June 2011

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So as July raises its heat-heavy head, the media are raring up for a ‘Julyna’ frenzy. For anyone who isn’t up to speed, “Julyna” is a new fundraising initiative that is encouraging women to ‘style’ their pubic hair as a way to raise awareness and money for cervical cancer. Still feeling out of the loop? You can read my blog post on it here.

I’ve fielded a number of calls from the media in the last few days, all of which have resulted in very different stories.

Here’s a smart article poised to run in the Friday edition of the Globe and Mail, Canada’s National newspaper:


I was also interviewed by Post Media — an article which appears on Canada.com and may be concurrently running in any of the Post’s newspapers (the Montreal Gazette, National Post and Vancouver Sun, among them). Read the whole story here:


Lastly, ctv.ca called me — their article is here:


While it’s been interesting being (one of) the critical voice(s) of Julyna, I think the media is trying to portray me of someone who is a lot more upset about the event than I ACTUALLY am. For the record – I think Julyna is silly. I’d love to see people acting and thinking more critically when embracing both media-titillating events of this nature and their own body practices… but at the end of the day, I’m not THAT bothered by it all. At the end of the day (as I’ve tried to stress), I’m of the each-to-her-own school of operating.

So there.


I spent part of yesterday interviewing two young, bright, beautiful women about their pubic hair practices. Both in their late teens (and friends for years) each young woman had a very different take on how she chose to maintain her pubic hair — one preferred full (waxed) removal, the other was more critical of such practices, and (save a little trimming) tended to stick to au-natural. They both had such interesting things to say – I’ll try and get some of that conversation up here in the next few days.

In the meantime, I just came across an interesting journal article on pubic hair removal in the SIECCAN Newsletter (which is part of the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality) by Lenore Riddell, Hannah Varton and Zoë G. Hodgson. Called “Smooth Talking: The phenomenon of pubic hair removal in women,” the article explores the “motivations and practices” behind pubic hair removal in women. As part of their study, the authors (who tend to come at the issue as nurse-practioners and authorities on women’s health, rather than cultural theorists) had 660 women (aged 16-50) answer surveys and then tallied the results.

In the introduction to their article, the authors point out that “it is now unusual for clinicians in the authors’ urban setting (Vancouver, Canada) to examine any woman under the age of 30 who still has all of her pubic hair.” They go on to explain that “anecdotally, clinicians report more pubic area rashes, razor burn, wax burns, and generally irritated pubic skin than ever before.”


While the entire article is interesting, I was particularly interested in the points these authors make around women’s health and healthy body practices.

As I’ve discussed before, this article also points to the fact that a great number of women remove their pubic hair because of belief that somehow their bodies are “cleaner” if they do. “This is an interesting finding considering the lack of evidence to support pubic hair being dirty or unhygienic,” they write.

They suggest that pursuit of cleanliness may be tied to the good old pursuit of the “American dream” of wealth and success. “After all,” they write, “the removal of body hair requires the resources of access to water, products, and times,” all (when you come right down to it) global luxuries.

The article cites a study (produced by an American laser company) which indicates that “American women spend more than $10,000 over a lifestime and greater than 58.4 days in their lives using shaving products in managing unwanted hair.” (Figures which don’t include time and effort getting waxed or otherwise maintained).

I’d like to quote Joshua (who commented on one of my recent blog entries) on this  issue. He wrote to me with his reasons (off the top of his head, he noted) to avoid body hair removal (and “arbitrary beauty standards in general):

One reason is that throughout the course of our lives it is a monumental waste of time. I don’t know how much time the average women spends shaving, applying makeup, painting their fake nails, etc, but with life being all too short as it is, can’t we find something more meaningful to do with our time?

Second, it is a waste of limited resources that could be put to better use, or just simply left unused. How many oil spills, mined out mountains, and deforested rain-forests are acceptable to trade for social conformity? Because, unlike we are taught to believe, our decisions – purchasing and otherwise – have ramifications larger than ourselves.

Good points, I think.

And now, just going back to cleanliness with some final thoughts:

Because while many seem to view pubic hair removal as a ‘cleanliness’ issue,  the authors of “Smooth Talking” suggest otherwise. Instead, they write that “several studies on preoperative genital shaving as compared to other methods of hair removal have consistently found increased bacterial infection rates related to shaving.”

