Case in point: remember that scene from the first Sex and the City movie when Samantha shames Miranda for having bikini line hair growth sticking out from her swimsuit? That’s the kind of judgement heaped on women if we deviate from what’s expected from us.
It’s a heatwave and you’re off to the beach. Sun cream? Check. A good book? Got it. Very little body hair? Hmm, probably. Sound familiar? That’s because most women wouldn’t dream of leaving their body hair intact.
Society’s policing of female body hair is so strong that most women don’t question it anymore. Shaving, waxing, lasering and plucking hair from our legs and armpits to bikini lines and bum holes has become an accepted – and expensive – part of our beauty routine.
And, honestly, I’m fed up! Why in 2018 do we have such a narrow view of beauty for women? Why is it okay for men to rock up with body hair in its natural state OR with a back, sack and crack wax and no one really bats an eyelid? Whereas if a woman has armpit hair or untouched pubic hair, it’s commented upon or viewed as some kind of statement. Why do men have a choice but women don’t?
On the issue of pube grooming, consultant ob-gyn, Dr Shazia Malik, says she has noticed a ‘definite shift’ in behaviour. “I would say a lot more women, and especially younger women, are now doing a Hollywood – removing all their pubic hair,” she says.
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This is despite the benefits of pubic hair, such as being a sign of sexual maturity, protecting genitals, helping to keep bacterial infections at bay and, apparently, also trapping pheromones to aid sexual attraction.
Dr Malik says there are no downsides to having pubic hair (it’s natural, after all), but you should keep the area clean with warm water.
Meanwhile, ripping out pubes carries lots of risks with it, including infections, ingrown hairs and burns from waxing or laser treatment. Dr Malik adds: “I had a mum bring her 18-year-old daughter in recently. She had really unpleasant laser burns around her vulva.”
I’ve always had a rocky relationship with hair removal. At 14, I accidentally cut myself on a razor while attempting to shave after being made fun of at school for having hair sprouting from my legs.
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Over the years, I’ve had some awful professional bikini line waxes where I’ve come away red raw, bruised and, in some cases, bleeding. In between these experiences, I’ve hacked away at my bikini line or used (disgustingly smelling) hair removal cream, only to find an itchy rash a few hours later.
I’ve even cancelled trips to the pool or beach because I haven’t had time to get rid of hair or I’ve felt ashamed of the tell-tale hair removal rash. And why? To try and fit the acceptable mould of female beauty that Western society dictates through its depiction of women.