The capitalist drive to convince us that female body hair is unnatural and unclean has been alarmingly successful. The removal industry is worth millions, and uncountable women are ashamed of and distressed by their post-pubescent hair. But the industry is greedy. It must now convince the world that female pubic hair is dirty too. It must now convince people that male body hair is equally unacceptable.
So why, if women were so easily duped in the 20th century, are they seemingly wilier now, seemingly more willing to reject the shame heaped on their hairy privates? I think one answer is that privates usually are quite private, and – give or take a few spanners – our partners tend to love us as we are, in a way that wider society does not. I think another answer is the discomfort and the invasiveness of pubic waxing. I had my first (and last) Hollywood in August as research for the book I’m writing, and I could not believe how painful it was. Or the rash and itch that set in as it grew out. It’s too much. It’s too far. We resent the pressure, and we resent being made to feel ashamed.
The comedian Kate Smurthwaite has a skit where she describes being in the showers after swimming, when two little girls run into the changing room, point at her fluffy bits, start giggling, and run out again. Kate, of a generation confident of the normalcy of bush, shrugs and thinks to herself, “they’ll grow the same thing soon”. But then she thinks about how they’ll also grow leg and armpit hair. So she stops shaving.