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Viva la muff

By Meredith Jones - posted Thursday, 4 January 2007

Where does it end up? All the hair removed from women’s mons de venus must make for some significant landfill.

This is only one of the things that worries me about the Brazilian - this new form of “grooming” that has us by the short and curlies, ripping them out follicles and all - and its ramifications. My other concerns are less ecological, more political and feminist. Why this trend to remove pubic hair? Where has it come from and what might it mean, and how might we counter the rising imperative to tame our bushes?

Brazilians are connected to the mainstreaming of pornography: eight-year-olds wearing mini skirts bearing the silhouetted leggy Playboy logo in baby pink. They’re connected to the way that breast implants now run amok in the adult (and increasingly teenage) population. These augmentations have burst - or spread like a virus - from being the mere landscapes for seedy money shots in pornography to becoming stars in their own right (via Karen and Krystal) on last year’s Big Brother.


A quick flick through some 1980s magazines (yes I have a connection with a vintage collection) reveals no baldies. Fast-forward to the late 80s and the women are getting less hairy, many sporting the “racing track” - a 1 or 2cm strip down the middle.

In the 1950s only the rudest pornography showed genitals, so perhaps this is part of a chronological pattern of revelation. In order to add thrills and “show more” the body is increasingly spreadeagled and opened. And once it has been gusseted as much as possible without actually filleting it, depilation removes another layer.

Pornography is all about seeing and revealing, so the mystery of the muff is nothing to treasure: the thrill is in exposure. But what comes next? Pornography in the style of CSI where the internal body is the ultimate truth-teller? Now that our friends and neighbours are all sporting breast implants and Brazilians will pornographers have to resort to using MRIs and CAT scans instead of film, to show the body inside-out? Or will scat and snuff pornography become the order of the day, purchasable in the local newsagent?

But back to the hairy question … I think that the mainstreaming of pornography is only partly behind this trend. And my other thought is far more troubling. There is no denying a very simple observation: women have pubic hair, girls do not. We must admit there’s something pedophilic about the Brazilian.

It’s connected to that part of our culture that wants women to have the svelte and smooth bodies of elongated 12-year-olds, sometimes with a great pair of silicone breasts added just to show they really are women.

And it is no coincidence that the idealisation of the hairless pre-teen pubis comes to prominence in the overdeveloped world just as cosmetic surgeons witness (and of course quickly harness and exploit) a market for labiaplasties - operations that decrease the size of the labia minora and increase the labia majora - aiming to create a plump pair of lips separated by a neat slit with no protuberances.


But there’s no use just moaning and groaning about the landfill, or the minor torture of the Brazilian procedure. It seems that the Brazilian is so normal now that even pointing out its connections to pornography and child sexual abuse will have little impact.

Capitalism has its claws in our maps of Tassie now, and we all know that once it gets hold of something there’s no chance of that thing ever reverting to a “natural” state, whatever that was anyway. There are half a dozen beauty salons in every high street employing Brazilian waxing artistes to politely depilate queues of normal suburban women who now consider this procedure just an everyday part of good grooming: this is a sizeable industry.

So what strategies are left for those of us who are repulsed by its implications, who don’t want our mons to look naked and embarrassed, who want to maintain our jungles?

One way forward it to turn this beauty and grooming procedure on its head, embrace it in proudly perverse and interesting ways, flip it so that we can embrace the muff (I’ve read in Cleo that Kate Moss has already become sick of endless waxing and has reverted to her former fluffy state). We need to proudly cultivate and groom our muffs, tease them into big styles, dye them, form them into magical topiaries. Like hedge mazes, they will once again promise paths into secret places - places more enticing because they are hidden, not revealed.

If enough of us openly encouraged the muff the Brazilian waxers would have to learn a whole new trade - one of ruffling and curling, crimping and judiciously shaping. There would be pubic hair extensions, dreadlocks, and a revival of the merkin.

Vivienne Westwood might create a fashion line - a sort of inversion of her famous bustles - that highlights and accentuates these newly-loved ringlets or beehives with a series of delicate cages fitted into fabulous clothing. Collette Dinnigan’s next collection would feature lacy, beaded nets intended to protect our afros or our blue-rinsed curled sets. A focus on the magnificence of the muff would let the world know that women’s genitals are not infantile and always ready for penetration, but rather mysterious and highly prized, worthy of Sleeping Beauty hedge-style protection.

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First published in Sarsaparilla on July 4, 2006. It is republished as part of "Best Blogs of 2006" a feature in collaboration with Club Troppo, and edited by Ken Parish, Nicholas Gruen et al.

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About the Author

Meredith Jones is a Cultural Studies scholar based in Sydney. Marrickvillia is her blog.

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Viva la muff - Sarsaparilla

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