The Sexist

The Problem With Defending The Sacred Choice to Vajazzle

Following my post on vajazzling last week, I received several responses from commenters who were concerned that I was questioning a woman's sacred choice to vajazzle.

While I appreciate commenters' willingness to engage with feminist talking points (you know how we love choice), I'm afraid that responding to the new trend of women applying heat-activated crystals to their pubic mounds by simply concluding, "A woman's choice! A woman's choice!" only functions to preempt discussion about just what women are choosing. In this instance, defending "choice" without question discourages women from making informed choices for their pubic mounds. So let's talk vajazzling.

Listen: Vajazzling is no stranger to the feminist talking point. In last week's post, I floated the following equation:

Sexual Repression + Capitalism + Sexism = Vajazzling

I think it would be appropriate to add "Pseudo-Feminism" to the list of Vajazzling's contributing societal factors. But first, let's tackle the good old fashioned anti-feminism at play here: Capitalism will find a way to exploit any weaknesses in our society, and sexism is one of them. Take Liz Lemon's analysis of Valentine's Day from 30 Rock: "Valentine's Day is a sham created by card companies to reinforce and exploit gender stereotypes." You could say the same thing about the cosmetics industry, plastic surgeons, and Vajazzling technicians.

When it comes to personal appearance, it's no coincidence that femininity is marked by performance, while masculinity is just as often defined by men not performing things. Shaving your body hair is feminine; not shaving is masculine. Plucking, waxing, or bleaching stray facial hairs is feminine; growing a few days of stubble is masculine. Applying makeup is feminine; not painting your face is masculine. Dying, styling, blow-drying, and curling your hair is feminine; keeping a low-maintenance hair cut is masculine.

I suspect that this is because women are encouraged to achieve societal power through their appearance and sexuality, while men are encouraged to achieve power from . . . reaching real positions of power, like running companies and governments. Sure, women who are very successful at performing femininity can gain some real power, too. Maybe there's a two-year window there where women can translate their success in this field into posing for Playboy, or shaking in a music video, or stripping, all of which can translate into money in the bank—until they get a little bit older and fall out of favor in those industries. Maybe some women can aspire to be trophy wives and get their social validation by being married to a successful man. The majority of women won't be able to make a career out of performing femininity. And yet, we're still shaving and waxing and plucking and dieting and padding and inflating and cinching and painting and dyeing and surgically trimming our labia and, now, vajazzling like it's our jobs—even as we have been successful in claiming real power as Senators and CEOs and lawyers and doctors and journalists. In these fields, the performance of traditional femininity can either help us or hurt us—either way, the focus is back on the way we look instead of our qualifications. The societal investment is the appearance of women is still going strong.

Why is that? Well, for one thing, capitalism hates to lose a consumer. And at some point, it figured out that this feminism stuff that was helping to put women into positions of power could also be used as a tool to sell things (girl power scholars place the exact date ar0und 1994). The interesting thing is that feminist ideals like choice and personal empowerment are now being used to sell the exact same things that sexism was shilling—like corporate-made supergroups of scantily-clad women with inconsistent musical talents; vice-presidential candidates with anti-woman policies; and expensive and elaborate personal grooming procedures like Vajazzling.

So when Jennifer Love Hewitt appears on television to shill for Vajazzling, she doesn't say, "Ladies, Vajazzling is great because the guys love an uber-feminine, totally infantilized vagina." That would be too obvious. Instead, she insists that women Vajazzle for themselves. "After a breakup, a friend of mine Swarovski-crystalled my precious lady . . . and it shined like a disco ball," she announced. "For the ladies: I was feeling awful, I had been through a horrible breakup. And I was like, oh, this is just awful, and I need something to make myself feel better. And it was the one thing I hadn't tried after a breakup, so I gave it a try. And it's great!"

I don't doubt that Hewitt truly loves having her vagina Vajazzled just as much as she loves promoting a friend's Vajazzling business. Many women do find personal fulfillment in obsessing over their appearance They really, truly like to apply lipstick and slip into a pair of high-heels and have doctors cut off parts of their genitalia, because that's what makes them feel sexy. No man is forcing these women to perform these behaviors (although that happens, too). In fact, there's evidence that men are often mystified by these activities. We love it because we live in a society that values us for loving these things.

