body control

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Well, with summer’s start tomorrow I know we’re all freaking out about getting ready for bathing suit season right? What, no? Ok, you’re right: bathing suit season is low on the list of things competing for space in my mind right now. This is the time of year, however, when the mainstream media like to post helpful tips and tricks for getting ready for the aforementioned “season” – and for women, that usually involves some kind of well-intentioned piece about how to whisk away “unwanted” hair.

That’s why I was amused (and sort of pleased) to see an article in the Toronto Star called “My First Brazilian Wax“. Written by Victoria Ptashnick, the article charts her first foray to the salon for a full Brazilian – ie. a wax after which very little is left to the imagination. Victoria doesn’t break any ground with her tale – it’s charming and funny and pretty much exactly what you would expect – but I did think it was refreshing to see a young woman opting out of what appears to be the dominant pubic-grooming practice of her age. In a video added to the site yesterday, Victoria answers reader questions about her article and experience. She is very clear about one thing: her future will not include intimate waxing.

Speaking of intimate procedures, I recently learned about “ball ironing”, sometimes known as “tightening the tackle” (apparently) in a brief article on an offshoot of the NY Magazine’s website called ‘The Cut’. According to the article, the thin testicular skin gets wrinkly and discoloured with age, so men can now pay good money (and lots of it) for a procedure that “involves using lasers to remove hair, erase wrinkles, and correct discoloration on the scrotum.” Will we ever run out of things to worry about?

 

 

 

 

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I just came upon a really well-written and interesting post written by a young woman who has wrestled with the question of how and why to love her own pubic hair. Interestingly, she doesn’t love it, but she doesn’t love that she doesn’t… her writing on the issue is really great — raw and real. These are the confessions and the conversations that make the internet so amazing.

A second, similar entry on the Feminist Dating website — called “A Bushy Dilemma” — is also worth a read. Both articles raise all kinds of issues around socialization and body-hatred (an important issue that never seems to go away, no matter how we wrestle with it).

The site itself doesn’t seem to be particularly active, which is a shame, ’cause it’s got some good stuff on it.

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Yes, I know… in my last post I swore up and down that I was back at it, and that the posts would be coming fast and furious. And then what happened? I dropped the ball.

I certainly haven’t forgotten about you. Every day I read some interesting thing about pubic hair out there, and think “gotta update the blog” and for whatever reason, that day slips away and it doesn’t happen.

I suppose the fact is that at some point it all comes around again. The to-shave-or-not-to-shave debate rages on as it has for the last few years. Sometimes I can’t help but feel that I’ve said what I need to say – and that I’ve run out of things to add. People are going to do what they want to do (as they should!). My issue is, and has always been, that people should be made aware of what their choices are – and I guess that’s what has driven me in the past. It often seems that young people (especially women) aren’t always entirely aware that they have a choice about the body they choose to present to the world: that they have a choice about how to groom their hair, about whether they want to wear make-up or not, about whether leggings are an appropriate alternative to pants.

Pubic hair has been back in the media again lately, though.

I found the debate continuing to rage on Jezebel in an article inspired by man describing pubic hair on a woman as “fossil of human anatomy” (pubic hair as endangered species).

Apparently scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, are also finding that pubic hair grooming injuries are “on the rise” these days. Seems like a very good reason to stick with a good trim and leave full hair removal for bits of the body that are more readily accessible.

I guess I’ll leave things there for now. I look forward to being in more regular contact…

 

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Yes, that’s right: when you spend your spare time thinking about the political significance of public hair, you never run out of fodder for party small talk. Nor do you ever run out of things to make you mad. Here’s the latest thing — send to me by a number of friends/readers/allies.

Seems besides having intimate bits that are too hairy, it’s also possible to have genitals that are “too brown.” At least that’s what the people who produce a new product aimed at Indian woman. Evidently, the product is some kind of intimate wash that also helps to make your vulva “many shades fairer”. Curious? Here’s the television ad:

http://youtu.be/9Tx9vVVMWw0

Predictably, our protagonist is sad with her ordinary vagina, but is radiantly happy once she’s doused it in chemicals. I’ve written before about the notion of the vagina as being “dirty” until all its protective hair is whisked away. This is a product that actually exactly embodies “your vagina is dirty” mentality. That graphic, with the product lightening an animated groin seems to say it all. Sigh.

