Denuding the Feminine

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
From Heidi Lunabba’s Studio Vilgefortis
Some years ago, when my honey was scheduled to return from a stint in Iraq, a longtime friend suggested that I welcome him home with a Brazilian wax.

“A what?” I asked, and she proceeded to explain the painful process of denuding female genitalia. “What!? Eewww!” was my visceral response.

She insisted, extolling the virtues of hairlessness, which seemed rather minimalist: “Men love it,” she said.

I blurted out something along the lines of, “When men slather their nether regions with hot wax and rip all their pubic hair from the follicles, that’s when I’ll consider waxing to be anything other than a product of misogyny.”

She insisted still, explaining that at least some men did wax their nether regions, that many gays had been waxing for years and straight men were beginning to take it up.

Now, I love this woman, and we’d had each other’s back through many a feminist action, so I typically lent credence to her sage advice, but this tidbit was nonplussing. We’d spent our adult lives challenging all the many things some “men love” that are really shitty for women: men’s devotion to paying women less than they make, their persistent desire to control women’s reproduction, their fondness for dismissing women’s contributions as unworthy of note in news or historical text, their penchant for convincing women they’re inadequate in order to sell more pore-clogging crappola, their impassioned sense of entitlement to women’s bodies that results in harassment and rape and countless other abuses. I wondered if I’d tripped over the rare furrow in my friend's feminist path, but she avowed that she loved it, too. I wondered still, but honored her choice, something we commonly did for each other.

More recently, this topic came up again at an erotic writing workshop I teach with a friend. Most of the women in the group went with the “Eewww” response, one said she partook of Brazilians because the result was sexy, and one of the men challenged any philosophical arguments, opting for the practical: He attributed the preference some males have for clear-cut female genitalia to a distaste for hair stuck in their teeth. This elicited a few blushes, a moment of consideration, and the inevitable nervous laughter, but no resolution. The workshop closed with an unresolved question: I still wondered why women did it — for men, for themselves, or was there indeed a more insidious reason for de-bushing one’s muff?

Just last week, I witnessed another discussion on the topic, on a feminist listserve. The debate was rich with analysis and opinion, vociferous and eloquently nuanced, and I was reminded of my initial, visceral response to down-there depilation: “Eewww!” Albeit inarticulate, I think I’ll stick with it, because I don’t think women come of age believing they’ve just gotta harvest that blossoming crop of pubic hair. I suspect they are taught to dislike it by the media and by others — men and women — who’ve been similarly indoctrinated by the capitalist forces that benefit from such undermining lessons. Promoting the waxing of our crotchal areas in everything from fashion magazines to pornography (hmmm, not as much difference between the two as you might think) is just another way to keep women in a subordinate position — by telling us our pubic hair is a turnoff, by profiting from our insecurities, by infantilizing our genitalia. And I just can’t stop myself from wondering why anyone would prefer that a woman’s boinkal zone appear to be that of a prepubescent girl.

Thankfully, not everyone succumbs to the self-doubt that keeps capitalism churning. When I told my guy of the welcome home he would not receive, he said, “Yeah, that’s not appealing.”

Nice we agree on that, if not the war.