On Baring It All

Ever since we gave Brooke her Brazilian, I’ve been thinking about possible pro-woman interpretations of this practice. I know it’s a common feminist response to view take-it-all-off waxing as a form of genital mutilation that Western women partake in only because we’ve been brainwashed to think we like it or because our self-worth is all tied up in being attractive to men.

But I also wondering if maybe this doesn’t give women who love waxing enough credit for knowing their own minds. Which doesn’t feel like a particularly feminist place to be. Some women I’ve talked to just love how it feels (“clean” and “smooth” are the words I’m hearing most). They love the reactions they get from their partners. According to that New York Post article, a lot of women also love bonding with their waxer. A monthly maintenance appointment becomes an opportunity to catch up with a good friend. (Who you pay. To rip out your pubic hair. She editorialized.)

But tonight we do another Brazilian and start talking about how the popularity of the hairless look seems to have originated with strippers and porn stars. And we have this exchange:

“I could never be a stripper,” says Beauty U Teacher #1. “They don’t have any self-respect.”

“I can’t even do a strip-tease for my fiance,” says Beauty U Teacher #2. “I’m like, lights off, please!”

“Absolutely!” agrees Beauty U Teacher #1. “I hate being naked with the lights on. There’s no need for that.”

I’m taking even the fake names out of this exchange, because it’s obviously so very personal. But I will tell you that both women are bikini waxing devotees. One even does her own Brazilians, which has to be the dictionary definition of “nerves of steel.”

I’m not saying that two women simultaneously claiming to love removing their body hair and yet hate being seen naked is a statistically significant finding. I’m sure there are loads of women who wax it all off and revel in the loveliness of their naked forms. (Are there? Are you one of them? If so, please weigh in!) But it’s a troubling correlation because it does underscore a theme I’m encountering over and over in my travels, here: That you can go to every possible length to meet the beauty industry’s standard of perfection — and still not like what you see in the mirror.

Then Beauty U Teacher #1 reaches in to remove the final strip on our Brazilian recipient, who is pulling her knee in to her chest to expose what we often refer to as “the back garden.” Teacher #1 yanks off the strip, taking every last speck of hair off this woman’s vagina and anus, then pats on the tea tree oil, almost reverently.

“You look gorgeous,” she says. “So beautiful.”

PS. You might notice that I’m skimping on photos at the moment. This is because it’s extremely difficult to find photos that illustrate a post about Brazilian waxing and don’t perpetuate a harmful beauty stereotype at the same time. It’s also because I do get the occasional extremely disturbing hater on this blog — and I don’t feel good about running a photo of a woman that enables these people can objectify her. (It’s a big interweb and there are plenty of other websites that cater to them.) If you have ideas for images/resources for images that would work for posts like these, I’m all ears!

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6 Comments

Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Beauty U, In Class, Waxing, week 25

6 responses to “On Baring It All

  1. Pingback: Is There Hair Down There? In Today’s News about Vulvas | Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

  2. Melissa

    What percentage of American women removed all their pubic hair before, oh, 1998 or so? Whatever that (probably small) number is, I doubt it’s changed much. Sure, some small percentage of women would still want the full Brazillian even if it wasn’t such a huge part of the culture, but most wouldn’t. Here’s a hint: anyone who says that they like it because they feel “clean” is responding to the cultural idea that there’s something dirty about female genitals/pubic hair. (There’s not). And those responses from male partners, those are probably almost 100% culturally conditioned too. Grrr. I’ll stop ranting now.
    (And, full disclosure, this is coming from a person who gets regular Brazillian waxes. Because I’m a sheep or something. Because I’m subject to all the same cultural influences as everybody else. And because it’s just one of the compromises I make to the patriarchy, especially considering that the alternative is…well…never having sex. Which doesn’t like too much fun either.)

  3. rowan

    i’m almost more disturbed by the negative talk about strippers by your beauty professors than anything else, but i suppose that’s neither here nor there at the moment.

    i think these women know their own minds as much as they have been conditioned to. the best example i can think of is myself, in that my partner likes my body hair. i don’t shave my armpits, and i certainly don’t get waxed, but i do shave my legs. i like how it looks and feels, but probably wouldn’t have known that or thought that if i hadn’t shaved my legs all through high school because a bunch of ads told me it was better that way. i am choosing it because i prefer it, and i certainly am not afraid of body hair, but how much of a choice was it to begin with?
    even if you’re aware of patriarchy, you’re still a subject of it’s long standing history. it’s impossible to avoid.

  4. I use to get waxed for me. Always for me. In fact, I didn’t start waxing until after a break-up and while I was single. It wasn’t because I “might’ meet a guy or anything like that. I wanted to see what it was all about and liked the end result.

    Well, I liked it for all of three days…once the swelling went down and before the stubble.

    But I liked the feel of being hair-free most of all. Had nothing to do with cleanliness or beauty, just the feel – for me.

    And then I decided the pain wasn’t worth it and went in for lazer hair removal so I could stop with the nonsense of having to go back for constant waxings and pain.

  5. Pingback: [Cross-Post] Porn Stars are a Scary Kind of Sexy « Beauty Schooled

  6. lff

    I know this is sort of an older post, but I’ve got just a little comment.

    In certain Eastern cultures (especially in Middle East; Egypt, Iran & so forth) shaving everything has been a tradition for a long, long time – that’s where sugaring originated from, for example. Now the whole idea is and was sexist, even more so back then, it definately wasn’t optional. But as all forms of oppresion tend to do, it created bonds between those having to endure it. It was a practice a family’s women would do to each other while spending time in sauna and treating themselves with relaxing mud and clay masks. Younger girls would wax their older sisters, mothers, aunts… Mothers would teach their daughters to wax. And thusly giving brazilian waxes, as amazing and weird as it sounds, did evolve to become a way for girls to become aware of female genitalia and all the changes that come with ageing, childbirth and other variations. I doubt an average modern american has that opportunity!

    This of course doesn’t imply it’s a good practise or anything, just wanted to share this story with you, since this is something I heard from an Iranian woman.

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