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Someone recently sent me a message about body shaming. Great, I thought! I love hearing other people’s opinions about topics I’m passionate about! However, this person suggested that because I was body confident, it was somehow ‘unfair’ and ‘inappropriate’ for me to talk about body shaming. Now, I’m not a beagle either but I still get angry about animal testing, so the idea that because I have developed a healthy relationship with my body somehow excludes me from entering discourse about the ways in which body shaming is shoved at us from all angles really pisses me off.

I have spoken before about the issues I have had with my body in the past; hospitalised with an eating disorder, lots of self loathing and a masochistic tendency to follow those who hurt my confidence BUT now? Yep. I love my body. I love how it feels, how it can feel. I love its softness, its curves, how it gets me from one place to another. I love the fact that I can decorate it how I want, and how I can push it to its limits. My body is great. So is yours.

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What isn’t great however, is body shaming. This idea that somehow our bodies need work, improving, and that unless we look a certain way, the way we do look is wrong. Magazines are rife with articles at the moment about ‘bikini bodies,’ with diet tips, advice on how to ‘look good on the beach’ this summer and suggestions of products to ‘fix’ the issues we have. Products to ‘instantly slim’ or ‘contour,’ ‘highlight,’ ‘cover up’ or ‘hide.’ It’s a whole bullshit bag of bad vibes that we are hitting ourselves with everytime we buy a copy or click on a link.

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It isn’t just ‘fat shaming’ that’s prevalent. There seems to be a focus on attacking slim women as well; turning on each other. ‘Real men like curves’ is a phrase I’ve seen thrown around a lot on-line, single handedly symbolically annihilating a massive percentage of the female population from the possibility of being found attractive by the opposite sex. We seem to find fault with each other much faster than we do with a system that attacks bodies and shames them into feeling inadequate. How can someone with a toned tum feel bad about their thighs? How can someone with big boobs complain about their bum? How can she, with her long hair and big lips possibly feel down about her height etc? It’s as if we have a check list of what’s good and we try and weigh up everyone’s scores against our own.

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It’s insulting actually to assume that men have one type of person they find attractive. To imply that there is a homogeneous version of femininity that they are drawn to. Just like some of my friends don’t understand my passion for Ricki Hall, or me their predilection for Gosling, men have different ideas of what they might want in a bed buddy.  Which is ok, you know? Every lock has a key and all that jazz. We all have different ‘types’ and that’s part of our charm. Some of my best babes hate the idea of kissing a man with a full beard; for me, that’s a requisite. Others like a blonde man with no chest hair whereas I’d be swiping left on that so fast, my phone would probably stall. Why then, do we assume that men can only find one type of beauty beautiful?

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Women do have a much tougher time in the media than men do. Men can change in size and still hold down the best movie roles, still get the girls, still earn the big bucks. Women on the other hand, are expected to be thin at whatever phase of their life they are in; pregnancy, post birth, puberty. If they breathe out for a second and get papped by some low life hiding in a bush, they end up plastered on the front page of a magazine captioned with some bullshit about ‘letting themselves go,’ ‘possible pregnancy bump?!’ ‘eating for two!’ or ‘sod the diet!’ All dressed up with exclamation marks and faux support – ‘just like us!!!’ as if somehow, laying into a woman about her body is fair game. As if there is a ‘normal’ body size to be and inviting us to pass judgement. It’s just hideously sad that some women spend so much of their time thinking about the circumference of their thighs or worrying about how they look in a bikini – driven in part by magazines and media outlets that peddle body shaming on a daily basis. We are encouraged to be blown away by a model’s lean, lithe frame or laugh at a celebs ‘food baby.’  We have whole blogs dedicated to the best boobs, the best butts on instagram. It invites competition and self deprecation, self harm and loathing when we don’t see ourselves as measuring up to the ideal.

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I don’t get how our bodies became synonymous with our successes, our achievements? Why every magazine I pick up has more space dedicated to changing your face, your style and your hair than it does to any life issues or advice on how to get ahead in the work place. Cellulite does not render a woman incapable of running a business. Chubby knees are not a hindrance when it comes to passing a degree and yet you’d be forgiven for thinking that only size 0 women, with long blonde locks and a D cup can get anywhere in life. I hate body shaming, and will continue to do so even if I like myself in a two piece. Hope that is ok with you.

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I love this video so, so much. It is frustrating that it took subverting traditional sexism and making it accessible to get sexism noticed but it’s brilliant. It’s clever, funny and really hits home the subtle, and brick to the face blindingly obvious, ways that women are hit by sexism.