This is where the "a woman's choice!" defenders come in. How could we possibly deny women the choice to engage in these behaviors, if that's what they love? Look: I don't begrudge women who make the choice to perform the behaviors of femininity. I perform many of them myself, on a daily basis! Resisting engaging in these things is almost impossible. But I don't kid myself into thinking that I just love wearing lipstick because I was born that way, or that I shave my legs because I have somehow independently decided—without any influence from my culture!—that that's the way I personally prefer my legs to look.

It's a sexist world. We just live in it. For women in this world, the choice not to convert our bodies into a tool for the beauty industry to exploit is the one that's seen as odd, different, and weird. For us, the simple choice not to invest the time, money, and concern into shaving our armpits is the one that marks us as somehow less of a real woman. But really, the choice not to shave is the one that requires more energy for women, because we stand to be dismissed as dirty, masculine, man-hating hippies if we abstain. When the "woman's choice!" advocates argue that deciding to Vajazzle or not Vajazzle—for that truly is the question—is just a matter of personal taste, they are putting their fingers in their ears and talking really, really loudly in an attempt to deny the culture in which these choices are made.

For women, the choice is not between a preference for looking "natural" or a preference for looking "groomed." The choice—if you take a look at what is really going on—is between challenging sexist beauty standards and receiving negative attention for leaving the house looking like "a man," or just giving in and shaving our pits because we have more pressing shit to deal with right now than singlehandedly dismantling sexism today—like keeping our jobs. Remember those?

For now, the more extreme performances of femininity, like breast implantation, vaginal "rejuvenation," and Vajazzling aren't considered the norm for women. I'm not going to be met with shock when I remove my pants and reveal to my sex partner that I haven't converted my pubic mound into a shiny disco ball. But these days, it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for him to be shocked that I'm not perfectly waxed. The body hair ship may have sailed, but vaginal modification is at a point right now where we are still in a position to fend off the tide. And my greatest fear is that someday, we will wake to find that our girls are being routinely Vajazzled upon puberty, and realize that we never stood up to say, "This shit is fucking ridiculous."

Photo via Tsar Kasim, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

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  • je di

    I know this is going to sound vain but I think this song is about me(among others) 8O) To clarify my comment on the vajazzling post was not one of concern that you were questioning a woman's right to vajazzle herself. It was in reply to another comment that questioned a women's choice to groom herself. I agree vajazzling is ridiculous (& a misnomer) but I don't think that a woman that decorates her vulva &/or grooms her pubic hair is any less of a feminist for doing so. I understand that your blog was about societal implications & the fear of "what are they going to suggest I do to myself next?" & thought the same exact things when I first heard of it. -j

  • http://kendallmck.wordpress.com/ Baberaham Lincoln

    "The choice—if you take a look at what is really going on—is between challenging sexist beauty standards and receiving negative attention for leaving the house looking like “a man,” or just giving in and shaving our pits because we have more pressing shit to deal with right now than singlehandedly dismantling sexism today—like keeping our jobs."

    Yes yes yes yes yes. As a woman who has never shaved my armpits, I can't tell you how many times I've thought of starting to shave because "it would just be easier," (which is nuts, because, as you pointed out, NOT shaving requires far less physical effort). But yes, it would be nice to be able to ride the subway in the summer without people giving me nasty or inquisitive looks. Sometimes I just don't fucking have the energy to be Hairy Armpit Feminist Warrior Proving a Point lady, but it feels like as long as I have pit hair, that's what I'm going to be. It's exhausting.

    But I still won't shave my armpits, because fuck all y'all, I like my hairy pits. And, at the risk of totally obliterating my feminist credentials, dudes I've been with actually really like it too. (It's all about sleeping with the right men, amirite ladies?!)

    This whole article is full of win. For some reason, beauty standards and pornification and all that can be the toughest feminist issue to debate because women participate in them so (seemingly) voluntarily. Thank you for proving me with some excellent talking points.

  • je di

    Maybe I walk around with blinders on because I've never felt ridiculed for my hairy armpits or legs. I'm sure some people judge me at first glance but I'm the type of person that engages the people around me so I think people get over it pretty fast. When I was a teenager a used to dye my pubic hair w/ Punky Colours & was so proud of my hairy pits. I guess to me it's another form of self-expression. Considering I pick & choose which societal norms I adhere to I really do feel that it's voluntary. But you know I laugh(&cringe) at beliefs I had at 20 & I'm sure I'll do the same when I'm 40 for many of the beliefs I have now; perhaps this will be one of them.

  • jules

    Everyone should read Female Chauvenist Pigs...embracing bizarre-o ideas of beauty and sexuality is exactly what this (I hate to say it) male-dominated society wants. Its not being a Feminist, its being a damn product of society!

