The sexualisation of the female body has been present in various Western societies for centuries. From naked figures in artwork to the commoditization of women’s bodies in music, no one is safe from this controversial fad that exists today. Within this sexualisation of women’s bodies, there is an unspoken standard or expectation of how these bodies should look. Anyone can see by observing pop culture today that this standard consists of white, thin females. Women strive to achieve this societal perfection—a seemingly unattainable image for the majority of the female population. Within this societal norm, there is a further criterion that women feel they must obey in order to be deemed as attractive by society. One of these is the hairless factor.
American Apparel, a popular American clothing store, recently made headlines as they unveiled a new set of mannequins in a New York store window. These mannequins consist of white women with unruly pubic hair seen through sheer undergarments that the mannequins are wearing.
The author of the article on the blog website Gothamist.com, Jen Carlson, discusses this controversy. She refers to this display of pubic hair as “1970’s porn bush[es].” Carlson is simply adding to the body shaming of women. What she refers to as a porn bush from the seventies, I simply refer to it as what it is—a vagina, in all its glory. The fact that Carlson is contributing to the societal expectation of having a hairless body is discouraging for women. As a woman herself, she should be standing up for the rights of women. She should be encouraging them to have the confidence to sport this “porn bush”, therefore gaining back the rights over their own bodies and not giving into the body modification trends.
(Photo by Michelle Barber-Perry)
This discussion has become the ultimate taboo as women feel that it is wrong or gross to have pubic hair. Women have been made to feel that body hair equals masculinity. Therefore in order to be feminine, we must be hairless. This especially pertains to pubic hair. While many claim that it is a personal preference of how you style your pubic hair, it is my understanding that many of us feel that we must be hairless “down there” in order to be seen as attractive or sexy to men. We feel that we must shave our legs, wax our eyebrows, shave our armpits, and wax our vaginas in order to be seen as feminine in today’s society. We put our bodies through torture in order to achieve the beauty that society forces us to strive for. And if we don’t strive for this beauty, then we are deemed as feminists.
When asked the question of whether women have free will in terms of their body modification, I would argue that society does not allow us to. Society and pop culture has deemed pubic hair as a sign of masculinity and when females are attributed to masculinity, they are deemed as lesbians or feminists. Clearly there is nothing wrong with being either of these things, yet a woman who is neither a lesbian nor a feminist should feel that she has enough control over her own body to choose to sport pubic hair. Hairlessness attributed to feminism is a socially constructed craze that further deepens the insecurity that women feel within their own bodies.
I think that it is ridiculous that this American Apparel display has been deemed as feminist. Yes, you could attribute it to third wave feminism, but these images still objectify women. With these mannequins scantily clad in sheer undergarments on display for everyone to see, nothing is left up to the imagination. While American Apparel’s Ryan Holiday claims that these mannequins are meant to challenge the ideas of “sexiness”, he also said that it is meant to make people reconsider their personal opinions of the natural female form. Firstly, these mannequins are stick thin, displaying a societal expectation forced upon women that has led to higher rates of eating disorders and mental illness. Secondly, all of these mannequins are white, displaying another societal expectation. By claiming that these mannequins are meant to exhibit the “natural female form”, it makes me wonder why they chose to use pubic hair to do so.
I’m curious as to whether people would react the same way if these mannequins were not thin, tall white women. Had American Apparel chosen to display a curvaceous African-American woman or a short Asian woman sporting pubic hair, would American Apparel still have received the same reaction from the public? Had the store used mannequins that did not fit society’s description of beautiful women, I would expect that there would be much more backlash.
The warped image of what society views as “sexy” is degrading to women, and although I praise American Apparel for challenging these views with the exposure of female pubic hair, I further challenge them to experiment with models who are not predominantly white, tall, and thin.
Click on the picture or find the original article here: http://gothamist.com/2014/01/16/american_apparel_mannequin.php