The secret hairstory of hair removal – the swinging 60’s
9pm on a Saturday night in autumn and I find myself (a writer/ other stuff) seated next to a gynaecologist, a midwife and a book publisher for my friends 60’s inspired birthday party dinner! After remarking on the fact that if we pooled our resources we could probably launch our own magazine ‘Women’s monthlies’, red cover, extra absorbent paper etc we turned our attention to other, more serious business……
“Hair maketh the woman”, “behind every good woman is her hairdresser’ and so on and so forth!
Yes the 1960’s was renown for its boufants, hair-spray and quaffed locks…….
…..but we weren’t talking about that end of town, we were interested in what was going on down there (between the legs).
Being a woman in the 1960’s must have been quite a challenge because we started off all prim and proper (Mad men Betty style), objectified, pigeon holed and clipped before undergoing a complete transformation by the end of the decade into free-loving, free-thinking hippies. That, paired with the highly political Vietnam war effort would have been enough to get anyones bullet bra’s burning! However, one thing that the 1960’s woman didn’t have to consider was whether to trim her lady garden. THAT burden ended up being reserved for us naughties girls!
By the time the 1960’s dropped by women had been shaving their legs for a while given the fashion for short skirts and shear stockings. However the growing affluence of the 60’s meant a growing investment in the hair removal category and before long us women were being marketed wax strips and even laser therapy to rid us of our excess fur (that was until laser got such a bad reputation for leaving burns – the technology was launched somewhat prematurely). However, fanny still kept her (ehem) bonnet intact and nobody questioned her for it!
The trimming, tweezing and plucking was given a leave-pass for a while (if you wanted to) in certain circles as the summer of love took hold and loosened the grip on our razors (and wax strips). Supported by the second wave of feminism and a new sense of identity women felt able to make the choice either to embrace their natural beauty in all of its glory or to tweeze and sculpt away as she pleased, free from any judgement.
And then our ‘choice’ disappeared, as quickly as it had appeared.
What happened between those glorious worry-free (as far as hairy bodies) days and now is shocking in terms of the ‘our body our choice’ movement, a fact that my newly made party friends can attest to.
To quote Joni Mitchell ‘they took all the trees and put them in a tree museum’ – although I don’t see any merkin museums popping up yet!
These days shaving/ waxing or lasering (it’s back without the burn) your downstairs hair is the ‘norm’ (according to stories ‘from the front line’ – my dining buddies), especially if you are below a ‘certain age’. This ‘fashion’ is one which I have felt very strongly against for a while now and before we go on, let me explain what I mean by ‘fashion’, I am not talking about the ‘fashion’ for removing ones pubes, that is neither here nor there and is certainly not something I’d work myself up about. The fashion that I am against is one of being dictated to or bullied.
I was listening to the radio on the way to work last week and conversation moved to a dress that Gweneth Paltrow (actor) was wearing and the fact that she (quote) ‘had to have a quick trim because I’m rocking a 70’s vibe down there’ before donning said dress:
Picture source: US Weekly magazine.
Now I assumed that she was talking about her legs but the radio hosts (who have a reputation of smutting it up) took the opportunity to share their disgust at anyone daring to sport a ‘lady garden’ these days as if it were something entirely un-natural and disgusting. That particular radio show is very popular with 16-24 year olds (of which I am not) who are heavily influenced by pop culture, if I were 18 right now I’d be under no illusion of the lack of choice that faces me and my choice of fanny fashion.
So why worry – isn’t it just like the fact that everyone (well, nearly everyone) shaves their armpits these days?
I don’t believe it is like that at all.
Armpits, legs, facial hair are all political when it comes to women but as these parts of our body are directly on view by the masses then rightly or wrongly I get why us (women) may feel compelled to conform to the ‘norm’. However why that conformity should stretch to an area as private as our privates I don’t understand. And why a bully culture should exist around it is also beyond me.
I went to that 1960’s party dressed as one of Betty Friedman of ‘The Feminine Mystique’ book fame’s compatriots thinking ‘well, at least I can take this off at the end of the night and be free. Yay for me’. However, after that conversation I am not so sure…….
If we had any pubes left, ‘they’ would have us by the short and curlies girls so enough of the free love, let’s move straight into the 80’s baby and start a riot!