“Microabrasions, contact dermatitis, and skin disruption due to methods of pubic hair removal may also increase the potential for the transmission of viruses (including HIV, hepatitis, herpes simplex and human papilloma).”

(I also keep thinking back to Roger Friedland’s smart article wherein he draws a connection between an increasingly always-sexually-ready ‘hook-up’ culture with a hairless “purified” vulva. Thinking about it in this context, I can’t help but note that the young women who are partaking in no-strings sex — and thus already more vulnerable to STIs — may in fact be made extra susceptible due to their grooming practices).

To top things off, Riddell, Varto and Hodgson write that salons and esthetician services in Canada remain largely unregulated — meaning that there’s no guarantee that the pot of hot wax your esthetician is using to do away with your pubic hair hasn’t been double-dipped into, etc etc.

Lots to think about next time you wield a razor in the general direction of your nether regions or lie back with your legs spread at the ol’ salon.


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Thanks for my friend Lisa Cockburn for sending this great pubic-hair related piece of bathroom wall graffiti from a cafe in Edmonton:

If you’re having trouble reading it, I’ll sum up the fine print:

Tell Us Why You Are Beautiful:

-I smile from my heart

-I started feeling beautiful when I stopped comparing myself to other women

-I see beauty in everything around me…

also, my pubic hair is purple

(to which people have replied ‘That’s awesome!’ and ‘You win, that is fantastic!’)

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Well, unsurprisingly there’s been lots of buzz about “Julyna” these last few days. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? See my last blog post). Seems there is nothing the media likes more than an opportunity to talk about pubic-hair-shaving when it’s in a “awww…but it’s for a good cause!” context.

In fact, yours truly even got to discuss the issue with a reporter from The Globe and Mail, Canada’s ‘national’ newspaper (I’ll post the article when it is published).

I found out about “Julyna” when I got a flurry of emails and Facebook posts from friends who figured it was something I might be interested in (and indeed, I was!). That’s because when you study something like pubic hair, it’s easy to back yourself into a tidy (well-groomed?) little corner. Anytime anything vaguely related to the hair the grows in the nether regions of the adult human body comes up…I spring to mind.

Last night, for example, I got a great message from a friend (thanks, Pia!) drawing my attention to a new publicity stunt that Gillette is trying out in Germany.

(Ah yes, another day, another marketing campaign…)

According to Bella Sugar, Gillette’s marketing people in Germany have apparently left thousands of beach towels lying around on the grass in public places in that country. The towels feature silhouettes of distinctly male and female figures in striking hues.

What’s odd is the cut-outs.

The areas on the otherwise silhouetted bodies that would normally bear hair (on the female body: armpits and pubic area / on the male: armpits, chest and pubic area) have been cut out, allowing the grass to push through in fresh, green defiance.

The towels also features the logos for Venus and Fusion, gender-specific brands of shaving gel/cream.

From what I understand, the sight of all that grass rearing its unkempt head through the strategically placed holes is presumably supposed to compel you into self-grooming action. After all, you don’t want to risk looking like you’ve got…uh…GRASS growing on your body.. uh… right?

It’s a truly bizarre campaign being foisted upon a country that’s generally been kinda cool about women flashing the odd au-natural armpit.

More than a few people have noted the absence of grass-leg hair on the towel-woman’s body (though one supposes it was easier to be selective and create three holes, rather than cutting away the entire silhouette in a statement of you-know-this-is-all-supposed-to-be-hair-free-right?).

As Bella Sugar’s Associate Editor, Miriam Lacey, put it, “I mean, the fluffy grass looks so nice and fresh that it almost makes me want to stop shaving…”

(And if anyone in Germany is reading this, please let us know how the campaign is going! Have you seen any towels? What’s the response been? Are people, inspired by these towels, furiously mowing their ‘lawns’? Send word…)


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I suppose it was inevitable: pubic hair as fundraiser.

Yes, indeed: seems the Canadian Cancer Society has decided to make pubic hair the focus of its new ‘awareness raising’ campaign.