Huffington Post’s got a good article on the top. Have a read here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/12/vagina-brightener-indian-feminine-hygiene-product-promises-to-make-genitals-many-shades-fairer_n_1420052.html?ref=canada-living&ir=Canada+Living

And as I’ve written before, I love it when readers get in touch. I had a nice little note from Emily recently, who got in touch to tell me about a recent experience she had reading Cosmopolitan magazine.

Here’s what she wrote:

I was at a friend’s house the other day and found something in a magazine that seemed relevant to The Last Triangle. 

Looking at Cosmo is like looking at a car crash. I know I’m going to be horrified by what I see, but if there is one there, I still look. The image I attatched is a snap of “99 sex questions answered”. I know not to expect much from Cosmo, but it was still upsetting to see that when one’s lover has a preference for pubes, this publication is encouraging her to leave him the bare minimum. Oh, the implications. 

She also sent along this snapshot:

As Emily points out, the problem with this is, of course, that at no point is the poor woman told that her boyfriend would probably be just fine with nothing more than a little trim. But the only option this mainstream mag can offer up is the landing strip: a (probably) salon-driven grooming practice requiring pain, money, time, effort.

As I’ve said a million times: I believe women should be allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, as long as they know what the options are. Magazines like this would have all young women believe there are only a few ways of being in the world.

 

 

 

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but as we near the end of November, I’ve been thinking a fair bit about ‘Movember‘. Everywhere I look these days some guy is proudly sporting a moustache. While I have nothing against raising money for worthy causes, the conformity of Movember has been doing my head in. At my graduation ceremony a couple of weeks ago, I watched man after man stride across the stage and shake hands with the university admin while wearing a silly ‘stache. I couldn’t help but wonder what the photos were going to look like in, say, twenty years.

That’s why I thought this blog entry about “No Shave November” was interesting. Here in Canada I don’t feel we’ve heard a lot about it — at least if it’s happening, it’s not getting anything near the press that Movember’s getting. The idea is to avoid shaving altogether for the entire month of November — and unlike Movember, both men and women are allowed to participate.

In fact, I just found this nice little editorial on doing just that — growing out your hair — written by a young woman at Indiana University South Bend. She makes some good points and it’s worth taking a gander at.

If you’re participating in No Shave November, drop me a line. I’d love to hear what the experience has been like for you…

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As I mentioned in my last post, I am very keen on having more voices represented in this blog (not just mine, telling people what I’ve observed). I’ve been asking you to send in your own stories and am pleased to report that I’ve got a great one to start with.

This was submitted recently by “Tocxica” — I’ll let her take it from here:

I Used To Be An Avid Shaver

I used to be an avid shaver. Every other day whether I needed it or not, all of my “hair down there” would be ritualistically culled by my mighty Venus razor. Why? Simple, that’s just what you did. As a child of the 90’s I grew up with the mindset that pubic hair was dirty and unattractive. Who told me this? Well…no one in particular. But it just was. Right? You never really spoke about it. Boys did, but not girls.

Porn was the cause of both my systematic shearing of my pubes and later my refusal to ever shave again. I was twelve when I first discovered the nasty secret of the curly hair that would someday soon be overtaking my lower parts. Some boys from my class were crowding around a magazine and on the centerfold was a nude woman with a thick bush of hair between her legs. It didn’t take long for me to overhear the disgust my classmates had for the hair, or for the jokes to set the thought into my mind that any woman with hair between her legs was a freak. I would never get hair between my legs like that. And then just a short year later, I did.

