You’re probably expecting this post to be about domestic duties right? While the split between unpaid, domestic duties between men and women is still incredibly uneven (Sorry ladies! It’s a topic for another post), this post is about a different type of vacuum.
MamaMia posted a piece about pubic hair at the end of 2016 and while yes, we can all agree that many of the articles that appear on Mia Freedman’s media conglomerate are superbly problematic, this one made a really important point: that while you can remove your pubic or other body hair if you like, you must understand that you are not making these choices in a vacuum. In other words, there are outside influences at play and that is the kind of vacuum we’re here to talk about today.
(Just quickly, this article made some questionable comments about porn which I don’t feel qualified to comment on, if you want to be that person, please email our editor!)
The article was posted on MamaMia’s social media accounts and received a slew of comments about how feminism is about choice and how dare MamaMia question a woman’s choice to remove her pubic hair! There were also a lot of comments claiming hair removal down there is cleaner… ummmm that is definitely NOT the case at all. Your pubic hair is designed to trap particles and dust from entering and possibly upsetting the vagina – so while it’s fine to remove it, just make sure you understand the risks.
Anyways, this so-called ‘choice’ women make in removing their pubic hair (or any other body hair) is not made in a vacuum and while I believe the article got this point across quite clearly, it seems that the MamaMia readers missed the point entirely (or probably didn’t read the article at all, in which case are they still MamaMia readers or just the kind of people to jump to conclusions?)
That spurred me: why are women so desperate to insist that their choices are made independently and that in itself is feminist enough? Why can’t they make these decisions while still acknowledging that the reason they make them is due to pressure from the patriarchy? Because the issue is not about choice, it’s about what informs that choice and that right there underlies part of why we discuss things like body hair removal and surname changing, make up and other seemingly ‘small fry’ issues that do not tackle the big feminist issues. Because if something is really a choice, then why are women doing it in droves and judging those who don’t do it?
Here’s a great example that happened just a few weeks back: my female colleagues found out I don’t shave my legs (I work in a kitchen so wear long pants at work hence why they hadn’t noticed it earliy) and they me that my choice to not shave my legs is ‘bad grooming’ and ‘dirty’ but then couldn’t give me a good response when I asked if their husbands then shaved their legs because of ‘good grooming’ and ‘cleanliness’.
Caitlin Moran, a well-known British feminist, wrote in her book How to be a Woman, “You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with … ‘some total f***ing bull***t’.”
Honestly I leave my leg hair well alone because I’m lazy and cheap and I don’t see why men should be allowed to enjoy my smooth legs if I don’t get to enjoy theirs right back. You’d be surprised how many women get angry at me or tell me I’m disgusting because of it. I can only imagine that this would ramp up off I also had hairy armpits. (I remove my armpit hair because I know for a fact that it’s stinky and gross and not really protecting anything and yes, I believe men should ALSO remove their armpit hair – dudes, trust me, you’d sweat less and be far less stinky!)
Speaking of armpit hair, did you know that it only became fashionable for women to remove their armpit hair in the USA after World War II? Yes, it wasn’t until the late 1940s that armpit hair removal was a thing and in fact, women would go to beauty salons to have it done. Yeah, that’s right ladies, your choice started as a fun trend not that long ago. Is it still a choice?
Ok, let’s get back on track. My decision to shave my armpits obviously is not entirely based on my preference for cleanliness, just like another woman’s decision to change her surname is not just because it’s HER choice. If it was, wouldn’t we see a split half way? Wouldn’t these choices be closer to women being 50/50 split down the middle than an overwhelming majority of women making the ‘choice’? Would there be as big an industry for beauty if women were really making their choices entirely independently? And for godssake why haven’t men embraced skin tone eveners like foundation and powder yet?!
Yes it’s 2017 and yes you live in a country where you are free to make so many choices (while also being limited by so many others), but it’s important to ask yourself why you make the choices you do and if they really are independent choices or if they’re influenced by greater, more powerful things (aka the patriarchy). If, at the end of it all, you still want to remove your pubic hair or change your surname or wear high heels every day, then no one is saying you can’t – feminism is just asking you to remember that the women who choose not to do these things are still as valid as you are and to understand the reasons why you make those choices.
Oh and one last thing, if you’re removing your body hair or something else only women are expect to do and you’re doing it because your boyfriend or husband likes it and not really for you because you couldn’t care one way or another? Best get him to foot the bill.