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Pubes on (web) TV

Hello, fair readers!

I know I haven’t exactly been keeping on top of the blog, but thoughts of body hair are never too far from my mind. I hope you’re all thinking critically about the stuff you see depicted out there in the world, and the ways in which you regard your own body and the bodies of others. There’s always lots of good material for discussion flying on ye ol’ internet. When it comes to this blog, however, I sometimes feel like I run out of stuff to say. I don’t really want to get to the point where I’m just posting stuff and going “SEE!?” and then repeating the same rants over and over again. I hope that explains something of my recent online silences. I’m also finding myself busy with work, new extracurricular activites (I’m learning spanish!) and with a recent move to a different city.

BUT: I did want to let you know that I’m taking the pubic hair discussion back into the world later today. I’m going to be making an appearance later this afternoon on HuffPost Live — the live streaming network on The Huffington Post.  I’ll be part of a panel of guests (so far I’ve been told the others will be an esthetician and someone who has had a “bad experience” with waxing) who will be chatting with host Caitlyn Becker via webcam.

Our discussion will be based on a recent Huffington Post article that garnered a whole lot of feedback and discussion called “Waxing on your period & more ‘down there’ grooming questions you were too afraid to ask“.

Apparently our segment starts just after 5:30pm EST. I hope you’ll be able to tune in and maybe throw a question my way!

(oh- and have you heard the good news? Pubic hair is back! An article in the Telegraph told me so!)

 

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hi all –

Just a quick note to say that even though I haven’t been writing much, I’ve been thinking up a storm. I sometimes feel like I don’t have much new material to offer up when it comes to discussing the specifics of pubic hair. I do, however, continue to feel passionately about questions of gender representation and body control, among other things.

That’s why I am particularly thrilled to be able to announce that I will be presenting at the fourth Body-Image and Self-Esteem Conference, which is presented bi-annually by the National Eating Disorder Information Centre. It takes place on May 9-10, 2013 in Toronto.

The conference is billed as a “unique opportunity in Canada to learn more about current research, evidence-based practices and innovative outreach in a multi-disciplinary, action-oriented environment.”

I’ll be giving a 90-minute (gah!) session on body hair, body image and self-esteem with a focus on… you guessed it… my favourite short-n-curlies.

Here’s the whole program!

If you want to come, early-bird registration for the conference ends on Friday, March 22, 2013.

If you’re in T.O, or not too far away, or interested in this kind of thing, please do consider joining us!

 

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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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Wow. Months, people. It’s been MONTHS. I didn’t mean to let months go by without writing, but somehow life just got in the way. A few updates for those of you who need to be brought up to speed: I got the degree last year (the reason I started writing this blog in the first place), which eased the need for frequent posting. Then I went back to working in daily radio which, let me tell you, is a (fun but) relentless (and tiring!) job that didn’t exactly leave me wanting to sit at a computer when I got home from work. I kept promising myself that I’d sit down and write…and then I’d keep not doing it. So I decided to let myself off the hook and stopped writing altogether, even as some of you continued to correspond, sending me amazing personal notes about your own experiences. I slacked. I’m sorry.

Now the universe decided it was time for pubic hair and I to get back together.

Two things happened in the span of a very short period of time.

Firstly, though my blog had essentially been dormant since April, an editor with The Coast alternative newspaper in Halifax wrote me out of the blue and asked me to contribute something about the demise of pubic hair to their annual Back-to-School issue.

(wondering what pubic hair has to do with heading back to school? You can read the whole article here)

The second thing to happen is that I’ve been invited to be a guest speaker at the National Eating Disorder Information Centre‘s 2013 conference. They want me to talk about (surprise, surprise!) body hair, body politics and popular culture.

So: it’s time for me to starting thinking about all this stuff again. And there is, of course, lots of stuff to think about. So again – apologies for not being here when you needed a place to rant. More updates coming soon.

Really.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Never Gets Old

Nope, pubic hair continues to thrive as a topic for debate in online forums everywhere. Today, I will direct your attention to an article on Salon.com called “Is Everyone Manscaping?” which mostly goes on about the same old stuff. This little tidbit did pique my interest, however:

“Last year a study out of the Kinsey Institute found that there is “no one dominant pubic hair style” among women. Young ladies are far more likely to have experimented with different degrees of deforestation but most women have “at least some pubic hair on the genitals.”

Agree?  (The article is mostly about men, however).

And more man-stuff: you can follow one man’s (very detailed) recounting of the experience of getting a Brazilian wax at RVA News. Nathan Cushing tells his story in three parts, the second of which is here:

http://rvanews.com/entertainment/going-south-deep-into-the-danger-zone-part-ii-of-a-brazilian-wax-story/52358

And finally –

If you haven’t read it yet, I would strongly recommend you cast your eyes over this fascinating and disturbing article by Marie Myung-Ok Lee that ran recently in The Guardian. The article explores cosmetic gynaecology – the demand for which (at least according to the article) has “never been higher – taking us behind the scenes at a disturbing little convention where women’s vulvas really do become straight up commodities.

I’d love to hear what you think about anything you’ve read.

 

 

 

 

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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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According to this article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, “the vagina is becoming big business on American TV”. That’s right, people: turns out there is money to be made in yonder genitalia.

Apparently, those of us who grew up with “more graphic language and sexual images in the media” can talk openly about vaginas, rather than skirting around the issue with cute euphemisms (perhaps like generations past?). We are (apparently) also more relaxed about our bodies, so we’re less embarrassed about talking bodily-functions, etc.

