Publicly Airing Some Thoughts on Pubic Hair

american-apparel-m_2794029aThere has been a lot of chatter recently about both the fuzzy and furless pubis. A couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of coverage of Cameron Diaz’s new written endeavor, The Body Book because it features an essay entitled “In Praise of Pubes,” and currently, American Apparel is getting press because their mannequins have merkins peaking out of their panties.

I know that feminists have been known to debate the “feministy-ness” of how one decides to relate to her pubic hair – “to nair or to hair” you might say.  (Just so you know, I’m not gonna partake in a pubic hair pros and cons list, so if that’s what you’re looking for, move on.)  There are lot of thoughts surrounding this debate, and while I may lean one way or another when I’m listening to smart girls discuss their very nuanced positions on having hair down there, I ultimately think that conversations of this nature expose the very gray spectrum that feminism needs to embrace.

Let me back track. I have pubic hair. This is a choice I’ve made based on my own life experiences with my body. When I was ten years old, I didn’t sleep much. It was a drag for my parents, but after some seriously valid attempts at trying to get me to sleep at night they gave up, and let me traipse about the house while they were sleeping. It was on a night like this I discovered my first pubic hair. I was proud of that one little curly cue – proud enough to wake up my mother to tell her what I’d found. For me, that lone coarse strand marked my shift from child to pubescent teen. It was a bodily triumph.  I know, it’s a ridiculous story, but it’s mine and that’s why I have pubic hair. It has meaning to me, because I was excited to meet my pubes so why would I banish them.

Let me tell you another story; this one’s second hand, but it helps make my point so bear with me. A couple of years ago a friend of mine went to study abroad in France. She was about four years older than the other students in her study abroad program. One night, over a bottle of wine, she had a conversation with a couple of 20-year-old guys who felt that if a woman’s labia wasn’t naked, then that women was disgusting and not a viable sexual option. Arguably, from a feminist position, the perception of these douche bags would make a terrible justification for bearing your labia – because you’d be making this choice based on what others think. Not on your relationship to your body.

Shave your pubis if you look in the mirror and the naked version looks sexy to you, or if you exercise a lot and your nether hair is prone to crotch rot. Go au-naturale because you’ve done research and you feel like pubes protect you from bacterial infections or you’re excited by their relationship to pheromones.  It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you own your crotch, make decisions based on your relationship to your parts, and voice the opinion that other feminists have a right to be masters of their bodily universe and self define. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you choose to sport a 70s style full-fledged bush or not – as long as you think about it and make a choice based on your needs. This is the gray land of actual feminist empowerment.

What do we make of the American Apparel merkins? It’s up to you. Personally, I feel like they’re creepy, but I have other feminist body-positive friends who love them. As feminists, we are big enough to enjoy this publicity stunt for the conversations it starts. We can go back and forth about whether AA’s merkins forward a hipster resurgence of a furry pubic sensibility or make the bushy bush a joke.  It doesn’t matter where you land – chat about it, think about it, and in the end go with your gut. Living within feminism means having a personal opinion and trusting it.

Side note: a couple of months ago XOJane’s Emily McCombs had a feminist twitter war on this topic and wrote an article that dismissed the necessity for a feminist discussion of pubic hair because she felt there were more pressing issues for feminists to discuss. I get it, I do. I still think we’re having issues understanding what it means to live in an empowered space – one which enables us to choose freely and navigate our own course, so I have deemed this discussion of one’s right to pube or not to pube still worthy.

This post was originally posted on Bitchtopia.com

Advertisements

Don Jon: Legit critique of Porn and Rom-Coms

SPOILER ALERT:

MV5BMTQxNTc3NDM2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQ5NTQ3OQ@@._V1._CR28,28.649993896484375,1271,1991.0000305175781._SX640_SY987_So, I went to see Don Jon, Joesph Gordon Levitt’s new film.  (Literally.  He wrote, directed and starred in the damn thing.)  The film is centered on the main character, Jon’s (Levitt) growth from a Jersey-shore-esq, macho, porn-addicted, women-objectifying goof into a more enlightened and fulfilled man, who values genuine connection based on the reality of individuals.

Jon, who spends most of his time acquiring notches on belt, cleaning, working out and masturbating to internet porn, begins to change by falling for Barbara (Scarlet Johansson). Basically, Jon’s porn addiction has created a monster – a man who functions as one in a constant search for female perfection, with perfection defined according to a pornographic beauty ideal. Notably, the film makes it clear that this pornographic ideal isn’t just confined to the seedy dark corners of the internet by showing  Jon oogling women on the covers of magazines on stands in supermarkets and in tv commercials. When Jon meets Barbara  the hottest girl that he has ever encountered, he decides to play the “long game” and commits to her in an attempt to score/screw/sleep with her.   Jon is able to give up other women for Barbara, but he cannot give up porn. He tells viewers that porn is “better than real pussy” – because he’ loses himself in porn, and real women are never as good. [POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING: It’s worth noting that all this ‘telling’ comes with a lot of pornographic imagery]. Porn basically teaches Jon that there is a certain way that sex should be and the reality does not live up to the representation.   Throughout their relationship Barbara is clearly a pornographic conquest — but what is interesting is that Jon is equally so for Barbara.

