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

More on Amber Riley – and Dancing With the Stars

Okay,  I know I’m obsessed with this but I want to show you some videos and Susiekline asked me if on DWTS they plagued Amber with chatter about her weight — and if they did I can’t find it but Listen to Amber talk about her own body in this Cha Cha clip:

In fact, Amber continually discussed her body and argued that she wants people to understand that a fat body is a body, period – and that this body can dance!

Jive:

Tango: (Love that he tosses her around in this one. Also, she’s so elegant).

And then there is this one – the freestyle: This moment has me crying again – she is so beautiful, dynamic and graceful – she destroys all the negative ideas that people have about the fat female body.

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.

 

So…I’m diggin’ ABC Family’s The Fosters.

75c9550295c737231f2eac88f962d023As most of you know my Ph. D. research revolves around teen media, which gives me a hearty excuse to stay current with all that ABC Family produces, and I am impressed enough by their new show The Fosters that I feel the need to note it.  Produced by none other than Jennifer Lopez , The Fosters revolves around a bi-racial 40-something lesbian couple, Stef Foster and Lena Adams, who have five children: Stef’s biological son (Brandon), an adopted set of twins (Jesus and Mariana) and two foster children (Callie and Jude). While I am not willing to make the claim that the show is an ideological paradise because Lena and Stef’s relationship continues to reinforce many patriarchal and heteronormative structures, the show does offer viewers a complex examination of issues like cultural diversity, adoption, the foster system, family, homosexuality etc.

For example, in the recent episode “Quinceañera” questions were raised about the nature of racism and the importance of honoring one’s ethnic background. The episode brought forth thoughts about ethnicity and race through a multifaceted plot line. Even though they are not of Latin decent, Stef and Lena throw Mariana a Quinceañera because they feel it is important to introduce  and incorporate the culture of Mariana’s heritage into her life. This cherish-your ethnicity-perspective explicitly comes to light , during a conversation between Lena and Lena’s mother, who is in town for the  Quinceañera. It is made clear that Lena’s relationship with her mother has always been strained because Lena, as the daughter of a white man and a black woman,  is a lighter skinned than her mother so her mother believes that because of Lena’s fairer complexion Lena doesn’t fully understand the “black” experience. Lena rejects her mother’s perspective and points out that oppression is not a game of comparison. Both the discussion of Mariana’s need for a Quinceañera and Lena’s navigating thorough the world as a fair-skinned black woman are nuanced and they forward really interesting and engaged ideas about social justice and the complex nature of living in a diverse world.

In just a few episodes, The Fosters has taken reproductive justice (including, the use of the morning after pill, sex ed, and issues of parental consent), the foster system (flaws, reports that stigmatize foster children, abuse, sexual assault), Sexual education (both how it works and how it fails), Immigration and undocumented individuals, and finally the definition of family.  If nothing else – I have a new respect for J. Lo.

Besides me and a whole lot of 13 year-olds, has anyone seen this show?

The Truth About Barbie

What follows are two images that ask us to consider the unrealistic nature of Barbie’s physical build. The first image is a life size Barbie – i.e a model of Barbie’s measurements if she were life-sized – compared standing next to a young woman and an image of current Barbie next to what Barbie would look like if she had measurements that were more in line with the reality of human bodies:

barbie_320130703-085827.jpg

In April of 2011 CBS NEWS noted that with her current dimensions, Barbie would be diagnosed as dangerously thin – and possibly suffering from an eating disorder. So why not change her — why not make Barbie more in line with a realistic body type – or at least give parents the option. Why not make Barbie dolls in a variety of body types? Perhaps — we need a petition.

I’m not trying to slam Mattel – in fact, last year they produced presidential candidate Barbie – sponsored by the White House Project which was pretty cool:

20130703-091610.jpgBut the reality here is that — Barbie creates unreal body expectations in the girls that play with her … remember the woman who has actually had multiple surgeries attempting to make herself look like Barbie. Just sayin’barbie2

Top Five Feminist Bits I Would/Should Have Mentioned… if I had the time.

Lately, I feel like every time I’ve sat down to write up a little something for the loyal followers of feminist cupcake – my attention is immediately diverted to something more pressing – like my students or my dissertation or the multitude of doctors that help me deal with my Hashimoto’s disease (Bastard! – and also a plague. If you haven’t had your thyroid antibodies checked and you’re feeling a little wonky, I suggest you bully your MD into ordering you some tests. And if you find you have heightened antibody levels see a functional doc – a lot more help there for hasi than an endocrine doctor. Just sayin’ ).

Finally, Summer is here and this cupcake is back! (I have high expectations – expect posts from me every week).

So without futher ado here are the top five feminist moments I would/should have shared with you recently if I had the time:

1. Boycott Abercrombie and Fitch. I don’t know how many, if any of you shop there, but if yoprotest-400x267u do refrain. A&F’s CEO has recently spouted some really ugly comments about fat women. boo-hiss. Check out Virgie Tovar’s interview on CBS NEWS.