    That said, Amanda, I wanted to let you know I did have a really satisfying hook-up this weekend. As we were getting down and dirty the dude pauses for a moment and says (being very serious) "does this count as enthusiastic consent?"

    Small victories!

  • Jess

    This is perfect: "The interesting thing is that feminist ideals like choice and personal empowerment are now being used to sell the exact same things that sexism was shilling—like corporate-made supergroups of scantily-clad women with inconsistent musical talents; vice-presidential candidates with anti-woman policies; and expensive and elaborate personal grooming procedures like Vajazzling." (I can't remember if the WashCP comments form will let me italicize.)

    One of my favorite I Blame the Patriarchy posts: http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2006/08/26/sports-and-corsetry/

  • Marty

    Using the same quote Baberaham Lincoln pulled:

    Your analysis is truly excellent, and all your points are indeed full of win. But let's ask the obvious follow-up question: "knowing that I live in a sexist world and that my desire to fulfill these beauty requirements etc are influenced by the sexist bullcrap I've been consuming my whole life, how can I make better choices?" I think your argument only directly addresses two options, namely "indulge my desires and submit to sexism" or "divest myself from the standards of femininity and masculinity," and this seems like a false dichotomy to me. As someone who strives for reclamation and recontextualization instead of full-on rejection as often as possible I ask: is there no room for subversive femininity?

    Ok, vajazzling is probably beyond redemption (although I would love to see someone get a sparkly woman-power fist glued to their mons), but we have to recognize that the choice isn't just between using masculine/feminine tropes and not using them. We can turn them on their heads, and make them something else. Why, this very day Feministing has a link to a gallery of queered up prom photos. Surely there is no more potent symbol of gender role policing than the high school prom, and yet even that can be used in a subversive act. Pornography is the same way. Every single major label in pornography produces racist, sexist, ableist dreck, but there are plenty of small producers making feminist, queer, HOT porn.

    To make it personal, my partner who I mentioned in a comment on the previous article (with the sexy pit hair that we both love) has been talking about maybe (just maybe) getting a Brazilian bikini wax for the fuck of it, and leaving her pit hair intact. Is there no value in this violation of expectations? I also have a friend who keeps a very traditionally feminie presentation, then goes home and fucks her butch girlfriend. Yes, she passes in daily life and being stealth can be problematic, but isn't there something subversive at work here?

    I know I didn't address a lot of this post, and there are many juicy ideas to chew on. I may post again later.

  • je di

    Full disclosure: I have told every lover I've ever had that I will not engage in oral unless he atleast trims. I'm not talking about bare that is weird (to me) for all genders. Out of curiosity does anyone else ask their lovers to trim before oral? For me this is about my hate of hair in my mouth not penis or vagina. I wouldn't kiss someone that had an overgrown mustache either.

  • hoo ha

    having a bald hoo ha makes nookie better.

  • http://twitter.com/JenJenRobot JenniferRuth

    @ hoo ha

    Do you think so? Because I've tried it in the past and didn't find the constant itching to improve my sex life one jot.

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  • R

    @JenniferRuth @hoo ha

    Actually, I'd agree with both of you. Sometimes it itches, which sucks -- that's why I don't shave anymore, and only wax (if I'm bothering with pube removal at all) -- but your mileage may vary, by a lot!

    I'm really not the kind of be an apologist for sexist practices, and in fact feel kind of ambivalent about waxing because of this: on the one hand, it's really weird conceptually; on the other hand, it makes oral sex feels awesome and makes it so much easier to get off from penis-in-vagina sex. What to do?!

    Personally, I mix it up and go months without bothering and then do it and have fun for a couple weeks. But I don't really care if anyone else does it and wouldn't tell someone else OMG IT'S THE BEST EVER YOU MUST.

  • R

    ....but "vajazzling" is insane and serves no function other than decorative (literally!), so they're not the same. (Is where I meant to take that previous comment.)

  • Sarah

    While this article was well-written and well-reasoned, I want to know why the Sexual Repression + Capitalism + Sexism = Waxing / Depilating equation is not included in this article.

    I've had hairy pits for seven years now and hairy legs for just as long, and recently I made the decision to start shaving my legs again, not because shaving was my extra-special choice and I loved the feeling of smooth, smooth legs, but because I was just sick of dealing with the unspoken mantra from advertisements, television shows, and other smooth-legged women: YOU ARE UNATTRACTIVE YOU ARE UNATTRACTIVE YOU ARE UNATTRACTIVE.