Fast forward five years and a landfill full to the brim of dull razors, while working on my senior project for school “Sex in Society” I am given a lovely copy of a French erotic magazine with full on bush. At first I was shocked. I asked the person who had given it to me if this was fetish porn. “Nope, just regular old porn.” She said with a strange, confused look on her face. Okay, so it wasn’t some weird French hair fetish porn. I began to look beyond my initial shock at seeing a woman with pubic hair on the cover of an apparently normal pornographic magazine. I noticed the beauty. Why had I spent my entire adolescent life trying to keep myself from looking like this? Why had I suffered the nicks and irritation, the ingrown hairs for Heaven’s sake! It was an epiphany. I didn’t even know what my natural pubic hair looked like! I had begun shaving it as soon as it appeared!

Now I’m married with a daughter and a chipper outlook. Until recently that is. I was playing around on Facebook (a guilty pleasure of mine) when I came across a link posted on a debate page I belong to. Accompanying the link were these questions ‘Being totally shaved/waxed “down there”, is it creepy and “fetishizing the look of prepubescence”, or just a personal preference? Does your s/o weigh in on how you maintain that area?’

Always up for a good debate I scanned the comments before tossing in my two cents as well. My stomach dropped. Out of nearly forty comments absolutely NONE were pro-pubes. Quite the opposite in fact. There were comments like “GROSS!” and “pubic hair is so dirty and nasty, whoever wrote that artacle[sic] is obviously some dirty hippy”.

Having been on both sides of the hairy fence, I decided to weigh in about why I love my pubic hair. How it hurts when it first begins to grow back, how time consuming the upkeep is, and how it hurts when you’re shaved and your partner isn’t. I also went on to ask why every single one of them considered pubic hair to be so horrible. The most coherent response went exactly as follows “here is my reasoning…i dont want hair in my mouth, why would my husband or my girlfriend want it in THEIR mouth? second- i HATE having blood from my period stuck in the hair during the day- i dont have time to shower every time i change a pad, i shower 1-2times a day. third- i work out, i dont want stinky sweaty hair down there while i work out. fourth- i dont like it it “sticking” out of my swimsuit or sexy panties”.

This response made me want to rip my hair out. Seriously? Unless your partner is taking “carpet munching” seriously, there shouldn’t be any hair between their teeth. God forbid you have blood on you during your PERIOD! The horror! The third reason was my favorite. In fact, I giggled about it for a good three minutes or so before replying. Perhaps you’ve picked up why I thought it funny. When exercising correctly, you get sweaty and stinky. That’s why they have showers at most gyms. If you aren’t breaking a sweat, you aren’t doing it right. Her final reason was the easiest for me to reply to. “Try to buy clothing that fits properly then.” I’m no longer very popular with them now.

This led me to ask a few friends of mine their views on pubic hair. Being used to my open discussions on sex and sexuality they answered right away. Here are two of my favorite responses; “ok so, down below i like to keep it where I look like I’ve never hit puberty lol 😉pastedGraphic.pdf annyywhhooo on others , such as my ex gf sometimes she was shaven sometimes not, I didn’t exactly mind as long as she didn’t look like a chubacca that would kidnap my chin….when it comes to oral sex I think I prefer at least trimmed on girls as well as guys (oh no a lesbian has given a blowjob lol) I don’t mind a little hair just but looking like your vagina came from the 60’s or 70’s doesn’t do it for me lol” and “Trim it, but don’t shave – I hate to scrape my face on someone’s 5 o’clock shadow. And long and scraggy is just a turn-off. Always makes me wonder if they even wash…”

Do I feel like a hairy freak? You betcha! Do I care? Not at all! I love my pubic hair! Why wouldn’t I? It’s part of the awesomeness that is me. I’m all for personal preference, but I do wonder why my (in most cases) liberal monster friends are so disgusted by their pubic hair.

-Tocxica, October 2011

Male, female, young, old — if you’ve got a story or opinion to share, please send it to me at mdault [at ] meredithdault.com



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Bare Boys

A friend recently sent me a link to this great article that appeared recently on the Bitch Magazine website (don’t know Bitch Magazine? start here…)

The article is called “Isn’t He Lovely: Bare Down There And Everywhere Else,” by Cristen Conger.

