How is everyone holding up in these Quarantine Streets and COVID Times? As well as we all can, I expect. I live in South Africa where our 21-Day nationwide lockdown, which began on March 26th, has been extended an additional 14 days. It’s for the good of the country and we are all (mostly) doing our part to comply, but damn it if I can’t wait to go outside.
I’ve had fantasies about it.
Naturally, the uppermost question that is in many people’s minds is, “What’s the first thing you’re going to do when lockdown ends?” The answers have been myriad. A cursory glance in the mirror tells me what my first orders of business will be: My nails need filling, eyebrows re-fleeking, locs re-tightening and…oh. Yeah. Maybe I can sort out the bush I’ve let grow free?
I’ve never had a Brazilian wax before. Too afraid of the pain. But in this age of The Rona, I think that it’s important to seize opportunities to embark on adventures that I’ve been too fearful to undertake – and those include taking out my pubic follicles by the root.
Since I have nothing but time at my disposal, I began to investigate what the Brazilian wax process involves, beyond the tropes of women photographed/recorded from the neck up, their faces contoured in pain. The digital rabbit hole I took a nosedive into led me to a place I did not expect to end up; querying WHY I felt the need to wax my pubes at all? I sat with the question a while, and here’s the conclusion I came to.
At the end of last year, I began doing aqua workouts at my local gym. I love to swim and I like that the pool is a judgment-free environment. The locker room is a different environment altogether, however. I’ve sat in steam room conversations where the ladies speak wistfully of the appearance of our fitter counterparts, careful never to speak (disparagingly or not) of those of us who carry a little/lot more weight. And in those environments, it’s impossible not to encounter a naked body or 15 at a time. What I noticed is that the nude bodies I was seeing every day were white – primarily – and hairless. Legs, pits, pubes…BARE. Add to that, every time I’ve gone online to shop for swimming gear, none of the models have sported curly hair spidering from their crotches similar to mine. Over the course of the last 6 months I’ve been subliminally conditioned to accept that merely taking an electric shaver to my thigh triangle wasn’t going to be enough, and I resolved to set regular appointments to subject myself to medieval torture because reasons rooted in shame!
But why have shame about something that grows naturally out of your body at all? As a Black woman, my relationship with hair is a complex one – should it follow that my relationship with pubic hair ought to be subject to the same scrutiny? As it turns out, yes; absolutely. The rabbit hole eventually led me to a CNN article that explores why women feel pressured to shave. As it turns out, hairlessness as a mandate for women wasn’t established until early in the 20th, and people of both genders removed hair regularly, the benefits believed to bolster hygiene. The article later reveals that we have Charles Darwin (yes, the eugenicist), to thank for popularizing the hairless movement. His theory of natural selection associated body hair with “primitive ancestry and an atavistic return to earlier, ‘less developed’ forms.” These implications were largely tied to women’s hair, advancing the notion that her worth and worthiness were tied to how little of it she bore. Classism and science are strange and well-acquainted bedfellows, with leg, armpit and vaginal shaving becoming a upper/middle class obsession and pursuit. And so a war on body hair was waged and has been raging ever since.
As these ideas trickle down and methods for hair removal become more accessible to the masses, so has the shame associated come along with it. It is not uncommon to hear a woman derided as dirty/bush (unsophisticated)/illiterate for her choice not – or inability to – trim her delicate bits.
Having discovered this information, a part of me wants to toss the whole pursuit of vaginal waxing out of the window. Why would I want to surrender to Darwinist decrees? A proud African woman like me? “Decolonize my pussy!” I say. But then there’s the other part of me that is still very curious about the results of a trip to the spa.
Either way, I have plenty of time to think about it. Lockdown isn’t ending any time soon.
What personal grooming habits have you missed/neglected in this Pandemic Period? What’s the first thing you’re going to do when they let us out of our houses?