    However, I will never shave or otherwise alter my vulva, my main--all women's main--center of pleasure. I am not trying to undermine other erogenous zones and downplay the pleasure that they give women, but I think most of us will agree that the clitoris and the vagina are where it's at. I don't have hair growing out of my clitoris. My actual vagina isn't stuffed full of hair. So why the hell would I waste the time, money, and pain to get rid of my pubes?

    And yes, whatever way you try to spend it, there is time, money, and pain involved.

    1. Time: A vulva has curves and crevices and nooks unlike legs. One must shave slowly and carefully. Waxing involves driving or commuting to a salon, unless one has her own professional wax kit at home.

    2. Money: According to articles I've read on the subject, one must use a new razor blade every time one shaves down there. Waxing can be $60 or more. Assuming that a woman waxes once a month for an entire year, she spends a whopping $720.

    3. Pain: With shaving, one risks stubble, ingrown hairs, razor burn, and nicks and cuts. I've heard the rare woman say that waxing doesn't hurt, but they're the exception to the rule.

    To those who depilate down there, I would like to respectfully pose a couple of questions. If you had been living in a decade where pubic hair was relatively untouched, say the 1960s, do you think you would have one day picked up a razor and begun shaving? Do you think your sexual life would have suffered more because of your intact pubic hair? Do you think that if you left off shaving now, you would not be able to attract partners (male or female) as well? Do you think that your ability to become sexually aroused would be compromised?

    Baberaham Lincoln says: "(It’s all about sleeping with the right men, amirite ladies?!)"

    Yup. All of my male partners have had to put up with hairy legs, hairy pits, and untrimmed vulva. Y'know what? My sex life didn't suffer a bit. In fact, both my current partner and I both have pubic hair and we are having the best g-damn sex and oral sex of our lives. Mindblowing. I'm so happy.

    To answer je di's question: "Out of curiosity does anyone else ask their lovers to trim before oral? For me this is about my hate of hair in my mouth not penis or vagina. I wouldn’t kiss someone that had an overgrown mustache either."

    No, I don't ask my partners to trim. For one, penises are glabrous. For two, I had a partner who shaved of his own volition and I hated it. Looked like a plucked chicken or a little boy penis. Not to mention the stubble and ingrown hairs were disgusting. Vulvas, sans the mons and the labia majora, are also glabrous. So it's not like my partners and I have been munching on mouthfuls of hair during oral sex; we're mostly munching on the smooth parts. Sure, there's the occasional stray pubic hair, but it's a minor inconvenience, something so minor, in fact, that it's forgotten the moment it's taken care of. Neither my partner nor I ever reflect on the sex and say, "Man, that was wonderful, but that stray pubic hair just spoiled the whole damn thing." I would not waste the aforementioned time, money, and pain just to minimize the chance of getting a pube in my mouth. As a side note, I also hate mustaches. My boyfriend tried to grow one last week and I told him, "Nuh-uh. Stop right where you are."

    Now, if depilating is the right decision for you because you have a worse pube-phobia than I, then I can't fault you for that. However, I think a lot of women who shave display classic cognitive dissonance. According to Wikipedia, "[t]he theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing them."

    Ten years ago, pubic-shaving came into widespread fashion in the Western world. The origins were probably pornography. Let us say I am a woman around this time. I was born in 1980 and I am twenty years old. Until this time, I have thought nothing of having pubic hair, though I shave my armpits and legs and wear makeup. My sex life has been good. Seemingly without provocation, I begin to shave my vulva. When other women ask me why, I say, "I like the feel of smooth skin," or "It makes oral sex more enjoyable," or "It's more hygienic." I don't say, "I shave because it's the new trend and I feel overwhelming pressure to do it." I think the latter reason is the reason we shave our legs and our armpits, and the reason that most women shave their vulvas. Not because it's a bright idea we've had out of the blue, but because we're exhibiting a weird behavior and don't like the explanation that we're doing it because it has been prescribed to us by capitalism, partners, pornography, female friends--whatever. We like to think that it's our extra-special choice.

    Says Amanda: "The body hair ship may have sailed, but vaginal modification is at a point right now where we are still in a position to fend off the tide. And my greatest fear is that someday, we will wake to find that our girls are being routinely Vajazzled upon puberty, and realize that we never stood up to say, “This shit is fucking ridiculous."