The well written article is about the new hairlessness among young men. The author talks about the notion of a “sanitized ideal” for men that seems to be taking the mainstream by storm. As she writes:

We’re talking hair-free, sweat-free, odor-free; in other words, the same unrealistic standards peddled to women for so long, à la leg and underarm shaving. And like the hairless female ideal, it isn’t just the most visible fur that men are tending to these days; statistically, men groom their pubic hair more than any other type of body hair (sans beards).

Though I haven’t formally embraced looking at male body hair practices (I’d love to though… just give me time). The article does point out (and rightly so) that while the increased pressure for me to depilate is sort of disturbing (in the sense that any widely normalized, readily embraced mechanism of body control is), men don’t face nearly the same levels of stigma that women do should they decide NOT to embrace the practice.

And again, the article asks some of the same questions I have around women’s pubic hair grooming habits: will the trend persevere as men age and settle down, or like with women, is the trend very much a short lived practice tied in with youthful, commitment-free sexuality.

I remember one of the young women I interviewed telling me about one of her regular ‘hook up’ partners, and the fact that being hairless was, in a sense, part of the ritual:

“It’s definitely more appealing,” she told me. “There was this one guy.. we were hook up buddies, I guess. I invited him over, and he was like ‘oh, I just shaved for you,’ and I was like ‘oh, cool…oh, I just waxed too.’ It was like, I did this thing for you. It was a positive thing…you know what I mean?”

There must be something in the casualness of the hook-up that is balanced by the ritualized grooming practice: it seems to acknowledge that ‘I know that we have this meaningless, strings-free intimate relationship, but I still did my part before showing up’.

You know what I mean?

 

 

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Sorry for the silence — I’ve been distracted by a million and a half other tasks these days. I was in Ottawa, Ontario on Monday for a meeting, and as I made my way there, I saw the most interesting poster taped to a pole.

GROWING OUR PITS FOR TITS! it crowed in bright pink and orange. Naturally, I stopped.

The poster was advertising a new fundraising campaign encouraging women to grow out their armpit hair for (you guessed it) breast cancer research. Using the name “Unshaven Mavens”, to two organizers Malorie Bertrand and Amie Beausoleil want women to go au natural for the month of October, while raising money for the Rethink Breast Cancer charity.

Here’s how it works: on Saturday, October 1st, 2011, participants will apparently gather for a “Pit Start & Clean Shaven Day”, wherein they will “shave their underarms clean of any and all hair.” For the next four weeks, all participants will grow out their armpit hair “for the world to behold”. Progress will be celebrated (and photo-documented) at “weekly pit stops” at an Ottawa bar. The rules are pretty simple: “no shaving, trimming, shaping, bleaching allowed. We’re aiming for Sarah Silverman growth here.” The month-long growing frenzy will culminate in a “Red Carpit Bash” where in women will win awards for their efforts (both in raising funds and in growing hair).

Now, if you’re thinking “hmmmm… female body hair being connected with cancer fundraising,” then you aren’t alone. For those of you who have been reading along, you’ll know that I was fairly critical about the ‘Julyna’ campaign that was staged in Toronto in July (the goal of which was for women to groom their pubic hair into a shape and keep it that way for the entire month, while soliciting donations to support cervical cancer research. You can read more about what I think about it here).

The organizers have argued, on their site that since the armpit area can serve as a place for early detection of breast cancer, it makes sense to draw attention to it with a campaign. As the site suggests, “unshaven mavens will be a diverse group of women who all share at least two things in common — a desire to make a difference and the ability to not take themselves too seriously.”

The organizers appear to be operating with a much smaller scope. In an article on the Apt 613 blog last week, the organizers admitted they only had 11 people registered — a far cry from the numbers the Julyna gals were able to pull in. But of course, growing out your underarm hair, while daring in these hairless times, is still nowhere near as titillating (or as controversial) as etching your pubes in a cute shape.

