Growing up down there: me and my pubic hair
Why should young women feel ashamed of their perfectly natural ‘lady gardens’?
Illustration: Dearbhla Kelly
Throughout my day, whenever I’m confronted by images of women, I’m reminded that my body is disgusting. I’m too fat. I’m not tall enough. My breasts don’t look the way they should. The hair on my head is insufficiently abundant and voluminous, and the hair on the remainder of my body is loathsome and should be removed at once.
Remembering all of these things about myself can really eat into the day. It can be distracting to have to feel revolted by myself so frequently – to recall that I’m doing “being a woman” wrong. I’d recommend setting an alarm that sets off an obnoxious klaxon every seven minutes. Are you feeling bad about yourself frequently enough? Or is that yet another thing you’re failing to do properly?
Yet we can all fall prey to benign acceptance of this unhelpful message that women should be something other than they are and that reality is disgusting. If you are a woman and the words you are about to read discomfit you, you have likely fallen into the trap of female self-loathing.
Pubic hair. It grows around the genitals of sexually developed adults, and if you’re female and under 35, you are probably obsessed with yours. You cannot, however, just say “pubic hair”. You might refer to it with dainty euphemisms such as “foof” or “lady garden”, but then the point of a euphemism is to make something horrid sound more palatable.
When I told my mother that I intended to write about women’s pubic hair, she did not react well. Her response was along the lines of: “Why would you want to write about vulgar things that don’t matter?”
Her response, although completely wrong (sorry mum), was pertinent. The idea that a physical feature that is common to almost every adult is “vulgar” is ridiculous. There is a taboo attached to anything related to pubic hair, which dictates that we must never discuss it outside a circle of trustworthy females, but if we really have to, we must do it in hushed tones while looking at the floor and wading through a miasma of metaphorical shame.
A major issue
Pubic hair matters because it is a major issue among young women. We’ve somehow become subject to the unreasonable expectations of others. However it came to be the case, it certainly is the case that very many young men expect women’s pubic hair to be either very carefully groomed or non-existent. Perhaps it is the legacy of pornography. Perhaps it’s just another means by which a misogynistic society imposes itself on women’s sense of what it means to be female. Whatever the reason, it is unadulterated nonsense.