Following the success of the ‘Movember’ movement (wherein men grow mustaches in November to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer), a group of women have decided to make their “down there” hair the focus of a fundraiser for cervical cancer.

They are calling it “Julyna”.

According to the event’s website (http://julyna.com/index.html), “the rules for Julyna are simple.” For the month of July, women will exercise “creativity and personal wellness” by  sculpting their pubic hair into a specific design and wearing it that way for the entire 31 days.

Of course, the website reminds us, there is lots of room for creativity:

“Women don’t have to leave it au naturel, or choose a standard pattern like “The Charlie Chaplin.” They can make something up. Get creative! Not only do we hope that Julyna raises funds for cervical cancer, but also that the added attention drawn below the belt will inspire women to take care of this area in other ways, i.e. through scheduled Pap tests or by discussing the HPV vaccine with their family doctors.”

It’s not entirely clear how you’re suppose to raise funds — I guess you tell people you’re carving up your pubic hair in honour of cervical cancer and people give you money. who knows.

The website even acknowledges that it could be tough to get money for doing something that people can’t see, but they’ve got an answer:

“First of all, people give money to marathon runners and it’s rare that they will actually see him/her running. Secondly, do you really need proof of the handy work to give money to a cause that will ultimately result in saving the lives of many women? That’s right, I didn’t think so! So to all you philanthropists out there—get creative and get generous. And, if you don’t want to style your hair for money, please donate to the cause by sponsoring someone who is participating in Julyna this year.”

The site includes a page of helpful pubic hair design suggestions (http://julyna.com/designs.html) which include the The Arrow (yup), the Charlie Chaplain (a tiny moustache), and the Barbara Bush (presumably unkempt), The Rising Sun (radiating stripes) and the David Suzuki (in honour of the Canadian scientist/media personality).

Apparently ‘Julyna’ came about as an idea after a bunch of women were lamenting (over dinner at a snazzy restaurant in a swanky part of Toronto) about not being able to partake in ‘Movember,’ when they came up with the brilliant idea.  As recalled on the website:

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could grow out our mustaches?” one of us said after a sip of her pink panther. “Well, I’m sure I could grow one,” another laughed. At that very moment there was a suggestion, “Why don’t we start a charity to raise money for cervical cancer? What about calling it muffember, or bevember, or vulvember…?” The names kept coming but it wasn’t until many months later that we came up with the term “Julyna.” The cause was obvious–as all of us knew someone who had experienced cervical cell dysplasia or cancer. Hence, Julyna was born and the rest is history.”

Now I’m all for fighting cervical cancer, but there’s something about this fundraiser that feels kinda icky to me.

For one thing, there’s a big difference between wearing an ironic Movember-style mustache and carving up your intimate bits in a “wheee! isn’t this fun and sexy?” kinda way. It feels like the fundraising equivalent of a bunch of nice middle class white women learning to pole dance, or taking a class in lap dancing as a means of ‘getting in touch’ with your sexuality.

After all, the men who grow moustaches for ‘Movember’ likely wouldn’t normally sport them– whereas the target audience for ‘Julyna’ probably practice intimate grooming on a regular basis. Now, however, they get to do it for a good cause.

I’m inclined to think that you would be hard pressed to get a bunch of men waxing their bits in cute ways as a public fundraiser.

And yes, I’m all for celebrating vaginas and encouraging women to get annual pap smears (the goals of this fundraising campaign), but there’s still something troubling about ‘Julyna’. Maybe it’s the fact that this little media stunt seems to be further commodifying women’s bodies – this time in the name of tee-hee-I’ve-got-a-little-secret-in-my-undies-and-it’s-wearing-a-Charlie-Chaplain-moustache fun.

It’s all a little too cute for me.

I mean – why not go all out and encourage women to grow OUT their pubic hair for the month of July? Wouldn’t the sight of pubic hair pushing past the edges of bathing suits be the truest celebration of Julyna?



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So I don’t know about the rest of you, but I missed last night’s Much Music Video Awards. Fortunately, ye ol’ Internet did not. That’s how I know about Lady Gaga’s pubic hair stunt.

Evidently, the pop music super star sang her mega-giant-super-popular hit, “Born This Way” while sporting bright blue patches of faux fur in her armpits and on her crotch. The pubic hair was attached to her leggings in an over-the-top swath of blue curls.

