I’ve come a long way through my British sexually repressive upbringing, but discussing the state of my pubic hair with my Swedish mother-in-law was most strictly out of bounds. Until now.
I wasn’t aware of having invited the conversation either; an innocent comment on the loss of hair on my head following my pregnancy, had started a tirade of feminist indignation. After ten minutes or so, she was still speaking.
“Well.’” She viciously wrenched the hand brake to screech round the mountain corner in her grandchild friendly Volvo, “they should make swimsuits for real women, not airbrushed models.’”
My mother-in-law is fabulous. A gynaecologist by trade and president of the abused women’s shelter in her spare time. She’s in her mid-seventies, yet still quite capable of discussing the ins and outs of thrush over the breakfast table, whilst her husband pokes his fork at suddenly unappetising scrambled eggs.
Respect for women is high on her agenda and she’s one of the best examples of a feminist I know. But she’s obviously not the first one to bring this up. One of my BFFs is a proud hairy woman.
I agree with her on every insult you can throw at hair removal, it’s itchy, high maintenance, painful and can be bloody expensive (and sometimes just bloody). But the first time she mentioned “infantilization”—making women look like little girls—I was taken aback. She said:
“Men can’t cope with women and their reality. Some of us bleed, we have hair. Deal with it.”
What is so bad about having a haircut? We did it for the hair on our heads so why not hair on our bodies?
Was every man really secretly yearning for a little girl?
I have pursued the conventional path of trying out many different hairstyles, the zigzag, the strip, the heart and the balding chicken (aka. the Brazilian). Even to the point of discussing pubic grooming etiquette before going to hospital in the UK to give birth to my daughter (I’ll tell you now: no-one gives a damn about your pubes when there’s every other type of fluid and shit imaginable splashing around the bed).
As our society continues to push cis women towards tighter buns, perfect labia, and botoxed skin, every part of our body has come under ‘perfection’ scrutiny, including the bush.
Same old, same old.
It’s our responsibility to consciously choose what trends and fashions we follow, to make active choices about our world.
I’m a fan of being deliberate. Conscious. And yet whilst it is important to take a stand on the principle of infantilizing women, I really didn’t want to have to grow my pubic hair to actively take a stand.
For me, it seemed ridiculous. That was, until I had children. And then I realized: as my daughter grows up she’ll have nothing but non-hairy, labia-less cis women to look at.
We are blessed here in Sweden with a culture where anarchy is barely anarchistic due to the firm belief in liberal parenting—
“Are you going through your slut phase dear? That’s nice. Here’s some condoms, but Mummy’s a gynaecologist if you ever need an abortion.”
But my daughter still has no frame of reference for pubic hair or adult labia. And almost more importantly, neither will my son, who will ‘expect’ cisgender women to be non-hairy (and labia-less) if I don’t show them otherwise. I want my children to know what gracefully tangled mounds of sprouting pubes look like before they are influenced by the mainstream media (and despite my best efforts, bloody Barbie).
I want them to know that it is a personal choice. In practice as well as in theory. And if not from me? From whom?
In a few years we’ll be covering up through the natural progression of prudery, and the society construct of shame. So it’s now or never. I’m going hairy out of principle. So my daughter won’t have to be ashamed of her adult body. So my son won’t shame women into changing theirs. So that they know there is a choice.
And I’m also going out to spend as much as I can afford on new non-string like lingerie.