I have a very privileged life, which means I get to spend a lot of my time thinking about things which aren’t very important. While I could concern myself with how best to sort out the global hunger crisis, or trying to determine if the rise of UKIP will have any significant impact on mainstream UK politics, I instead find myself contemplating rather less weighty topics.
It seems that part of the rite of passage of self-identifying as a feminist involves a period of time where the Baby Feminist forsakes all razors. “These are tools of systematic male oppression!” they cry, and hide the razors in the back of their cupboards — but don’t throw them out. “The shaving of hair is part of the patriarchy!” they holler, and swear off ever cutting their precious leg forests again. Outgrowths of dark curls sprout in their armpits, and their bikini lines go fantastically untended.
And then — after a while, be it days or weeks or months — these Baby Feminists will find themselves returning to the safety of their razors and waxing strips, and suddenly their bodies will once again be lithe and hairless and socially acceptable. Maybe they will vacillate between the two extremes of hairy and hairless, or maybe they will settle on one side or the other.
I will vacillate.
My relationship to body hair isn’t so much driven by feelings of self-loathing or a craving for social acceptance; it’s more reliant on my individual whims. Through the winter months, I make a point of cultivating body hair. I consider it an extra layer of warmth and insulation against the sudden sub-zero winter winds of Britain’s temperate climate. My legs and armpits retain that little bit more warmth, and I tend to wear jeans and long pyjamas, things which hide the new growths. You’d never know, to look at me — I have the same face as I wear the rest of the year round; I haven’t suddenly sprouted a beard or moustache — though that would be pretty cool — but under my clothes, I am naked. Naked, and hairy.
The exception to this rule is occasions when my body is on show. In the summer, my legs get shaved maybe once a fortnight — more if it’s warm enough to necessitate wearing shorts every day — and my armpits probably every week. I don’t consider dark stubble an enemy. Rather, it’s an old friend, an irritating in-between stage which then gives way to the soft curls of body fuzz I’ve come to rather appreciate. (Currently, as it’s still winter, my ‘pits are only shaved if I know I’ll be wearing a sleeveless shirt — something which came back to bite me in the butt recently when, on a first date, I realised midway through that I was wearing a strappy dress, and hadn’t shaved my armpits. Cue awkwardly refusing to raise my arms for the rest of the night.)
However, this week, I found myself in the bathroom with some time to kill before dinner, and I wondered — what would it be like to be shaved all over? According to porn, muffs don’t exist: all women are pre-pubescently shorn, an unbroken expanse of soft flesh running from their belly-buttons down to the Holy Grail of their vulvas. This, of course, is bullshit. But we as a society seem to have accepted this baldness as the norm. PETA use it in their adverts to advocate boycotting fur; razors are sold in putridly girly shades of pink and purple to be used specifically for “feminine hygiene”; girls as young as 11 have been reported going to beauty salons for a Brazillian wax. Personally, I could never go to a salon — the contents of my knickers are between me, the people I sleep with, and medical professionals; beauticians aren’t included. Sorry to disappoint.
So, for whatever reason, I decided to shave my bush. My rationale went something as follows: a) Why not? It’s perfectly possible. b) It’s something I haven’t done before. c) Next time I get my period, it’ll be nice not to get menstrual blood caught up in my pubic hair. (It can’t be just me that has this problem, right?) And thus, my usually neatly-trimmed fanny warmer was no more. Gone. In its place was skin I hadn’t seen since I was about nine: pale, sensitive, with an almost waxy quality to it.
I didn’t particularly like it. And I couldn’t imagine particularly liking it on another girl, either. There appear to be no health benefits to a shaved minge, other than it makes things easier to see from a medical perspective, the same way the head is shaved before brain surgery. But the idea of eating a girl out, to be confronted by such a conspicuous absence of hair? I’d prefer my mouth to come into contact with some nicely-trimmed tangle than with the slippery skin I’m currently experiencing.
I am also painfully aware, a few days later, of the stubble growing back. And unlike the almost downy fuzz which spreads over my calves, this stubble is coarse and spiky. I’m not a fan of it, nor of the small dark polka-dots which are now spreading over the region, making it look like I’ve contracted an artistically-inclined STI.
I will be glad when the hair returns in its entirity, a soft silky hide I can run my fingers through and condition in the bath. But I’ll also continue to shave my legs and armpits when need be — more out of a nagging sense of obligation than of genuine desire to. Maybe in order to fuck up the system, I ought to wander round proudly hirstute — and I have a whole-hearted respect and admiration for people who do — but I already work outside the system in so many other ways. I don’t grow body hair to prove a point, either; it’s more just arbitrary laziness. The Baby Feminists can carry on with creating long flowing thigh-tresses; I’ll happily get rid of them if I’ve got to wear a skirt. Does this make me a bad feminist? Spoiler alert: the answer is no.
However, I have decided to keep my pubes from now on. We have pubic hair for a reason, and there doesn’t seem any convincing arguments to get rid of it. I’m not sure it’s a feminist issue, particularly; it’s a case of You Do You. If your significant other is pressuring you to remove hair when you yourself want to keep it, that’s another story — but while it’s a free choice, there is no wrong answer. And if I’m ever confronted by a bed partner who doesn’t like my downstairs hairstyle choices… they can suck it.