Her backup dancers also spotted less gregarious fuzzy triangles over their crotch areas – only theirs were more naturally hued. They did, however, have unshaven armpits.

Here’s a video:

So, a couple of questions: obviously Lady Gaga is a big star who is known for her over-the-topness and her aversion to traditional pop-star beauty (ie. being pretty and demurely sexy).

Is she a) daring women to embrace their body hair by making a big show with faux blue hair (though while not actually sporting any obvious natural body hair of her own) or b) is body hair on a woman now seen as so incredibly off-putting that it’s now a crazy bold stunt to dare to wear it, even if it’s fake? The kinds of stunt that’s in-line with the other freaky (non-pretty) things that Lady Gaga likes to embrace?

I’ll quote Dodi Stewart here, writing about the stunt on Jezebel (http://jezebel.com/5813568/lady-gagas-award-show-routine-involved-exposing-blue-pubic-hair)

“She’s definitely interested in defying what we’ve come to expect from a pop star. Female singers in the Top 40 usually go out of their way to be as traditionally sexy, pretty and perfect as possible. Their trappings are the things associated with ideal femininity: Long hair, high heels, clear skin, symmetrical face, skirts and dresses. Gaga deliberately deforms her face with prosthetic bones, and while she does wear heels, they are more of the Frankenstein’s monster/McQueen lobster claw variety, not designed for sex appeal. And since modern ladies are supposed to be hairless of pit and pube, a pop star would never, ever show up on stage with pit hair. So Gaga’s spitting in the face of convention, sure. Only: Wouldn’t the statement have been more effective if the pit hair had been real?”

Nicely said.




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If you haven’t already seen it, urge you to seek out an article that ran on the Huffington Post website yesterday.

Called “Looking Through the Bushes: The Disappearance of Pubic Hair”, the article is written by Roger Friedland, a Professor of Religion and Cultural Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

It’s probably one of the smartest pieces of journalism I’ve read on the topic of pubic hair removal in some time (and trust me folks – I read a lot of it).

Friedland introduces us to the issue of pubic hair’s “gone missing” status on women by recounting a conversation with a friend. The friend’s “good-looking, sexually-active son” has never seen pubic hair.

“Snatch,” the friend replies. “It’s like a princess phone. He sleeps with girls all the time. He’s never seen a woman’s pubic hair.”

In his introduction, Friedland muses that the disappearance of pubic hair “tells us something about womanhood, the state of love, the human and the relation of body and soul.” He then continues, brilliantly articulating the crux of the issue:

“Pubic practices are rites by which we construct who we know ourselves to be. What are they telling us?”

Over the course of the article, Friedland then explores some really important issues around the removal of pubic hair. Because he has spent a lot of time researching and writing around what I can only describe as “the hook up scene” among a generation of young, sexually active people, he has some insights into the issue of pubic hair removal that are new to me.

Most significantly, Friedland writes, hairless genitals on women are a symbolic indication of sexual readiness (an issue of prime importance in a sexually charged, one-night-stand driven culture).

I know I’ve written about the link between our ready access to online pornography and the absence of pubic hair on a generation of young women before – but Friedland adds to the conversation so eloquently:

American women are, in fact, striking a pornographic pose, one that first appeared in the hard-core porn films that have increasingly shaped the sexual imagination of legions of young men. The eye of the hard-core porn camera hovers over female body parts; it’s a visual excess of physical acts with a minimum of sentiment. It is not a love story. Porn displays pubeless bodies to emphasize the organs — the female genital slit (and the erect male shaft) — and thereby defines the standard of erotic desirability. As nether hair disappeared on screen guys increasingly wanted sex with girls who looked like the porn stars they’d fantasized about. They asked and women struck the pose.

He touches on the chronology of pubic hair removal in porn (starting in Penthouse magazine in 1970) and creeping more regularly into mainstream images by the 1980s.

Friedland also describes the connection between the eroticization of young female bodies and the rise of the feminist movement in the 1970s:

Two things happened just before the pubic hair disappeared. The timing is not arbitrary. I will reverse the sequence. In the 1970’s the female teen body became an erotic fetish. In 1974 Larry Flynt began publishing Barely Legal, with frontal shots of eighteen year-old girls. In 1976, an underage Jodie Foster played a 12-year-old prostitute in Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver; in 1978, Brooke Shields did the same in Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby. Both were underage when they played these parts.