When I showed it to some male friends, they didn’t believe that women are subject to the sexism depicted in the video but the sad fact is, that ALL of the situations were re-enactments of scenarios sent in to everyday sexism. I think it’s great that we are challenging people’s ideas of what is acceptable behaviour; a woman asking a man for casual sex or to take off his clothes is laughably ludicrous, as highlighted by the reactions in the clip, but yet this happens all the time in bars up and down the country to women. Asking for a female shop assistant? Crazy and yet we see it happening the other way around. I have been in a computer store where I was purchasing a laptop, WITH MY OWN MONEY and yet the sales guy didn’t even look at me. Point blank ignored everything I said or asked. I’ve also had builders come round to my house, see I’m in alone and suggest coming back ‘when the old man is in.’ As if, somehow, my vagina renders me incapable of explaining what needs fixing.

I forgot that when they handed out breasts, they also gave us a lobotomy, ensuring that we would never be able to take part in a discussion about sport, DIY or technology. Rolling eyes.

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pu2When I told my friend that I was writing about pubic hair today, she said ‘babe, no. It’s the last frontier.’ It got me thinking, is our down there ‘do still so taboo? 80′s big ‘fro, nineties landing strip, noughties nothing..  your down there style says a lot about you. And society I reckon. You’d  be forgiven for thinking that the majority of women are as hairless as barbie dolls; we could argue that this is a response to the feminisation of the workforce and public spaces. Men are afraid of our power; infantilizing our vaginas, making them bare and vulnerable, could be a way of reclaiming that power and being in control again. Or, we could suggest that pornified bodies have projected the message that pubic hair is wrong; pornography, music videos, catwalks.. the women sashaying around in barely there bits of fabric clearly show the world that they are rocking a Hollywood, thus sending out a message that to be sexy, is to be hairless.

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I have read countless articles about pubic hair; is it a feminist issue? Is going au naturale the only way to stay real in a world of hairless femmes? At one point, you couldn’t open a magazine without some mention of what’s going on under our knickers but then it disappeared. It seemed that the chapter on pubes was closed for the time being. Then BAM. It’s back. Cameron Diaz recently spoke about never having her foxy fur lasered off. We have Caitlin Moran expressing the virtues of lying in a hammock, running your fingers through your hairy muff and don’t even get me started on those American Apparel mannequins. It seems that we are once more entering into a discourse over how we should be pruning our lady gardens.

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After some extensive research (whatsapping my favourite girls and asking about their pube preferences, thus securing my position as the group pervert) it seems that the jury is still out. Half of us are rocking a whole lot of nothing for various reasons; ‘it feels better,’ ‘it looks better,’  ’he likes it.’ Whereas the other half are wearing their lady fur with pride; ‘I’m a woman, the hair stays,’ ‘I don’t want to look like a child.’ A couple have made a half way journey and left a strip but waxed the rest off. Unlike the ‘pob’ or ‘the Rachel,’ it seems that there is no one size fits all style to be wearing in regards to our rug.

I worry about the sexualised side of it; just watching the music channel for an hour and I have seen Rihanna’s and Ciara’s vaginas more times than my own. I worry that young boys will be accessing porn, watching these videos and then expecting the girls they fool around with to be that hairless. What kind of pressure is this on teenage girls? To be ashamed of your female fur? I am totally up for doing whatever you want with your body; it’s yours, after all. But. I don’t want girls waxing the lot off in search of some idealised, patriarchal view on sexuality.

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It seems that men are getting in on the action, although not to the same extent. Speaking to my male shaped pals, the consensus seems to be ‘I shave it off to make my cock look bigger.’ Lovely. So, we have women waxing because they feel obligated to live up to the pornified ideals we worship, whereas men are in it for the kudos and macho points that, for some reason, comes with having a big piece.

Despite my personal preferences, I do agree with the idea that being hair free is perhaps a way of men securing power. I’ve heard horror stories about Tinder dates where the guy has been shocked to discover pubic hair, stories about boyfriends asking their girls to shave because they prefer it, and one friend saying that her husband refused to go down on her because he ‘hated her pubes.’ One argument, put forward by Samantha Jones in SATC is the element of time. We are potentially harder to please sexually, so maybe having some pubic hair getting in the way down there is just a way of slowing down the journey to the big O? Or maybe it’s something more sinister; maybe men are afraid of the progress we’ve made in terms of tackling inequality and this mission to rid of us the symbol of womanhood is a way of slapping us in the face? A way of letting us know that we are still the ones putting in the work and making the sacrifices; in this case, our body hair.

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It’s not just limited to our knicker lines. Armpit hair, leg hair – it seems that you can’t be ‘feminine’ and furry. Look at the scandal a celeb makes when they reveal some armpit fuzz. You’d think they admitted to blowing up puppies in their down time the amount of column inches it generates. Men are allowed to be hairy; it’s masculine, rugged, sexy. Me with beards are having a moment and a guy who shaves his legs, ironically raises some eyebrows. And yet, here we are. Plucking ourselves bald, lathering up the shaving foam, booking ourselves in for hideously painful waxes. Is this progress?

What do you think?

 

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