imagesLike Jon, Barbara is basically a stereotype. She is a woman who is interested in controlling a man using sex, so that she might achieve her ultimate goal, getting married. Repeatedly in the film we see her manipulate Jon using sex – for example she convinces him to go to school and pursue a better job, while he is on the verge of orgasm. Like Jon’s porn addiction, Barbara  consistently watches romantic comedies (rom-coms) – which teach her that there is a certain way that “love” looks. Barbara’s rom-com obsession is presented as a foil to Jon’s porn obsession. In other words, the film makes a clear argument that the representations that we are watching obscure reality, rendering women as objects for sexual pleasure to men and men as objects of responsibility and violence to women.  Don Jon goes as far as to argue that these representations are forcing us to live as disconnected empty shells. The point Don Jon is making reminds me of Jane Caputi’s The Pornography of Everyday Life.

Ultimately,  Esther (Juileanne Moore), a widow teaches Jon that women are more that objects – and sex is way more than porn.  DONJON_JulianneThe movie is graphic – but it’s also funny and enjoyable. The acting is spot on and if you ask me, this is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time, which I would genuinely call feminist slanted social critique.  As long as you’re willing to put up with the pornographic images, I say see it. Here’s the preview:

 

I am not the first person to notice this – BUST magazine covered these ideas as well.

 

#hatefatshamingnotfatpeople

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with Emily McCombs who is the managing editor at XOJane.com, but I’m a fan. Emily often writes candidly about her struggles with her own body image and her attempts to embrace a Health at Every Size (HAES)® approach, a perspective which forwards the idea that good health can be reached independent of size.

Last week, Emily wrote an Article entitled, “I Worked Out With Jillian Michaels and She Made Me Feel Bad About My Body”. For those of you that don’t know, Jillian Michaels is one of the trainers on NBC’s The Biggest Loser.

In the article Emily admits that she “used to really like Jillian Michaels” but after posing a HAES oriented question Emily’s affinity for Michael’s has dimmed.  You should probably read the whole article, but I’m most concerned with Michael’s Response to Emily’s Question:

[Emily]: A lot of our readers are really into size acceptance and Health at Every Size. Your brand is so aligned with weight loss, I just wonder how you feel about exercise for fitness vs. exercise for weight loss.

JilIian: I don’t even really know what that means. I’ll define health for you. If your cholesterol is good, your blood sugar’s good, your blood pressure is good, that to me is healthy. I believe that you should accept yourself as every size. But I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that you’re physically healthy at every size because you’re not.

And I also don’t believjillian-michaels-yellinge that even though you might be 100 pounds overweight, you’re going, “Oh I’m good the way that I am.” BULLSHIT. I don’t believe that you don’t wake up in the morning and feel uncomfortable in your skin. I don’t believe that you don’t feel insecure when you pick your kid up from school. I don’t believe that you don’t feel uncomfortable when you’re naked in front of your husband or your wife for that matter. I don’t believe you.”

Clearly, The Biggest Loser is a show that buys in to the fat=bad/thin=good paradigm and according to the blog Dances with Fat, Michaels has a history of fat-shaming beyond the hollering, screaming and berating she does while training fat people on NBC. In particular, Michaels has been known to use the hashtag “#hateobesitynotobesepeople,” and as Ragen Chastain explains, “you can’t hate obesity but not obese people – it doesn’t work that way.  If you hate obesity, then you hate me.  I’m not a thin woman covered in fat, I’m a fat woman.   You can’t love the thin person who you wish I was without hating the fat woman I am now.”  In other words, if someone accepts their fat body or is trying to accept their fat body – they must begin by understanding that their fat is a casing to be shed. It is part of them. Jillian Michaels has made it clear that she doesn’t understand this.

Soooo… there is no reason that one would have expected Michaels to respond to Emily’s question in a manner that was fat-positive or fat-accepting, but still when I was reading Michaels’ comments my face contorted and smoke came out my ears. Who is this woman to say that if I’m fat I cannot enjoy my body? Why does she think she has the right to call my comfort and self acceptance “BULLSHIT” and impose upon me the idea that during my morning nude hours, when I’photo(3)m showering, blow-drying and primping for the day, I’m also feeling shame that my husband can see my nakedness?

Please. (Eye-Roll.)

And worse than insulting me, Micheals is confirming the fat fears of women everywhere: if I don’t ever get thin (a statistically improbably goal), I will never be happy.

ARGH! %^$&%*!!!! (Wave hands about in frustration)

The idea, that all fat women hate their bodies and not one person ever has loved them, is a lie.  It’s fat-shaming, a fat-specific form of body-shaming.

