Continuing the Conversation…

Whoa- firstly, let me tell you how thrilled I am by the response my last blog post got. I not only value the comments readers posted to the blog proper, but also all the thoughts people sent me through email, or through posting to my Facebook page. I have to say, there are days when I wonder whether this project is a worthy undertaking. Getting reader feedback and comments definitely make it clear that it’s worth pursuing and that there is lots of stuff to talk about. Pubic hair! Who knew?

My hope is to cover a whack of issues related to pubic hair over the next few weeks and months (heck, even years if I can keep it up!). Your comments give me important stuff to think and write about. Some important issues came up yesterday that I hope to address in the next little while. They include:

  • the issue of pubic hair removal as symbolically returning the female body to a child-like state. Someone brought up the struggle of championing adult womanhood in a cultural milieu that seems bent on valuing youth (the commenter made the provocative suggestion that all women want to look like 13-year-old boys: “skinny, gangly, hipless and hairless”).
  • someone else suggested that our culture actually fears powerful, adult women — hence the desire for women to be hairless, and to remove the hair that marks their bodies a sexually mature, especially as women gain more political and economic clout in our culture.
  • Another reader proposed the idea that pubic hair removal is just a trend (“albeit a shitty one”). Could be? Let’s discuss (though I suspect leg and armpit shaving was once seen as a ‘trend’ too…)
  • Yet another brought up the popular reality television series ‘America’s Next Top Model’ — particularly one episode that focused its attention on wannabe models showing up ‘un-groomed’ to photo shoots (ie. a move that brought on the wrath of Ms. Tyra Banks, Power Supermodel). Whether it was official declared or not, it sounds like the message was clear: there ain’t no place for pubic hair in the mean, fickle race to be the prettiest girl in the room.
  • And also important: a male commenter asked why this blog was not addressing the issue of men and pubic hair removal. And I just want to be clear that I’m not disinterested in male issues. I hope I’ll get a chance to talk about everything! Because this is part of a thesis project, however, I am having to give myself some gentle parameters — which, in this case (and for now at least!) is to focus my research on women.

More soon.

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  • Enrique Ferreol

    So, we went from hairy apes to naked apes in a million years or so, and now, as self-aware as we are, we want to finish the job evolution hasn’t taken care of, by trimming the remaining tufts. Apparently neoteny is the name of the human game; that’s why we remain so curious and alert all through our lives, and also why we are so sexual. Wanting to get rid of excess body hair, is only human. That goes for both genders too.

    Powerful women have always been feared by insecure men – the type of men who also fear change so much that they feel compelled to subjugate others only to maintain the status quo (you know who I’m talking about)- luckily, powerful women are not burned alive anymore, in most western countries at least. Instead, powerful and scary women find their way to talkingheadoom and they have shows where they impose their views, like wonderful Ms. Tyra Banks, who looks very sexually mature to me, bush or no bush.

    To wrap it up: Oral is WAY better sans hair 🙂

  • Laurence

    I’m not convinced that the growing popularity of shaved or trimmed pubic hair represents the infantilization of women for two main reasons; the first is the simple fact that men as well as women are incorporating this practice into their personal maintenance routines. If ‘shaving’ necessarily equals infantilization then we are all infantilizing eachother.

    (No, really, the practice of shaving/trimming is quite common among young men – here’s Dan Savage to corroborate:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=163VQVp9cfQ)

    The second reason why I find the claim (that shaved pubic hair represents the infantilization of women) unconvincing is that it is falsely premised; it conflates two separate but related social phenomena:

    (1) Our culture’s beauty standards have become very specific about hair: if a man decides to wear a beard it must be short and well kept, women must shave their legs, both genders are expected to keep their nether regions well groomed. As a general rule, all hair must undergo some level of maintenance.

    and

    (2) Our culture’s beauty standards have become pro-youth: in the 1950’s ‘Superman’ was an overweight father figure in his 40s, today ‘Superman’ is a high-school student. Over the same time-frame billion dollar industries have emerged that cater to men and women who want to look and feel younger.

    The forces that brought our culture’s beauty standards to this point are complex and worth reading more about, however, our fascination with youth and our policing of hair are separate (if related) beauty standards. The assertion that evolving ideas about personal maintenance are infantilizing because they involve the removal of hair is flatly spurious.

    Furthermore, the assertion that this supposed infantilization is due to a “fear of powerful woman” is a ridiculous and alienating claim that comes from the worst instincts of second wave feminism. Polemical claims like this cost us feminists a great deal in terms of credibility and support and in this case require it’s advocates to ignore the reality that men shave too!

    You and I may agree that the social conventions surrounding pubic hair are silly and unnecessary and a little bit creepy because shaving maybe-kinda makes your genitals look a little like a minor’s if you squint and it’s dark. However, that silliness alone is not enough evidence to accuse the patriarchy of using your bush to keep you down.

    Talking about these issues in a way that deliberately excludes men will not only prevent us from coming to any reasonable understanding of our culture’s landscape but it will lead us down a dark path to simplex and falsely premised patriarchy bashing.

    • Meredith Dault

      hi Laurence-
      thanks so much for your thoughtful comments — you’ve said a lot of stuff I agree with, and will hopefully have a chance to comment on with more depth in an upcoming post. My intention is certainly not to leave men out of the conversation, in fact, I’m so excited and grateful that so many smart voices (of all genders!) are able to contribute through this kind of forum. More soon…