If you watch one thing this week make sure it is this. Whilst it may be uncomfortable viewing for some, Channel 4 documentary Bring Back the Bush: Where Did Our Pubic Hair Go? confronts some huge truths in regards to female pubic hair (and body hair in general), as writer and social media activist Chidera Eggerue (@theslumflower on Instagram) investigates just when it was that female pubic hair disappeared.
Over the 6 week course of the documentary, Eggerue and four of her fellow social media influencing friends pledge to grow out their pubic hair for the first time in years. Exploring the history of the bush, the development of porn, expectation from boyfriends, and feelings of shame, Egggerue investigates just why it is that women feel a pressure to shave. Whether you wish to shave or not, it is entirely your choice. However, regardless of your preference the documentary really makes you question debates surrounding female body hair and the impact that its invisibility in society has on women, especially young girls growing up today.
After telling my friend about the documentary we discussed how it is easy to see why we feel the need to shave, it’s all we’ve ever known, and all we’ve been told to do. I don’t specifically remember growing armpit hair, instead, I remember my mum pointing it out to me and telling me to start shaving. Of course she meant well, but imagine if we instead said to our teenage girls “congrats, you’re body is changing, feel free to do whatever you want with the your new hair. Whatever you choose is equally and completely valid!” I used to hear the boys on the school bus brag about their growing chest hair, and when a boys voice drops he is congratulated for entering manhood, yet when a girl grows hair she is taught to immediately remove it?! How does this make any sense?
Currently, society is not pro-body hair. The girls in Love Island are hairless (I understand the majority of the boys are too and that this issue does work both ways but I think we have all seen a man’s hairy chest way more than we’ve seen any hair on a female), models are hairless and we are constantly bombarded with adverts for razors, waxing strips and hair removal cream – all in which the model is usually hairless in both the before and after clips. We never see female body hair. If all of your friends are shaving, your sister is shaving, every woman in the media is shaving, then if you don’t shave you become the exception and hence you feel you are doing something ‘wrong’. In the documentary, Eggerue aims to highlight that bringing back the bush isn’t ‘wrong’ it is natural, and whilst it is still valid to want to shave, women should have the choice and both types of bodies should be shown in society.
Eggerue tackles the myth that having body hair is dirty and disgusting, interviews girls whose body hair is intrinsically linked to their feelings of shame, and allows people to confess as to why they felt that they had to shave, or what their worst shaving stories were in order to open up the conversation surrounding body hair. When interviewing a group of men about the issue one man says that hair down there “certainly wouldn’t be a showstopper, I’m not going to stop what I’m doing just because of the scenario down there.” Men may have a preference; however, most recognise that it is the woman’s body and therefore her choice, and if hair down there is the deal-breaker in a relationship, it is time to say bye bye.
According to an article in The New York Times, 80% of women aged 18-65 shave either all, or some of their pubic hair. Out of this percentage, 27% have reported sustaining an injury at some point and 2.5% have needed surgical intervention. It seems a rather sad and upsetting fact that women are willing to inflict pain and injury on themselves, even if it is just a shaving rash, purely to align their bodies with societal norms. How many of us shave and assume we do it because we like being hairless, but actually we just think we like it because we have never known any different? Since hitting puberty we have been told by society that being shaven is the right thing to be, so how can we truly know what any of us would have chosen without all these pressures and shelves of Venus razors?
Hair removal is a cosmetic choice, there is no right or wrong answer, but Chidera Eggerue’s Bring Back the Bush is a must watch to start an important conversation and get women to consider why they shave and whether they really want to. It shouldn’t be radical to leave hair on your body, but until we stop only seeing hairless bodies it seems it will remain this way.