    The armpit hair ship sailed 100 years ago, the leg hair ship sailed 80 years ago, but the pubic hair ship only set sail ten years ago. It's not so out of reach that we can't bring it back to harbor. The thought that our girls are being routinely waxed or shaved upon puberty is ten times more horrifying to me. Because if we permanently stamp out this sign of puberty, what's next? Stamping out periods permanently? We're pretty close. Trimming and bleaching the vulva so that it resembles the little girl vulva our menarche-achieving heroine has enjoyed so far? Women right now may indeed get sexual pleasure from waxing or shaving their vulvas, whatever the reason. But if 100% of pubescent and teenage girls who are not yet in touch with their sexualities do it, then what does that mean? It's a terrifying thought, far worse than vajazzling.

  • Sarah

    @ je di: You say, "When I was a teenager a used to dye my pubic hair w/ Punky Colours & was so proud of my hairy pits." I'm not picking on you, but this sentence reveals that once upon a time you had pubic hair. Did you always have problems with it? What was the pube that broke the camel's back? Just curious.

  • Sarah

    "But if 100% of pubescent and teenage girls who are not yet in touch with their sexualities do it, then what does that mean?"

    By "it," I meant waxing and shaving, btw.

  • MR X

    You're all just followers of one movement or another, no matter what you do.

    Do what you want and what makes you feel better. We all do what we do because of some influence on our psyche, you can over-analyze everything so it has to fit in one box or you can choose to do what you want, when you want, for whatever reasons you want and live life as it comes or you can sit in the corner and bitch and moan about everything, its a conscious choice, no tv or magazine ad forces you to shave anything. That being said, I man-scape (slight trimming here and there) for my wife and she waxes for me, we find it visually and functionally better for sex, and therefore useful.

  • R

    @Sarah - I can respond for myself but don't know about others:

    For full explanation: Like you, I haven't removed the hair from my legs in a while (more than a year, though not as long as you). Most of the time I don't give a fuck when people look at it funny, but sometimes I do, so I get where you're coming from with that.

    I do shave my armpits -- part because otherwise I get sweaty really fast, and part because of worrying it "looks" too hairy and what will people think. Somehow that's more of a worry to me than the leg hair.

    You're right that I would probably not worry too much about my sex life if it had never occurred to me to depube. And you're right that my first depubing was neither freely done nor for sexual enjoyment -- my first boyfriend begged me to do it, actually. Which sucked.

    But with a later partner, who was ok with me either doing it or not, I noticed that the carpet really gets in the way of my clit rubbing on his pubic bone. If you want to get all specific. When I can rub, I get off, and that's really fun. Also, I think it feels really great to get licked all over my labia when they're bare, but it doesn't feel like much of anything when they're not. If you want to get all specific yet again. But sure, there are other ways to get off too.

    I *do* wonder sometimes: if I were dating someone other than my current partner of six years, or if I were trying to meet someone, would I be less relaxed in my "sometimes I have pubes, sometimes I don't" attitude? Would I be rejected for being an every-six-months kind of upkeeper? I don't know! But yes, my ability to get off - from certain kinds of sex, that is - would indeed be compromised.

    Sorry for the long response but I wanted to be honest&complete rather than contribute to an illusion of this being an all-or-nothing issue.

    And I STILL maintain it is totally different from stick-on crystals.

  • http://deleted je di

    Sarah, the first time I shaved was at 13 (1993) and I have no idea where I got that idea from. But didn't start shaving on a regular basis till 18 when I started having cunnilingus. The way I enjoy giving & getting oral goes well beyond the the glabrous areas. You are obviously not okay with shaving and I hate that some women feel obligated to do something they are not comfortable with because of society. And I'm sorry how marginalized you feel for not shaving. But if I didn't shave because I felt like less of a feminist when I did I wouldn't be being true to myself either. I remember as a teenager reading, "non-conformity for the sake of non-conformity is conformity." and having my mind blown. hehe. I really do respect your difference of opinion and your bravery for do something you feel strongly about even though you get stared at for it. -j

  • http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com Clarisse Thorn

    For now, the more extreme performances of femininity, like breast implantation, vaginal “rejuvenation,” and Vajazzling aren’t considered the norm for women. I’m not going to be met with shock when I remove my pants and reveal to my sex partner that I haven’t converted my pubic mound into a shiny disco ball. But these days, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for him to be shocked that I’m not perfectly waxed. The body hair ship may have sailed, but vaginal modification is at a point right now where we are still in a position to fend off the tide. And my greatest fear is that someday, we will wake to find that our girls are being routinely Vajazzled upon puberty, and realize that we never stood up to say, “This shit is fucking ridiculous.”