Please hear me. No matter what Jillian Micheals has to say, I am here to tell you that there are fat women, like me, who enjoy our bodies and feel comfortable in our own skin.  I can’t speak for all fat women but my fat body wears a bikini, has orgasms, lifts weights, runs, dances, has ideal blood pressure and cholesterol, eats fruits and veggies, laughs, cries, loves, struts about naked, and allows me to do pretty much anything I desire. My fat body is amazing. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

Furthermore – women of all sizes and shapes – not just fat women – feel uncomfortable in their bodies and this discomfort is the issue. Being a thin or thinner woman does not ensure a release from the trappings of bodily-hate.

In western culture – which is rife with toxic messages about woman’s bodies – there is no perfect body image. (How much do you wanna bet that Jillian Michaels has days where she feels icky about her appearance?)  That said, self-hate is not the only option. We can fight for our acceptance – we can acknowledge that some days we are able to embrace our bodies and feel awesome and other days not so much; we can point out body-shaming, fat-hate and fat-shaming and tell people it’s not okay; we can insist that fashion designers acknowledge the fat body as a viable canvas for cool clothes or make these clothes ourselves; we can write letters to the media calling for a diversity of bodies in our representation or better yet make media that represents a diversity of body-types. We can stop trying to hide, step into the light and say, “I’m Fat – and it’s none of your business, so keep you hands off my body.”love your body

If you’re interested in thinking about body acceptance you should go like Emily McCombs on Facebook, and while you’re at it go like her colleague Lesley Kinzel, and my body positive website, Extraordinary Being too. [Side note: Lesley Kinzel’s awesome book, Two Whole Cakes was published in 2011 by the Feminist Press]

To learn more about the HAES® approach or to have a speaker talk to your group about fat-positive living check out Kate Harding, Hanne Blank  or me.

#hatefatshamingnotfatpeople
#iheartmybody
#fatpositive
#extrabeing

This post was originally posted on Soapbox, Inc.

Lesbian Love Octogon – Final Weekend

So, if you happen to be in New York this week you should take the time and go to see The Lesbian Love Octogon, a musical, currently housed at the Krain theater.

I had the pleasure of giggling and belly laughing at this poignant and well performed show last Saturday night. The plot revolves around a group of lesbian women living on the lower east side in the ’90s. The music and lyrics are quippy and hilarious — ditties like “dyke drama and tofu scramble.” And the message the audience is left with is an increasingly valid notion – we are more than the theory that has been written about our identities.

If you don’t take my word for it check out this Time Out review.

It is also worth mentioning that the fabulous Viri Lieberman has been documenting this musical comedy’s trip too off off Broadway — so if you go there’s a chance you might spot her! Check out her promo on indie gogo.

Sufferigists: 5 Need to Know First Wave Feminists

In honor of the Forth of July – It seems like a great moment to identify some of the women who began the US fight for female independence:

Susan B. Anthony, a primary organizer, speaker, and writer for the 19th century women’s rights movement in the United States. she said,  “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union,” and “It would be ridiculous to talk of male and female atmospheres, male and female springs or rains, male and female sunshine…. how much more ridiculous is it in relation to mind, to soul, to thought, where there is as undeniably no such thing as sex, to talk of male and female education and of male and female schools.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the first women’s rights convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, is often credited with initiating the first organized woman’s rights and woman’s suffrage movements in the United States. She said, “Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman’s thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government,” and “The heyday of woman’s life is the shady side of fifty.”

Ida B. Wells, was an African American journalist and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented the extent of lynching in the United States, and was also active in the women’s rights movement and the women’s suffrage movement. She said, “No nation, savage or civilized, save only the United States of America, has confessed its inability to protect its women save by hanging, shooting, and burning alleged offenders, and “The negro has suffered far more from the commission of this crime against the women of his race by white men than the white race has ever suffered through his crimes.”

Carrie Chapman Catt was a women’s suffrage leader who campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which gave U.S. women the right to vote in 1920. Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was the founder of the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women. She said, “This world taught woman nothing skillful and then said her work was valueless. It permitted her no opinions and said she did not know how to think. It forbade her to speak in public, and said the sex had no orators,” and “Just as the world war is no white man’s war, but every man’s war, so is the struggle for woman suffrage no white woman’s struggle, but every woman’s struggle.”

Alice Paul was an American suffragist and activist. Along with Lucy Burns and others, she led a successful campaign for women’s suffrage that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Hillary Swank played her in Iron Jawed Angels.  (You should see this movie by the way.) She said, “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality,” and “Sometimes, if you wear suits for too long, it changes your ideology.”

And there were so many others! Lucretia Mott, Maud Humphrey, Mary Edith Campbell, Lucy Burns, Julia Ward Howe, Margaret Mitchell, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell, Millicent Garret Fawcett