2. Some super TED videos out there recently – have you seen Jackson Katz… or Courtney Martin…?

real-life-anime-girl-with-barbie-girl

3. Did you run into the images of the real life Barbie and the anime girl? For me, this is a little creepy. Plastic Surgery is one of those issues which feminists from different waves debate ad nauseam. I think these two women ask us to consider this issue just a little deeper or differently. If nothing else, I think you find this unsettling.

4. Licia Ronzulli – the Italian MEP who brings her daughter to work – inspires me. The Guardian wrote a piece recently about her – and if nothing else the mere images of this woman doing her job and being a mother at the same time allow us to recognize that perhaps it is our conceptions of what is acceptable in the workplace that limits all people’s social positions. Licia Ronzulli

5. The New Dove, “Real Beauty Sketch” videos were highly problematic so much so that I hate to share them – but if you didn’t see it here it is:

The best discussion I saw on the issues with this video was written by Golda Poretsky – “Why Dove’s Latest Real Beauty Video Gets It All Wrong.” – Basically, as Golda points out – this video is racist, sizeist – reliant on the same old beauty ideas and most importantly tells women that they should base their self esteem on how others perceive them. Read Golda’s article – in fact, hang out with Golda for as long as you can. Her work is awesome.

Vagina, Vagina, Vagina!!! And Vagina Some More!

Last bit tonight, I promise. But as I imagine many of you know women’s rights are under attack and tonight the issue at hand is that the Republicans in the Michigan state legislature feel that  saying the word vagina is inappropriate – and in light of this they have banned two female state representatives. If I lived in Michigan I would be marching in front of the capitol building with some seriously fun vaginal picket signs. Alas – Michigan you are so far. Instead I will  mention this craziness to all I see and sport a Vagina pin – Thank you Zazzle.

For your reading pleasure  Jezebel  has published  response to this lunacy entitled, 25 Republican-Approved Ways to Say ‘Vagina’ Without Offending Political Pussies,” which I imagine will make you both cringe and giggle – but either way I think you should read it because while I am still I’m gonna say vagina and all the other terms that describe my body – such as vulva, clitoris, fallopian tubes, period and whatever else you can think of whenever I see fit – in the classroom, legislature, hallway, bedroom and/or supermarket – I will henceforth endearingly refer to my vagina as the lovely and illustrious Ms. Kant from now on.

Tell me Ladies – how will you respond to this throwback into the dark ages?

Raising children is a Job. And it should be legally recognized as such…

Once again I find myself in the position of defending stay at home feminist moms. Tonight, I’m tossing around this issue because I’ve just had the unfortunate experience of reading Elizabeth Wurtzel’s article in The Atlantic entitled “1 Percent Wives Are Helping to Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible”.

Okay – just to be clear, I find Wurtzel’s brand of pithy offensive and bitterly righteous. For example, I offer up this gem: “When I meet a woman who I know is a graduate of, say, Princeton — one who has read The Second Sex and therefore ought to know better — but is still a full-time wife, I feel betrayed.” Gag. So, if I were say a graduate of Valencia Community College – but had still read Beauvoir – would I be as offensive to Wurtzel? Are only the 1% her issue because there are others who choose wife and mother.

Wurtzel argues that “there really is only one kind of equality — it precedes all the emotional hullabaloo — and it’s economic. If you can’t pay your own rent, you are not an adult. You are a dependent.” Honestly, I think there are more women who think this way than I would like to admit – but I would argue that this completely misses the issue at hand.

Culturally we worship money and power and look down our noses at compassion and care — this framework allows jobs that were traditionally categorized as masculine – doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers etc. – to be viewed as more prestigious than jobs that were and are still often fulfilled by women – elementary education, child care, nursing, secretarial work and of course mothering. In other words – men – and women enacting roles that were traditionally held by men are seen as more empowered.

This of course leaves stay at home moms sitting on their couches, eating bonbons and doing nothing of importance, which is ridiculous. Raising/rearing children is valuable and needed. The issue is not that women shouldn’t choose to stay home, if they so desire, but rather that the culture does not recognize the value in this endeavor – and reward or respond financially. At Rollins College in Winter Park, FL (my alma mater) I once heard Gloria Steinem say that perhaps the best way to deal with this issue was to work within the system and offer a tax benefit/deduction of some kind for women who choose to take on the challenge of staying home to raise their children – sounds like an awesome solution to me.

I know this is one of my favorite rants – but feminism is about choice and social justice for all people. ARGH!

P.S. Thank You, Mom. You’re fabulous and I treasure the fact that you poured your heart and soul into raising me.

Have you Heard about Feminist Frequency?

Anna Curran – the founder of www.CookbookCreate.com and a very good friend of mine, for like ever, mentioned a feminist kickstarter phenomena to me – Tropes vs. Women in video games. No need to contribute your pennies – Anita Sarkeesian – the project’s creator has more that reached her goal – raising $120,000+ (She was hoping to raise $6000 – yeah kickstarter!!)

It’s also worth mentioning that Sarkeesian’s website www.feministfrequency.com is an invaluable resource for feminist educators and thinkers – and really anyone who wants to think critically about representations of gender in the media.