The muff march

Hot wax, tweezers, excruciating pain and that’s all before the expense and insidious itch of regrowth. What is it about Brazilian waxes and why are we doing it to ourselves?

The issue moved out of the beauty salons and into the streets earlier this moth when the first ever ‘Muff March’ was held in central London.

With slogans including ‘Keep your mitts off our muffs!’ and ‘You’ve put my chuff in a huff!’ the group matched down Harley Street, the go-to street for cosmetic surgery in London. The Muff March included an appearance by the Muffia, sporting nude bodysuits with a bountiful display of lustrous pubic hair.

Organised by the group UK Feminista, the Muff March protested what they see as the pornography influenced obsession with removing pubic hair, and its association with a surge in the number of cosmetic vaginal surgeries taking place.

A report in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology revealed that in 2008 the number of cosmetic vaginal procedures increased by 70% compared with the previous year: 1,118 labiaplasty operations (trimming or removing the labia) on the NHS. The private Harley Medical Group reported over 5,000 inquiries about cosmetic gynecology last year, 65% of which were for labial reduction, the rest for tightening and reshaping.

This move towards designer vaginas is seen as a direct result of the Brazilian, which has led women -and men- to scrutinise the area with a metaphoric fine toothcomb.

The idea of waxing legs, underarms and upper lip, just to start the list, is pretty uncontroversial. So why have our vaginas become a political battlefield?

According to UK feminist and author Caitlin Moran, there is only one reason why women are getting their lady-bits stripped bare: Porn. Moran argues that what started out as a industry decision in the late 80’s to get rid of pubic hair to help with lighting and camera angles has become part of many women’s standard maintenance routine, as uncontroversial as a half head of foils or a pedicure.

And let’s get rid of the euphemism Brazilian and call it what it is says Moran, “a ruinously high-maintenance, itchy, cold-looking child’s fanny”.

If we are getting Brazilians to feel ‘clean’ has the porn industry, run by men for men, succeeded in making us feel dirty? Are oversized inflatable boobs and a Brazilian now the acceptable standard for the female aesthetic? Are we ashamed? And where does vagazzeling fit into all of this?

The same week I read Moran’s chapter on Brazilians in her book How to be a Woman I saw the images from the 2012 Pirelli calendar and sure enough, every supermodel contorted in various ways was clearly hair free all over.  This was before I got to Mia’s tweet about the same calendar that featured Kate Moss: “Kate Moss’s nickname used to be Kate Bush. Not so much anymore”.

Moran doesn’t accept the argument that getting rid of pubic hair is no different to de-fuzzing any other part of our bodies. She sees removing other hair as simply an aesthetic decision, whereas vaginas are all about sexuality. If girls as young as 13 are really heading down to their beauticians to rid themselves of one of the first signs of womanhood, isn’t there something really wrong in the way we are approaching our bodies and sexual maturity?

As the Muff March highlighted, Moran isn’t the only one arguing that we should reclaim public hair (“keep it trimmed, keep it neat, but keep it what it’s supposed to be: an old-skool, born to rule, hot, right, grown woman’s muff”).  But their campaign raises the issue that the consequences of our visit to the beautician may be extend well beyond our pain threshold for hot wax.

Mihal is a freelance journalist from Melbourne living in the Netherlands. Shel enjoys watching trashy television and reading good books but with raising three little girls would settle for some solo bathroom time.

Is the Brazilian the new battleground for women? Are we doing it for ourselves and is it time for the muff to be reclaimed?

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