Oh dear. We’re getting it all wrong again. And as usual, something must be done about it.
According to Emily Gibson, writing in the Guardian, we have all, rather stupidly, declared war on pubic hair.
When we shave, apparently, we turn our pudenda into a ‘scorched battlefield’, with inflamed hair follicles harbouring all manner of bacteria, including MRSA. Our toxic groins may even render us vulnerable to herpes.
Far be it from me to dispute such sound medicine. I wonder, though, whether Gibson is perhaps over-stating her case just a teeny bit? We all know that shaving any area can irritate the skin, sometimes leading to spots or ingrown hairs. Doesn’t this sound a great deal more scary when it’s phrased in medical language?
And I wonder how many cases of Gibson’s worst case scenario – erupting boils, permanent scarring and life-threatening infection – actually occur? If Gibson is just relying on the cases that she sees, it would surely be a bit like a casualty doctor arguing that all car journeys end in whiplash. Given that most people remove hair for cosmetic reasons, it would seem odd for people to continue to shave if it left them covered in suppurating pustules.
Believe it or not, women and men are perfectly capable of making entirely sensible decisions about how much pubic hair to retain. We see a range of choices made across humanity, and that is entirely appropriate. ‘We owe it to our patients to encourage them to let it be,’ Gibbons says. No, Emily, you do not. You owe it to your patients to do your job as a doctor, and to stop interfering with matters of mere discomfort.
This kind of discourse is becoming all to common: a faux-feminist outrage, based not on women losing their power to decide what happens to their own bodies, but rather on women failing to make right-on decisions when given the freedom to do so. Behind it lies plain old conservatism – a squeamishness about the blatant erotic gesturing of pubic hair removal, masked as maternal concern. Sport injuries make up an infinitely larger proportion of hospital admissions than waxing infections, but I don’t see anyone arguing that we shouldn’t run around in case we hurt ourselves.
I am not suggesting here that everyone should shave or wax – because that is none of my business. Neither do I have any objection to the sharing of factual information on the matter. But please, then, understand that the only pubic zone over which Emily Gibson has decision-making powers is her own.