June 21, 2011

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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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