The Battle of the Bikini Line
By Suzanne Reisman on June 01, 2009
BlogHer Original Post
We're less than three weeks away from the official start of dreaded bathing suit season - er, I mean, summer - which means it is that time of the year that the front in the war against body hair moves a bit higher up on the leg to the Bikini Line. The Bikini Line is not unlike the Maginot Line in that the enemy is going to find a way around it, and new tools of defense are constantly being introduced for those who refuse to surrender and just buy board shorts.
Of course, many women are engaged in a fight at the Bikini Line year-round. For example, Christina at explained how she prepares for her yearly gynecological exam:
The night before I always engage in the shaving ritual. It's the underarms, legs, thighs, areas of the thighs that are normally unattainable, tiny little hairs on the toes, any random hairs that seem to have sprouted on my post-baby pooch belly, and the bikini area, of course. It's quite an undertaking. Just on the off chance he'll look anywhere other than my vajayjay I want it to be smooth. Plus, I refuse to be that girl with the wild and untamed bush that couldn't take 10 minutes and hack up the underbrush before flashing the doctor her goodies! It doesn't take a bush hog, people!
Incidentally, I am that girl with "the wild and untamed bush," and I'm fairly certain that my doctors didn't make fun of me later, nor did they appear to find me repulsive in any way. Harumph. I used to get really, really incensed at the idea that the worst thing a woman could do is go without trimming (or removing) her pubic hair, but now I take deep breaths and think about how much I can get done in the supposed ten minutes that it would take me to "hack up" anything near my cooter. If it was really that easy or good for me, there probably wouldn't be a need for all the blog posts about how to avoid or fix rashes and razor burns, like the article written by Veronica Yanco on Twirlit. But whatever: no judgments is my new motto.
In ye olden days, it also drove me nuts how razor companies targeted women in advertising designed to make us hate our natural bodies. A prime example of this is the "hilarious" Wilkinson Sword's (aka Schick in the US) "Mow the Lawn" ad. In this fine piece of comedy, forwarded to me by my friend Flo, a woman is depicted petting her kitty, while a song about how she cheers herself up by "mowing the lawn" unfolds. Then we are outside with three ethnically diverse women running around in short skirts with pink lawnmowers, hedge clippers (oddly, not pink) and scissors. The African-American woman is particularly excitable, waving a pair of hedge clippers around her lovely, large head of hair while smiling and condemning bushes. (No, I am not making this up. I only report what I see. I wish I could make shit like this up, trust me.) We then see our fearless ladies standing behind triangle-, vertical rectangle-, and heart-shaped topiaries at crotch level. This all takes place in the first 24 seconds of the minute, eight second ad. Wow! It is for the Quattro Bikini Razor, I learned at the end, just before my eyes figuratively started bleeding and I mentally ran out of the room screaming. (Sabine at Confabulous somehow maintained the presence of mind to watch the UK and Us versions of the ads, embed them on her blog, and analyze the differences.)
Back to my point, though. For years I was bitter at razor company executives because they didn't attempt to double their market by creating a need for men to shave their bushes. I pictured a cabal of old white men plotting around a mahogany board room table, cackling at the profits they denied shareholders by refusing to make men into neurotic groomers. "Ah, women are such suckers! Why anyone would put a sharp metal blade near his or her private parts is beyond me," the one with a giant white beard sneered.
But, this too shall pass. My friend Mara sent me a link to a Gillette video on YouTube. In How to Shave Your Groin, the narrator explains that there are many advantages to shaving one's pubes. "You might say when there's no underbrush, a tree looks taller," the cheerfully informative narrator explains. Men are also advised to "think about the unique topographical features under your hood" before you "go ahead. Be adventurous and have some fun." (There are also videos on how to shave one's back, chest, and armpits. Armpits! Can you believe that? Where is this world heading when men are encouraged to shave their pits?!?! Next thing you know, there will be a blog called My Pubic Hair that includes suggestions for men...)
The nice part about this ad is that it plays on men's size insecurities rather than implying that their genitals smell bad or are gross in their natural form. It is, like, so cool how gender marketing really zones in on stereotypes and fears to sell us things that we really don't need, isn't it?
The debate about male pubic hair shaving rages on over at Tres Sugar. Comments range from, "If they expect us to groom, they should return the favor," to "Call me crazy, but I like it natural." As for female pubic hair removal, Jill at Feministe reports that New Jersey considered banning Brazilian waxes entirely, which she found to be extreme:
But banning a bare beaver? There are surely problematic aspects to waxing — including the usual feminist and gender issues, which we’ve all spent more than enough time navel-gazing (vulva-gazing?) about — but are Brazilians really so physically and socially problematic that we need to ban them? ...Seems to me that, regardless of the pubic hair trend du jour or my own feminist views on waxing,* health departments should be regulating public health and safety, not pube design. Certainly the great state of New Jersey could find something better to do with its bureaucratic spare time.
In my little conspiracy theory-riddled mind, I am convinced that New Jersey only considered this now that the men folk are engaging in such practices, but that's just my paranoia. How will anyone survive on the Jersey shore this summer without this critical hair removal option? I only hope that it is broached on The Real Housewives of New Jersey!
At any rate, whatever genitals you possess and how you decide to deal with the hair that surrounds them, have a great summer. I know that if I wind up in some situation that requires me to don a bathing suit, I will be wearing my board shorts with pride.
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