Apparently this is the Year of the Bush, or something, which is interminably awful as it means the media will be mostly debating bush, from such nuanced viewpoints as “muff is great” and bizarre advertorials for laser hair removal with bonus fat-shaming and comparing pubic hair to the Gaza Strip. There is an awkward word looming over much of this debate, and it is a word which ought to immediately be purged from any discussion of anything anyone does to their bodies: “should”.
Ideally, we should be free to do what we want with our carpetry. Both the dangers of hair removal and the uncleanliness of keeping hair have been massively overstated: from a pubic health perspective, whatever you do with it is probably relatively benign. Paying money to make modifications to your body is hardly a manifestation of evil: hell, it’s cool that we live in a world where we can use tools–or even lasers–to change what nature gave us. I had my eyes fixed with a laser and it was awesome. Spending time to make modifications to what God gave you isn’t bad, either. There is nothing inherently gross about any quantity of hair: Renaissance smoothness is just as hot as an Age of Aquarius full bush if the person rocking it feels sexy as all fuck.
Pubic hair should be nobody’s business but the individual who is holding it in their pants. It shouldn’t be political or a subject of hot debate. It should just be a thing, like haircuts.
Except it isn’t. (And neither, actually are haircuts, which come with a whole mess of political implications themselves)
Pubes are politicised by millennia of social conditioning, and in recent times patriarchy, white supremacy, cissexism and capitalism hooked up in a ghastly orgy and found themselves a cash cow in selling the motive and the means to remove body hair. It is not a free choice, what we do with our fanny fluff, because we are not making this choice in a vacuum. We’re making these choices amid a blitz of marketing and social pressure and all of this teaches us that there’s One True Way, and that is to nuke the short and curlies.
Last summer, I went swimming for the first time since I grew my bush back. I was terrified. Cascading curls of cunt-fur poked from the sides of my bikini, and I expected it would only be a matter of time until the villagers were out in force with the torches and pitchforks and silver bullets. But it was a hot day and I wanted a swim, and so I swallowed my nerves and quite literally jumped in at the deep end. I started to forget the nerves. I wandered around and I ate an ice cream. And not once did anyone say anything. Not once did I notice a side-eye. Not once did anyone try and bury me at the crossroads. It turns out, people don’t actually make a habit of staring at one another’s crotches in public spaces.
Feeling that fear was the first time I’d really understood the power of the social conditioning. In my own arrogance, I’d thought myself as above it; being a feminist, I was too enlightened to care what people thought about my muff. I wasn’t, and I don’t think any of us are, because we’ve all lived our whole lives under capitalist patriarchy.
I’d grown my muff as an act of rebellion, and started to love it as a little pet. I swelled with pride when I plucked out a pube and measured it, and it was just shy of an inch and a half long. I shampoo it as part of my beauty regime, sometimes adding conditioner on special occasions. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I stroke it absent-mindedly because I like the softness of it. And even loving my rug so much wasn’t enough for me not to feel anxious about wearing a bikini in public, because I had been bombarded with the same messages as everyone else: visible bush is hideous, a punchline at best.
It’s interesting because so much of the pubic hair debate hinges on personal preference, locating individual opinions in their relationship with the ideals we are sold. The conclusions drawn on either side are fairly facile: making peace with it and losing the fuzz because it makes you feel better, or defying it by growing in a veritable furry forest. We need to go further than this individual choice: the problem is structural, and so the structure must be torn down.
And unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot more than the individual choices we make to tear this thing down. There will be no critical mass of pubic hair to generate revolution. The reality is a more tedious slog than that, the bitter resistance of fighting multiple fronts at once. The politicisation of bush is a symptom of this system, not a cause. Just like a Brazilian wax, we need to rip it all out at the roots.