As feminism encouraged women to avoid being the object of gaze while triumphantly embracing their body hair, “the female teen fetish went mainstream.” As Friedland writes, “this eroticization of young girls recaptured the pure feminine, the subordinate, hairless virginal female against whom a man was clearly a man.”

We often hear that we are now living in a “post-feminist” era, where young women are (theoretically) reaping the benefits of (ahem) living in a free and equal society (cough). One of the ways it sometimes plays out is through a recently modified script, where young women seek casual sex rather than eternally looking for love and babies. Friedland suggests that it is the Brazilian wax that becomes part of this “new erotic repertoire, a perpetual reminder that you are always ready for action.”

(Interested in reading more about hook-up culture? Try “Hook-up Culture’s Bad Rap,” a smart article by Kate Harding that was on Salon.com last year)

Clearly I should stop writing and you should all turn to Friedland’s article ASAP. Before I do, however, let me leave you with one of the most spot-on sentences (describing the hygiene issue around women and oral sex) I have read in a long time:

“Hairlessness, like the vaginal mint, advertises that a vagina has been purified for male taste.”

Thanks, Roger Friedland, for getting it so right. (Now we just have to figure out how to fix things…)


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I don’t usually get a whole lot of mail (I get even less now that Canada Post is on strike, meaning mail service is down to about three days-a-week), but today was different. This morning I opened up my wee black box to find a small brown enveloped addressed to me.

I was thrilled. That’s because I already knew what it was.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a woman thanking me for my writing on this blog. Her note really made my day – not only because it was complimentary, but because it was a solid reminder that there are actually people reading and relating to the stuff that I write.

“It is a beacon of light in the sea of message boards discussing pubic hair as it relates to hygiene,” she wrote. She then explained that this blog had been “instrumental” in her own search for “peace around the topic,” which she said had got her “fired up enough that I made a ‘zine.”

Because she mentioned The Last Triangle in her ‘zine, she told me she wanted to send me a copy.

And that’s what I received this morning.

Needless to say, her ‘zine, “Lady Gardens” is an incredibly charming little publication (I almost wrote ‘publication’, which is an entirely different sort of beast…) Complete with hand-drawn text and illustrations, her little ‘zine explores some of the issues around pubic hair (similar to stuff that I talk about here) and then polls women in her life for their views on the topic.

She starts off by telling us about a male friend who once mentioned that “nearly every girl he’d been with had been hairless.” That nugget of information then prompted her research — starting with Google where her search using “why has having no pubes become so fashionable” begot her the usual discussion on “whether or not ladies should shave or wax.”

“It wasn’t until I stuck in the term ‘gender politics’ that I unearthed anything worthwhile,” she writes, then describing happening on this site, The Last Triangle. “Her blog was exactly the kind of resource I was looking for.” (Isn’t that such a great thing! I was so touched to read that — and she actually refers to my blog throughout her publication).

If you’d like to read more, you can buy the ‘zine online. Here’s a link to Etsy where (if you’re in the USA) you can buy it (I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do if you aren’t).


I’ll say it again – it means so much to me that people are reading and engaging with the content – whether they send me evidence or not. I’m so glad these conversations are happening!

More soon.




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When people find out what I study, they’re either a) intrigued, b) uncomfortable, or c) defensive.

In fact, one of the most popular defensive tactics is to either tell me that women remove their pubic hair for their own pleasure (and thus I should not be critical of the practice), or to try to justify it as a lesser problem because “guys are feeling pressure to do it too.”

So here’s what I have to say to that:

As much as it concerns me that young men are feeling increasingly societal pressure to do away with their body hair (the result being more and more young men who may be feeling insecure about their bodies as-they-are), I don’t think it’s fair to compare them.

As far as I can tell, a man doesn’t view his bits as less-than-worthy if they are wearing a furry sweater.

There’s a lesser chance that he will be seen as someone who is “not taking care of himself” if he is not meticulously groomed (he may merely be viewed as someone who has better things to do – or he may be cultivating the scruffy look).