But it’s the numbers that are most interesting. According to the article, “ad spending for feminine hygiene products, including tampons, panty liners and cleansers, was up nearly 30 percent to $218.9 million in 2010 from two years ago.”

That’s a lot of money.

I’m fascinated by that increase: what, exactly, has changed? Are we really that much more open about our bodies, or does one or two racy, boundary-pushing ads pave the way for a whole bunch more? (and now it’s been totally normalized. Or have we merely run out of ways to ‘shock’ audiences?).

Interestingly, the article (which explores pubic hair dye and Vajazzling) doesn’t mention the impact that the normalizing of pubic hair removal has had on women (nor the pot loads of money to be had in making them feel insecure about their untended, ‘natural’ bodies).

And at the end of the day, it’s kind of more of the same old thing. The last quote in the article is from Rhonda Zahnen, a principal at The Richards Group (the company responsible for this horrible TV ad), who says predictable things about how excited this is about the fact that people are now “talking about feminine hygiene”. “We just wanted to be sure that the conversation is focused on celebrating and empowering women,” she adds.

(I, personally, feel empowered to hate Zahnen’s ads).

To me it makes perfect sense that the vagina would be having its day: as we all know, the giant money-making machine is always looking for new targets.

The whole vag-spectacle is only empowering, however, if we use the attention for good — choosing to love our lady-bits, rather than feeling ‘empowered’ to subject them to hot wax, labiaplasty, or generalized body-hate.

 

 

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I’ve pondered this question before, of course: what is it that men think when it comes to women’s pubic hair? Because from what I’ve heard after talking to a lot of younger women, many remove their pubic hair because they understand it’s what the men they sleep with like. Of course, generalizing is never hugely productive, but many of my conversations have gone like this:

Female Interview Subject (aged 19): “I think… guys prefer no hair… or at least the majority of my friends who are guys.”

Me: “how do you know that?”

FIS: “You ask them. Or, like, I’d say, ‘I’m going to get my va-jay-jay waxed today, what are you doing?”

Friend of FIS: She’s so open! It’s so easy for her to get information like that!

Me: And what do they say to that?

FIS: They’re like…’oh, cool.’ It’s chill. But if I ask them, they say it’s better without hair.

FoFIS: You have a lot of (girl) friends – do they all get waxed, too?

FIS: yeah, I think they do.

Guys: please write and let me know what your preferences are when it comes to pubic hair. How did you develop these preferences?

I was interested to come upon this article online this morning, when I was vaguely trolling around in search of interesting pubic-fodder for consideration.

Posted a couple of years ago on the website Your Tango: Smart Talk About Love, the article is called Male Perspective: Women, Grow Out Your Pubic Hair. Though the author, John DeVore, doesn’t divulge his age, he does (with humour and eloquence) tell us about his preferences when it comes to women’s intimate bits.

His is a plea for women to re-embrace their natural selves in a world that he fears would sooner have us become a “hairless race of squeaky smooth dolphin people.”

I think his point here is interesting:

“it’s not just the weird underage girl thing; aesthetically, a hairless hoo-ha is kind of antiseptic. It doesn’t look … human. The vagina almost becomes like an object, and that’s just not any fun. Sex is not an à la carte buffet of different body parts, and I know dudes who are obsessed with the physical appearance of the nanny. It’s a strange fetish, since how it feels is more important to me than how it looks.”

It’s a point worth considering, since many would argue that pornography has acclimatized us, culturally, to appreciate the body in turn-on-able pieces chunks (something women have been guilting of doing — reducing our bodies to a collection of parts, mostly flawed — for ages).

Naturally, the comments in response to this article are great — from men defensively defending their right to prefer things hairless (almost as if they hadn’t got the point of DeVore’s article at all), to this right-on comment from a female reader:

I love this guy!!!! 

One thing I can’t understand is a generation of women that is supposed to be so sexually liberated and free would let themselves be pushed into getting rid of pubic hair. It’s part of your sexuality. It’s there to attract attention to your genitals. It protects you. It hurts to get rid of it. There are health risks to your genitals from waxing.

I know there are some women who want to be hairless, but I suspect most are just doing it to look nice for your boyfriends. We’re humans and we’re animals. We have hair.

 

 

 

 

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I’ve been working with a book called ‘The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair’ as part of my research these days. Edited by Karin Lesnik-Oberstein, the book brings together a collection of fascinating articles around women and body hair and general socio-cultural views towards both.

But when I saw the headline ‘The Last Remaining Sexual Taboo’ in Friday’s Globe and Mail, I had to take a look (I mean c’mon, who doesn’t like a good sexual taboo, right?). The article explores female masturbation — specifically the fact that women, especially young ones, just aren’t keeping up as compared with men. The article states a bunch of obvious facts: male anatomy is more… uh…readily accessed and more publicly discussed than the female equivalent. Female masturbation is so often tied to performativity — ie. it’s often done as a turn-on for a partner, but isn’t necessarily embraced as a solo activity.

There are, of course, lots of reasons women should be embracing their own pleasure and their own bodies, most notably because it’s a way of really getting to know your own body and what makes it tick, rather than relying on a partner to figure it out for you.

As one expert is quoted as saying in the article, “young women are not encouraged to take ownership of their bodies or of sexual pleasure.”

And yet, they are expected to keep themselves impeccably groomed, presumably for “themselves”, right?

Anyone else see a problem with this?

Wouldn’t you think that living in an era when women are increasingly keeping their nether regions hairless would mean a lot more self-exploration? I mean really – if you’re going to spend all that time and money keeping everything bare and accessible, shouldn’t you be taking advantage? Otherwise, aren’t you always doing it for someone else?

hrmmmmm.

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