    Or alternatively, we'll wake up to find that some of our girls feel pressured to Vajazzle ... yet some of them are attracted to Vajazzling (or body mod, or whatever) but feel awful about themselves and question their own feminist credentials and possibly exit the feminist movement because feminists decided to spend so much time shaming women who Vajazzle. So, you know, defend your right not to Vajazzle all you want -- and analyze it too, if you want; I really don't have a problem with most of this post -- but be aware that there's a lot of potential to alienate and shame real feminists when you end on a note like "This shit is fucking ridiculous."

  • Kat

    @je di - I also prefer men who trim their pubes. And I trim mine too for the same reason. Oral sex just seems more pleasant with no hair in your mouth. Sure you can suck a cock HEAD when they don't shave, but usually the base has tons of hair so if you want to even go a little more you just get a bunch of hair in the way. It's just gross to have pubes in my mouth IMO.

  • Kat

    "My actual vagina isn’t stuffed full of hair."

    Well, no, but perhaps you are just less hairy than some? I know when I let mine grow out it DOES get in my vagina while I'm having sex. Maybe my hair is just longer than yours?

    I've had sex both with pubes and without and I do prefer at least trimmed. I admit, I currently shave it because I know my partner likes it. As sexual preferences go, that one is not really a problem for me. If it bothered me, like it was painful or whatever, I don't think I'd do it. I don't even shave my legs. I actually prefer that preference to the one some guys i've been with had who liked high heels. High heels and me DON'T go together, I hate them.

    I also find shaving my pussy occasionally is WAY less cumbersome than things most women do (even feminists that decry pussy shaving) that I don't, like wearing makeup every day, wearing heels, wearing long hair that takes an hour to do every morning, wearing a skirt you can't walk or bend over in. Shaving my pussy takes 30 secs and I don't have to do it to leave the house.

    I have only met two women besides myself in my life that don't wear any makeup, and one is my mother. Who are you to decry women shaving for a sexual fetish/preference when most women clog their pores with makeup every single day, not just for sex?

  • Melanie

    Personally, I only trim and wax my pubic region when i'm going to be wearing a swimsuit (or really treating my hubby). I don't shave my legs except from the knees down, and that only in summer. My armpits I shave a couple times a week, more for smell than sight (deoderant applies better). I was 12 before I could get my ears pierced. I wasn't allowed a second earpiercing (second hole in each ear, not repiercing) till 16, and no tattoos (or further piercings) while under my parents roof. I intend to enforce the same rules with my daughter.
    Makeup? lipgloss at 12, light lipstick and blush at 14, light eyeshadow added at 16. (I now undersstand my mother and her dislike of black eyeliner and dark lipstick on teens)

  • Melanie

    I can't imagine Vajazzling or allowing my daughter to.

  • anna

    The point is social acceptance. It should be socially acceptable (not considered gross etc) for a woman not to shave, wear makeup, wear high heels etc. It should be considered socially acceptable for men to wear makeup etc if they want. People should not be pressured because of their gender, and insulted/denied jobs etc if they don't conform.

    Different beauty standards for men and women are really ridiculous especially when it comes to body hair- how can women be considered disgusting, ugly and dirty when they don't shave their legs, armpits, and pubic hair, while men (who are usually much much hairier) are considered perfectly attractive and professional looking without going to the trouble?

  • je di

    I can't believe I've had a four day conversation about short & curlys! hehe I hate make-up I haven't worn it in years (outside of decorating my face wild for fun) it makes me feel like a clown. I feel so fake in it. I hate perfume but I love essential oils. I don't wear heels, they can't keep up with me. I do wax my eyebrows and I am horrified by my chin hair which I pluck & wax. I get pedicures with pretty colors on my toe nails. I think it IS important to look at why we do what we do. Do some women wear make-up because they think they have to? Yes but conversely some don't wear it because an abusive partner says they look like a whore in it. Outside of empowering, educating & supporting a woman's right to have control of her own body I don't subscribe to many hard & fast rules of what constitutes a feminist. Much love all around -j

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  • hosermax

    ...oh dear God yes, women are never wrong except when another woman says so :)

    Perhaps the solution is for women to stop telling each other what to think and what to do, and then admit to themselves that freedom of choice is for everyone, not just women. Even if they don't like the decisions that result from this :)

    The problem with this whole "schtick", Amanda, is that by making gender identity the centerpiece of your entire approach, you inevitably undermine women because women aren't going to agree on everything, even about men. We men are free to disagree and you are free to call those of us "assholes" who disagree with your favorite point of view, or to call the men who agree with you "logical" or "rational" or sensitive" or whatever the bullshit of the day is.

