it fuels us. And we have somehow acclimatized to the idea that there are rules for pubic hair, both for women and for men. Rules. For PUBES. 

Someone somewhere decided that body hair is unattractive, and we have all allowed that mindset to infiltrate into our own ideas, somehow forgetting how bogus it all really is. I am guilty of it too -- just by being ashamed of my body hair is acknowledging it as undesirable, and therefore feeding the big  Social Expectation Monster that shadows over all of us.

In the early-Twentieth Century, Gilette advertised 'shaving for women' to help them conquer an "embarrassing problem" (hairy underarms). They planted the seed of doubt in womens' minds to up their razor sales! Sounds like the beauty and cosmetics industries haven't changed marketing tactics much since...

I’ve always found it difficult to articulate why the work of people growing out their armpit hair and dyeing it zany colours are important to feminism. Turns out, I’m not the first person to realise how ridiculous it is that we assign so much value to the baldness of our skin.

Like Hazel, this year body hair has been a little niggle on my mind.

On Valentine’s Day, I went on a girl-date with my best friend. Over food, we talked about dating and sex and, inevitably, shaving. I told her that I was super conscious about pubes, especially when I am with a new sexual partner. She told me that her partner didn’t shave at all. Her reasoning was, “Do you care if your partner has pubes? Would you say anything about it?” No, I thought. She said, “If you don't care, then you bet your partner doesn’t care either."

It was true. I had been so conscious about body hair that it was starting to impact my decisions. Like... if I chose to go to the gym the next day, or whether I'd wear a long-sleeved top instead of a strappy top, and you bet I'd shave before that date, even if I knew I'd get a shaving rash because of it.

Imagine, seeing someone ultra cute, getting to know them, dating them and as they strip down to their underwear, you stop them mid-kiss to say: “I’m sorry your pubes are too long. We have to stop.” The joke would be on you really, letting something so irrelevant stop you from having sex. 

So, post-Galentine’s, I vouched not to shave my pits for a month. February may be the shortest month of the year, but it was a month nonetheless.

The result? I actually felt so empowered knowing that I was growing it out and choosing not to care. I checked on the growth like Hazel tends to her houseplants in the mornings; with love and care. It got a bit weird, I was showing everyone my progress every few days. But, it was liberating! I was surprised that I had to actively think about not shaving, too. I’d reach for the razor, lift my arm and remember my Galentine’s promise last minute. When Haze asked if I wanted to go to the gym I decided that instead of missing out, I would just rock the look.

Essentially, its #mybodymychoice, and not shaving can help to remind people to respect that other people can do what they want with their bodies. If we stop judging ourselves and each other for how we choose to manage our body hair then we will be able to focus on things in life that are more important than, let’s say, how long it’s been since we last shaved. It isn’t a priority. There are bigger fish to fry.

And you don’t have to stop shaving, of course, it’s about doing what makes you comfortable and happy. But remembering and acknowledging that there is a choice by not shaming other people for theirs is far more important.

Let us know what you think!!!!!!

Love, George and Haze x x 
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