To speak generally, consumer culture simply doesn’t target men the same way that it targets women.

So when we DO hear about men getting intimate wax jobs, we’re still a little amused. We can cavalierly toss around terms like ‘metrosexual’ (the wikipedia definition of which is “a heterosexual urban man whose lifestyle, concern for personal appearance, and spending habits are likened to those considered typical of a fashionable male homosexual”) and speculate about what would compel him to press hot wax to his family jewels.

We certainly wouldn’t judge him if he opted to let it all grow in for awhile.

I’m thinking about this today because yesterday I happened upon a really great article on the topic in The Good Men Project called Waxing Insanity. The article, by Ted Cox, tells the hilarious tale of his first Brazilian wax and its resulting discomfort, all while exploring how our culture views body hair on men and women. It’s definitely worth a read. Here’s his most-excellent concluding line:

“But I do know this: any guy who expects his partner to get waxed, if he’s not regularly getting waxed himself, deserves to be set on fire and run over by a fucking bus.”

Read the whole article here:

Ted Cox gets a Brazilian wax and considers our relationship with pubic hair — The Good Men Project Magazine



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So I’ve been thinking about periods – and no, not the punctuation kind.

That’s because I spent some time on the weekend thumbing my way through an interesting little book on menstruation. Called ‘Capitalizing on the Curse: The Business of Menstruation’, the book explores the impact that capitalist forces have had on our monthly periods. It’s by Elizabeth Arveda Kissling, a professor at Eastern Washington University.

I know, I know – I can hear you now: “this is a blog about pubic hair — why the period talk?”

Here’s why: because reading Kissling’s book about periods actually made me think a lot about women and their relationships to their own body hair.

Kissling’s interesting premise is that though it’s a regular phenomenon for half the world’s population, periods are typically seen as icky and gross — a troublesome interruption in the month that must be dealt with (ideally) in secret (god forbid your males friends should catch a glimpse of a tampon in your purse!).

What Kissling argues is that our periods have been sold back to us by corporations who capitalize on those negative attitudes in order to “sell us solutions for nonexistent problems.” She argues that although the hygiene industry has been good for women in some ways (ie. we have readily available, inexpensive and easy-to-use products which allow us to function ‘normally’ even as we’re shedding our uterine lining), the commercialization of an otherwise normal bodily process has also done us a disservice.

That’s because the capitalist agenda has women compelled to be constantly in pursuit of “freshness” — the preferred state, we readily learn, for women to exist in. I’ll quote Kissling here (from her conclusion):

“In the commercial world of so-called feminine hygiene products, menstruation is portrayed as a literal and figurative stain on one’s femininity. Women are urged by advertisements to “stay clean, stay fresh, stay free,” as if their freedom depends upon their freshness. The freedom (if not freshness) in women’s everyday lives enabled by modern menstrual products is truly transformative, but freedom is never really free, at least under consumer capitalism. To enjoy the liberty granted y products that reduce discomfort, relieve pain, and increase freedom of movement, women must participate in the construction of their own Otherness. In using these products, women are compelled to buy into the idea of the menstruating woman as one of tainted femininity.” (p. 124)

Kissling uses existentialist Simone de Beauvoir to investigate this idea of Otherness — something she describes as being an artifact of a male-dominated society wherein women learn to feel “an alienation from their own bodies.” As Kissling writes, “a properly socialized woman develops a sense of herself as object, an Other that is both venerated and feared, as she internalizes her society’s dominant ideologies about women.” (p. 3)

It helps explain why women feel such shame and disgust at the idea of their own periods. Our monthly bleeding is marketed to us as a “hygienic crisis”. Talking about ads for menstrual products, Kissling writes:

“It is a hygiene crisis that one must clean up, in secret, so that one’s public projection of ideal femininity is not damaged or polluted.” (p.12)

Kissling quotes another scholar, Tomi-Ann Roberts, who makes this wise observation:

“One of the obligations that women have in a culture that sexually objectifies their bodies is to conceal the biological functioning of their bodies.” (p.20)

And that’s where we come back to pubic hair.

Women learn early on to treat themselves as objects. And getting rid of body hair, whether it’s on our legs or between them, is just another way of doing that.


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