Gustave Courbet, Origin of the World (1866)
I left my laptop open this morning and my 14 year old read my ‘Feral Cheryl’ post. Her response:
‘why does a doll have to look like a hippy to have pubic hair’ ?
Happily, I think my research has had a positive reaction on my daughter. Is it having the same effect on you ? is there any one out there that is thinking about changing your pubic coiffure habits, based on issues raised here, or alternatively do you think this research is pointless ? please share, remember it is all in the name of academic research. For those just looking, you can follow this blog by hitting the follow button on the home page and adding your details (if you want to post anonymously, give yourself a cyber name, the one to beat is ‘smooth criminal’. For those already following, go on, get involved. Her are some subjects I’m currently researching for future posts:
Pornography and the’ Hollywood’ look – are they related ? – this is what most people think is the impetus for the popular shaven haven look
Hygiene: concepts of cleanliness (pubic hair as dirty and grotesque) – much of the previous academic research suggests that women cite hygiene as the main reason for removing pubic hair
What d’you reckon ?
A couple of weeks ago I uploaded a post called porn star Barbie. It was pretty disturbing so to compensate I thought I would introduce you to Feral Cheryl.
She is an Australian doll modeled after environmental protesters, who were nicknamed “ferals.” The doll has dreads, piercings, and, yes pubic hair !
The doll started life as a joke after her inventor Lee Duncan made one for her sister in 1995 as a critique of Barbie dolls. She made a few for friends and family and did a radio interview in Australia which incited a bit of a media frenzy. Cheryl was dubbed the Anti-Barbie and became so popular that Lee left her job and started making the dolls full time. She said in a an article that
“It was my opportunity to do a project that was feminist and anti-sweatshop, with everything being locally made,”.
What was essentially a backyard business was able to distribute all over the world through a burgeoning thing called the internet. Lee estimates that between 1998 and 2004 she made about 1000 dolls. There is one representing Australia in a toy museum in Spain. Another sold in Scandinavia on eBay recently for $2000. There are three songs written about Cheryl although I could only find one, and I didn’t like it enough to share.
Although started as a joke, Duncan created an alternative to the blond fashion doll: one that needs no accessories. For those of you who want to empower your children not to follow social norms and to dare to bare hair, you can order your very own Cheryl here:
Does groin grooming / manscaping make men’s privates look bigger ?
When I initially began working on this blog and didn’t really know what I was doing I accidentally sent my entire friends list on Facebook my introductory post. I was a bit mortified because I didn’t really want everyone, friends, family and all the random people I’ve collected to know what I was researching. I wasn’t ready. Anyway, I got a message back pretty much instantly from a male (family member) saying “I shave me balls, does that help with your research”. I was surprised to hear this, and a little embarrassed (me the one asking everyone to share their pubic hair anxieties and tales). I hadn’t really thought at that stage about pubic hair grooming and removal from a male perspective. But as it turns it is quite common for guys to shave their nethers. Manscaping, a term that became popularised in the show TV show ‘Queer Eye For The Straight Guy’ is on the up.
I decided to do a mini survey. I asked some guys at the gym (clearly I now have no shame). One happily shared his pubic hair stories and confessed that he had been shaving his entire body (including his pubes) since he was 16. His main motivation was because he found body hair disgusting. Another said that his girlfriend had always had a shaven haven and if she was doing it why shouldn’t he. I have had repeated conversations now with guys about their pubic grooming and most are happy to bare all in more than one sense. Most of the guys I talked to were under 30 (with one or two exceptions) and as far as I know all are heterosexual. They were all happy to engage in conversations without embarrassment about their grooming practices which I think that is really positive thing.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, body hair removal and/or alteration has a long history for women, in fact women’s hair removal practices have been theorised as almost “compulsory” in contemporary society with a mundane “hairless norm”rendering almost any visible body hair unacceptable for many woman. Until recently, hair removal might have appeared to be a clearly gendered practice, but it has been suggested that a recent neutralization of differences in hair practices between the genders, suggests that the gender gap in body hair removal is narrower than you might think. For Western men, body hair can be a significant body concern and body hair removal or alteration appears to be popular and potentially even normative according to emerging literature. The reasons men provide for hair removal to some extent match those for women: attractiveness, hygiene, sensation, and sexual improvement; to emphasize body muscularity; and to increase perception of penis size. It appears that hairlessness, or reduced hairiness has been incorporated as an acceptable, even desirable form of neo masculinity. The scope for male body hair remains broader than it is for women, with less social and psychological castigation, except perhaps for back hair. Women still get a harder deal as hairy feminine bodies are much more prone to ridicule and shame. A recent study on body hair practices in New Zealand found that 11% of participants endorsed the acceptability of body hair on women, while 81% endorsed body hair for men. This indicates that body hair removal for women is more compulsory than men’s hair removal.
Advertisers and the market that sells us hair removal products perpetuates the idea of hair free skin as a contemporary ideal. It is a multi-billion pound/ dollar industry and arguably is in part responsible for our growing obsession with smooth, sleek, hairless bods.
I plan to take a long hard look at the effects of continual bombardment by media texts and advertisements that sell us hairless ideals.
Here are two ads that promote shaving for men and women – what came first the shaver or the shaved ?
More to follow, I am in the library today about to start my dissertation. All thoughts on male pubic hair removal and / or the impact of advertising greatly appreciated.
Hairorama (2/10) ‘Sexy Beast’
This weeks short discusses pubic hair, femininity and its relationship to sexuality. Enjoy !