    But you screw yourselves when you bring out the women who agree with those "asshole" guys, and who disagree with you "rational" women. Because you can't quite wrap yourselves around the reality that women can be wrong even if they are women. Even if they are "well-educated", even if they are "sensitive" and "feminine" and well-socialized.

    You can't face the facts that being a woman doesn't mean that you will be right, or even have PC opinions. And that blows your entire schtick out of the water. It takes you right back to square one, where you have to argue the point on its merits not simply based on the fact that "men think that way". And God forbid that you ever have an argument with a man about the realities of life based on logic and reason. The last thing that you want to do is lend credence to logic and reason over your "feminine opinion". You have no idea what to do if you can't just dismiss a mans' opinion out of hand simply because it's a mans' opinion.

  • Sarah

    Thanks to R and je di for your illuminating remarks. Really interesting. Thank you.

    No thanks to hosermax. Thank you for your "logic" and "reason." Hell, I'm fessing up to the fact that women are wrong. That's the basis of my argument, right? You unimaginable asshole.

    On an entirely different subject, I find it ludicrous that anyone is defending this paltry practice of vajazzling which some idiot dreamed up not six months ago. Perhaps this is an argument better tackled from a consumerist perspective rather than a feminist one, since so many women seem to think it is important to keep the vajazzling option open for those women who genuinely love having their pubic hair ripped out at the roots by boiling hot wax and crystal studs applied to the raw red area.

    Arguing for three options--pubic hair, waxing, or vazzling--is sort of like having an argument about Coke vs. Pepsi. Are women really receiving what they want sexually? Or are they being offered somewhat frivolous options of expressing their sexuality, and then embracing those options because the options are widely promoted, either through advertising, social pressure, or a combo of both, and these widely promoted options are all that women know?

    I took a course a couple of years ago with media scholar Bob McChesney. One of his main theses about advertising / consumerism is this:

    "For much of the second half of the twentieth century, Americans have heard that we have no reason to be concerned about corporate ownership of media or dependence on commercial advertising because market competition forces commercial media to 'give the people what they want' . . . In such noncompetitive markets, the claim that media firms 'give the people what they want' is unconvincing. The firms have enough market power to dictate the content that is most profitable for them. And the easy route to profit comes from increasing commercialism-larger numbers of ads, greater say for advertisers over non-advertising content, programming that lends itself to merchandising, and all sorts of cross promotions with non-media firms. Consumers may not want such hyper-commercialism, but they have little say in the matter."

    http://bostonreview.net/BR23.3/mcchesney.html

    Not all of the above-quoted paragraph is relevant to my argument, but the basic talking points are the same. Maybe I don't want to choose between Pepsi and Coke. Maybe I don't want to choose between Pepsi, Coke, Sprite, 7-UP, Dr. Pepper, orange Fanta, etc. Maybe I want a licorice-flavored soda without high fructose corn syrup. Maybe thousands of other people want licorice-flavored soda without high fructose corn syrup. They don't get what they want because, well, media--or in this case corporations, businesses, and marketing firms--are too absorbed in Coke and Pepsi and all the other sodas they're profiting off of. They've got no incentive to offer wider choices. And maybe a lot of people are like, "So what? I like Coke and / or Pepsi. Big deal." But how much is the Coke / Pepsi "choice" really a choice, when consumers are only offered a limited and ultimately arbitrary illusion of choice?

    See where I'm going with this?

    At some point, a woman's choice is not sacred. It may actually be detrimental to other women living out happy, harassment-free lives.

    Another question: when does waxing and pubazzling and anal-bleaching and labiaplasty cross into the territory of female genital mutilation? I know by even mentioning waxing and FGM in the same breath, I'm opening up a controversial can o' worms, but please believe me when I say that I'm not some slippery-slope Republican whose train of thought is gay marriage = bestiality = polygamy = polygamy with beasts. I think there are vast differences between the two practices. But I've read--and I tried a cursory Google search to no success; I've read too many articles about FGM--that women in countries where FGM is widely practiced often view the process as necessary. Uncut genitalia are seen as unhygienic, ugly, and masculine. I am not suggesting that all ladies who wax view their vulvas or other women's vulvas in such a deprecating way, but many do.

