Perhaps you've already heard: The bush is back. Yes, claiming that a body part is "in" or "out" of fashion is still inherently problematic, yet many have noted that a fuller-bodied pubic hairstyle is being celebrated in the public eye in 2018 in a way it hasn't been for quite some time.
In 2013, photographer Petra Collins' picture showing her pubic hair was deleted from Instagram, causing uproar and igniting debate. In 2017, Ashley Graham, model and forever champion of owning your body and your choices, said in an interview: "I have a full bush. Period. It’s about your preference, and your partner's preference." Amber Rose, too, posted a picture of her full foliage on Instagram in 2017 (it was also deleted, but lives on on Twitter). Earlier this year, even Vogue noted a return to more hair down there — a trend likened by waxer Pat Stark to the "return to thicker brows."
Throughout the '90s and the '00s, hair trends came and went, as trends are wont to do. Being a young woman growing into her body during the 2000s meant that a lot of what I saw didn't have much hair on it at all. It’s now 2018, and I’ve been waiting nearly 17 years for my eyebrows to grow back fully after the ghastly pencil-thin brow debacle of the early '00s, fashioned fabulously by the likes of Christina Aguilera and Paris Hilton. And although many women have resolutely refused to bow to societal pressure when it comes to body hair, one only has to recall the ubiquity of the Brazilian back then to remember how intense that pressure once was.
In reality, the eulogy for a fully dressed mons pubis was written way before the dawn of low-rise jeans and the desire for a hot wax. Because, of course, women have been waxing, shaving, and preening their nether regions since the dawn of time.
If early Renaissance art is anything to go by, one would expect the female body to present in real life as completely hairless. In 1532, a book of secret recipes for all kinds of hair removal advocates a mixture of arsenic and quicklime. The book advises: "Wash the skin when it becomes hot, so as not to remove the flesh." The ancient Greeks favored a (slightly) less dangerous method of depilation. Methods of hair removal for Grecian women ranged from the arduous task of plucking out the hairs one by one to singeing them off with hot ashes or a burning lamp. In the Elizabethan era, women were more inclined to keep their pubic hair intact, although some still opted to go hairless, mainly to decrease the risk of contracting pubic lice. Nice.
In light, then, of evidence suggesting that women have been burning, boiling, and lacerating their skin since the dawn of time in the search for ultimate beauty, the recent mainstream appreciation of female body hair is actually pretty radical.
When I first noticed hair growing in my pubic area, my instinct was to shave it all off. Not because the sight of it frightened me — I’d been told to expect it from a certain age — but because something about removing my pubic hair made me feel bizarrely grown-up, despite the fact that what I was doing was making me look less like an adult. Knowing I had control over my own body gave me a sense of autonomy that young women so often crave. Nowadays, however, I leave my pubes to grow out for so long that if I wear a skirt or a dress in high temperatures, I run the risk of starting a bushfire.
A world away from violating our vulvas with arsenic and burning ourselves at the follicle, we are getting much closer to lacerating societal ideals about what our bodies should look like in order to be accepted or desired. I spoke to five other women who have given up hair removal down there and are ready to dispense a long, tall "follicle off" to anyone who still assumes the right to suggest what they should or should not do with their pubic hair.