I like the fact that this campaign is actually public — unlike Julyna, where you kept your fundraising efforts in your pants — and would cause quite a stir if young women everywhere began embracing armpit hair. I also like the fact that overall, the endeavour is not ickily tied to female sexuality in the way that Julyna is.

I look forward to hearing what you think (and to hearing how the campaign goes). Just another gimmick? A viable female alternative to Movember? Let me know…

 

 

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A reader, Chy, recently sent me a link to her blog, Without Borders. On Friday, August 5, she wrote a lengthy, eloquent post about her decision not to remove her leg or facial hair. The entry, which is accompanied by photographs, is courageous — and I hate that I’m saying that.

Because Chy isn’t doing anything that we might normally think of as courageous: risking her life to save another’s, walking a tightrope across a vast space, speaking up when nobody else is. She’s just letting her hair grow. That should be a normal act, not a courageous one.

But in a culture where female hairlessness is normal, photographing your legs au natural takes a good deal of bravery, indeed. In not only pointing out, but then choosing not to remove the hair on her face, Chy takes it one step further. She dares people to comment, defiantly asking questions about what it means to be perform gender.

After all, in North American culture, body hair has come to be viewed as one of the easy-to-read distinguishing characteristics between men and women. Men have body hair, while women (regardless of how biology may throw that assumption into question) are smooth and hairless. Right?

In their essay “Gender and Body Hair: Constructing the Feminine Woman,” scholars Merran Toerien and Sue Wilkinson consider the effort required in “producing an acceptably feminine appearance,” in contemporary North American culture, pointing out that the “process of conforming is made more complex by the assumption that femininity should appear ‘natural’. The result: a cycle of effort to maintain the illusion that femininity is effortless,” requiring that women make both the “effort to be hairless and make the state of hairlessness appear ‘natural’.

That’s how we’re all kept busy, hiding any evidence of hair growth, embarrassed by our underarm stubble, keeping our shorts on at the beach if we’ve been neglecting our bikini lines. The message: keep it under control, ladies, or keep it covered.

In choosing to hold on to her body hair, Chy defiantly reminds the world that this, in fact, is what women look like if they choose not to spend time waxing and plucking and otherwise asking the body to conform to a societal norm. As she writes:

I am most proud of my decision and what I look like when I am in the presence of children.  Every child or young adult who sees me and notices my body hair has evidence in their lives that women are not all hairless (which I believed when I was little and had me feel alone). The more I love my body as it is, the more I can hope to rupture the assumed agreed upon limits of beauty.

There was a time, of course, when it seemed more acceptable to bear your hair (like, say, during feminism’s long-departed second wave). Lately, as I’ve been exploring in this blog, every last inch of hair (whether it’s in your pants or on show below your knees) seems to need banishing — and more disturbingly, many young women seem oblivious to the fact that hanging on to it is an option at all.

The more we are exposed to alternative ways of being in the world (including hairy ways of being in the world), the more we’ll be able to see that there are lots of different options when it comes to being attractive.

For now, the newest generation of trailblazers should be commended for their courage…

 

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The internet never ceases to amaze me.

Here, for your amusement/interest is an online discussion about pubic hair. It’s called “Your Opinion on Pubic Hair” and it includes the voices of people pro and anti-hair on both men and women.

Some of the highlights include

No hair on a girl whatsoever!!! I dont allow it! I wouldnt hesitate to get a can of deodorant and a lighter to flame off a hairy gash! Urgh! I dont want a welcome mat laid out for me!!!!

and

I personally like pubic hair. I prefer it, as it helps the wetness of a girl to be spread a bit better so when I go down, it’s not like “look at all of these clumps of my white stuff.” Not to mention, having hair down there actually helps to keep out bacteria from entering your vagina ime. Moreover, whenever I’ve shaved or trimmed thin, I feel wet… all… the… time. Your clit rubs on your pants, making it very uncomfortable in public. I have hair and prefer hair. Looks more natural that way.

I’m always just a little amazed that people take the time to post their opinions on these kinds of forums.. but then, I guess I do write a WHOLE BLOG on the topic. There’s certainly lots to consider here.

 

 

 

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