    Again, extreme example. Having hair removed from your vulva is nothing like having your vulva mutilated, possibly against your consent. I get it. Believe me.

    But where will it end? Waxing and shaving are innocuous enough, and unless a woman goes to the extreme of laser hair removal, pubes grow back. No permanent damage done. Labiaplasty, though, has real parallels to FGM. It's a cosmetic surgery, not a medically necessary one, and is predicated on the assumption that a woman's genitals are "unworthy" or "inauthentic" in their natural occurring state; therefore, surgery must be used to to achieve those pretty pink out-of-sight labia that we know all "normal" women have.

    . . . yeah right.

    http://www.labiaplastysurgeon.com/

    Photos are NSFW and medically graphic, so click at your own risk. The results are uncomfortably close to FGM.

  • Sarah

    "The point is social acceptance. It should be socially acceptable (not considered gross etc) for a woman not to shave, wear makeup, wear high heels etc. It should be considered socially acceptable for men to wear makeup etc if they want. People should not be pressured because of their gender, and insulted/denied jobs etc if they don’t conform."

    @ Anna: Right on.

  • Sarah

    Lemme clear up the possible FGM-waxing relation better.

    I do not think waxing is comparable to FGM. I do think waxing is comparable to labiaplasty. I think that labiaplasty came into being partially because waxing was getting a lot of popular attention (look no further than the NY Times and The New Yorker if you don't believe me on that latter part) and people became more open to talking about ladyparts . . . at least where modification was concerned. :/

    I think labiaplasty is comparable to FGM.

    If people sanction labiaplasty as a woman's choice, I want to know where proponents of the practice draw the line as far as female genital modification or mutilation goes, and why?

  • ash

    yes!

    bookmarked, printed, forwarded to all my female friends because they rag on me hardest of all for not shaving my legs or pits (going on 30 years now) while they get all caught up in primping and plucking "like it's their job" as you put it.

    thank you.

  • kyril

    re: shaving, and the choice to do it in the absence of societal pressure:

    When I let it grow, it itches. I've been shaving it since it first started growing in (back in the early '90s, when we didn't talk about these things in public and my '60s-feminist mother was against shaving anything ever and I had to sneak razors into the house) because I don't like it, it itches and scratches and hurts. For lack of a better way to describe it, it's curly and wiry and it gets in the crevices and rubs against the sensitive parts. When I was in Navy boot camp and we weren't given time to shave, it was torture.

    And I can quite strongly assure you that I'm not continuing to do it out of some sort of societal pressure. Societal pressure can't even make me do something as apparently inoffensive as wearing women's clothing or shaving my legs on a semiregular basis. I really really really just don't like having pubic hair, and I think it's ridiculous that I should have to defend the authenticity of my choice to remove it.

  • napthia9

    How does anyone think we're going to make it socially acceptable for women to forgo Vajazzling/make-up/hair removal if none of us is willing to start?

    And why is it somehow an attack upon someone's feminism to point this out? It's not anti-feminist to advertise a pro-choice demonstration, even if not everyone can attend. What's so different about protests against mandatory femininity?

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  • Mark

    I agree with Anna. I love women with hairy armpits. it's not masculine, it's beautiful and we need more of it - she sounds such a lovely lady1

  • Emeryn

    For the sake of full disclosure-

    I shave my legs, pits, and pubes. Not for how it looks- I'm not diligent about it and end up with stubble on my legs a lot. My husband could care less about it.

    I do it because I have adult acne. That is severe enough to create cysts under my skin. And having a zit on my armpit, a zit around my crotch, or a zit on my knee HURTS. Shaving helps keep it under control because there isn't hair to catch and hold oil/sweat/dirt/etc against my skin and also because the scraping of the blade over my skin helps keep a lot of that junk off of my skin, which means I don't have nearly as many painful bumps on my body.

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  • allie

    if any of y'all were sociology majors, you'll know things like this are not a choice. we are conditioned to want to do such ridiculous things!

  • amanda

    Whhaaat? I've never heard of this concept "vajazzling" and it sounds like a super dumb idea. Why would you want to hot glue things to your body, much less part of your vagina? Is it an S&M thing? Can't you just wear shiny underwear or put on that glitter body gel they sell in malls?
    I don't think any of the men (or women) I've been with would have found me any more appealing if I glued things to myself like a child.
    As for hair? It seems like partners care a lot less about this then women lead themselves to believe. A lot less.
    Why so much fuss?

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