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The Brazilian Waxing Craze

December 2, 2009

In early November 2009, the feminist blogosphere lit up with a story about one woman’s Brazilian waxing woes—or lack thereof. In a column published in the UK’s The Times Online, a 38-year-old woman and recent divorcee discussed her 27-year-old boyfriend’s  dissatisfaction with her ungroomed pubic hair. In the letter seeking advice, she questions if a tan and “Brazilian wax should be deal-breakers in a relationship” and if she’s “hopelessly outdated.”

Unfortunately, columnist Suzi Godson  suggests that the woman change because Brazilian waxing is expected of women in 2009. Godson even offers a historical perspective: “…by the time your boyfriend hit puberty his entire generation were using free online porn as their primary source of sex education, and, as we all know, porn stars don’t have any hair down there. It wasn’t always that way. During the 1970s everyone, even your porn star, was hairy, but by the 1980s the natural look of the Joy of Sex was over.” 1

Godson argues that Brazilian waxing is “on a par with manicures, blow-drying and eyebrow waxing” and notes the reality that for women who “dare to be less rigid” in their styling, that is, women who chose not to wax: they are labeled “bucolic, unsanitary…” 2

This woman’s dilemma is a painful reminder of how women’s bodies are a medium of culture, as scholar Susan Border argues in her book, Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body.  Godson’s commentary exemplifies Bordo’s contentions that the female body is habituated to which she calls “external regulation,” as well as subjection, transformation, and improvement.

Over the last twenty years, pubic hair grooming has become a standard practice, explaining why drugstore aisles today offer even a larger selection of hair removal creams, waxes, and strips for sensitive areas than they did 10 years ago.

Bordo argues in the chapter, “The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity,”  that our bodies, especially women’s bodies, “through the organization and regulation of the time, space, and movements…are trained, shaped, and impressed with the stamp of prevailing historical forms of selfhood, desire, masculinity, femininity.”3 Borrowing from anthropologist Mary Douglas, Bordo highlights the fact that women’s bodies serve as a symbol on which central rules and hierarchies are inscribed and reinforced. For the women’s boyfriend, his desire for his significant other is informed by a culture (pornography culture) that has ruthlessly attempted to define femininity. Furthermore, the women’s sense of self seems to be directly linked to her boyfriend’s desires, which ultimately creates dissatisfaction and insecurity.

The letter also highlights the fact that women are spending more time on the management and discipline of our bodies than they have during other eras in history, as Bordo notes in Body and Reproduction. For example, the Brazilian waxing procedure usually takes from 30 minutes to one hour long and must be maintained every 4-6 weeks.

The process takes the traditional bikini wax a step further by removing all public hair, including the buttocks area. The trendy Sweet Samba Boutique and Spa in Atlanta, GA offers the service for about $55.  Other forms of public hair removal such as laser treatments are even more expensive. Clients for Atlanta’s Ideal Image Laser Hair Removal, usually women, can expect to pay about $2,000 for a series of treatments that will offer Brazilian Wax-like results.

While many women swear by the practice for personal satisfaction, several women simply opt to undergo the practice to please a romantic partner. For single women, the choice to wax should not depend on male desire. However, for those single women who do choose to participate, you must be fully aware that even with the performance of this procedure, they are functioning within the hierarchy described by Bordo and complying with an expectation for all women.


Sources:
1. Godson, Suzi. “Sex advice: Do I Need Brazilian Waxing.” The Times Online, http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/
2. Godson
3. Bordo, Susan, “The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 3, 2009 11:10 pm

    I can directly relate to this article. I first started receiving Brazilian waxes as a way to make my mate happy. Maybe he will stay with me if I do this or maybe he will buy me this gift or do this if I do this and I realized that it began to be less about me and more about him. However, once I went to the salon (Sweet Samba, actually) and received the process, I was amazed at just how sexy it made me feel. It really made me feel as if I was the most beautiful girl in the entire world and I don’t even know why I got that feeling. But, I was able to shift the focus from being about a man to being about him and frankly, I cared less about whether he liked it or not because it was something that I loved. I hope more women can begin doing this and realize that the choice of getting a Brazilian shouldn’t be about making your mate happy, but about making you happy.

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