Feminists Get Bikini Waxes, Too

It was when my waxing technician was leaning in to the business end of my bottom, spatula wielded like a modern-day follicle-focussed Monet, that I realised how bizarre the situation was.

There I was on her table, knees clutched to my chest, chuckling at Sarah’s story about her new boyfriend meeting her parents. Soft music played in the background as she peered into my posterior, spreading pink wax over my most sensitive of places.

Mid-giggling at the anecdote I suddenly realised with a jolt what I was doing. Was it right that a woman like me who rants daily on women’s reproductive rights and the gender pay gap was paying someone forty-five quid to remove the hair from her hoohah?

Bikini waxing – or the full-on Hollywood – is one of those things that liberated women used to do. But now, like Cosmopolitan cocktails, shimmery Lancome Juicy Tubes and Jessica Simpson and Nich Lachey’s version of true love, it’s all a bit over. A bit passé.

In my opinion, sensible outspoken feminism is one of the best and most needed things about the internet. And so many of my favourite feminists wax lyrical (excuse the pun) about the fist-pumping advantages of leaving their hair ‘down there’ growing wild.

Which is what I did until about four years ago, for no other reason that it really didn’t bother me that much and I wasn’t keen on the thought of having anything close to my vagina ripped out by a stranger. But then I entered the world of single motherhood: I joined the gym and suddenly spent a lot more time in a swimming pool, somewhere I didn’t feel too comfortable having tufts of hair snaking out of the crotch of my swimming costume, waving in the water like some kind of pant-seaweed.

Leandra Medine, the Man Repeller, summed it up perfectly when she said: “I know that I feel more comfortable in a bathing suit if I don’t have hair “down there,” but I’m not comfortable with the fact that I’m more comfortable waxed, if that makes sense.”

Yep yep yep – exactly that.

I’m no longer that fussed about swimming (too much time spent getting cold for my liking) but the propensity to have a Hollywood every eight weeks has stuck, and it’s now as much of a part of my self-care regime as my nightly facial. And I’ve started to wonder if this means my feminist ideals are slipping south.

feminist bikini waxYou see it’s not as if I’m doing it for a man, I wouldn’t dream of dictating to my boyfriend how he should cultivate his facial or body hair and vice versa. I’m sure my technician used to get quite despondent at my historic lack of a love life; I almost felt I should apologise to her that she took such care in crafting my beav yet nobody other than the speculum-wielding practice nurse at my GP ever saw the fruits of her labour. And with sex texts never being my thing (vom) it’s definitely not like I’m doing it under some kind of weird pressure from porn/Tinder/Snapchat.

This led me to do something of an unoffical survey among my friends. All but one do some kind of ‘down there care’ with methods ranging from shaving (too itchy for me) to hair removal cream (I use this on my upper lip) and, surprisingly, IPL.

I don’t believe I’m relinquishing my feminist beliefs by adhering to some kind of weird bush beauty promoted by PornHub and its ilk. You’ve only got to survey my wardrobe of pro-femme tshirts and the way I firmly educate my kids on equality to see that.

Plus, I’m not sure that Sasha Grey has ever stuck her jeans to her inner thighs by using a car seat’s heat function when there’s a little bit of residual wax left from her bi-monthly treatment.

For me, a bikini wax makes me feel like I’m doing something that makes me happy. It’s a 30 minute appointment that happens every 8 weeks come rain or shine: I go to the salon, I smell the essential oils, I lie on a warm couch and have a lovely chat with my technician about absolutely nothing at all. Barring the one experience I had at a salon I will never visit again – it seemed like the therapist was having a bad day and she was going to take it out on my crotch – it’s a relaxing treat. Sure, there’s a small bit of ouchiness to the whole thing, but with two kids it’s nowhere near the most pain I’ve felt in that area.

I return to my post-appointment life feeling happy I’ve done something for me and only me. No kids, no clients, no Power Rangers. Just me and a whole heap of hugely enjoyable small talk.

I leave the salon with a spring in my step feeling confident and attractive, not like I’ve caved to some patriarchal ideal of beauty.

And if sporting a natural bush makes you feel the same then more power to you: which is exactly what the fourth wave of feminism should be about. Choice, outspokenness and acceptance… however much hair is in your pants.

Image credit – me for Speedo.

14 Comments
  1. I’m not a fan of the full Hollywood, but do like my monthly “thong-shaped” wax (for want of a better description), with the occasional additional shave thrown in if I’m feeling less lazy than normal (or before the annual “can I really get away with a bikini at my age” dilemma).

    However, I’m starting to wonder whether I should rethink this a bit – at least temporarily- as the mother of daughters. Without beating about the bush (pun intended), my eldest daughter’s is now more luxurious than mine. And that, somehow, doesn’t feel quite right…

    1. See, I used to get the thong shaped wax. But then I went to a technician who wanted me to keep my knickers on the whole time and she kept waxing me wonky… erk.
      I also wonder where to go with the whole hair removal conversation as the mother of a daughter. If you figure out the best way to tackle it – I have a little while to go ;) – can you let me know?! :)

  2. I’m with you there, I couldn’t be without my monthly wax! Been down that path for over 10 years, started off with the playboy but then couldn’t be arsed keeping the small strip of hair and embraced the Hollywood :-) your so right though I think feminism is about choice, embrace the wax or the bush whatever takes your fancy. Leave your judgements at the door and do what’s right for you.

  3. Totally agree with the live and let live comments above (or wax and let wax?) For me personally, I am a grown woman and therefore want some hair down there. We go through puberty for a reason! However saying that I am still partial to a leg wax, so not sure where that leaves me!(Though a particularly intimidating scary Russian beautician over in Colombia back in 2009 helped me to get to my current stance on the issue. After that “experience” I decided ain’t nobody removing no hair from “there” ever again!) As always a pleasure to read!

  4. I think being a good feminist is about wanting women to have choice, even if those choices are different to yours. Personally I wish we lived in a society where body hair on women was viewed as natural and beautiful but we don’t. I hate waxing and shaving but it’s pretty ingrained in me (as I suspect it is in most women) that to be hairy is to be unattractive, not sexy. It would take an enormous amount of confidence to go to the pool or shag a new guy with an au naturel bush or hairy legs. I think we feel better doing it because we’ve absorbed that societal message that smooth is beautiful so when we do it we feel more beautiful – regardless of whether anyone will see it or not. I want to feel good hairy but it’s a long journey to break down those messages we’ve had our entire lives.

    1. This! You’ve already written down all my thoughts on this. I completely agree that as feminists we should do what feels right and that it’s about choice. But it also goes deeper, because choices don’t come independent of larger societal ideas and pressures…

  5. A wax can just be a wax. There doesn’t have to be a hidden agenda or deeper meaning. I have to confess that I only really questioned body hair and what I did (or didn’t do!) with it when my eldest daughter became a teen. She questioned why women wax, shave etc and it made me question why I did it too. To be honest before then I had just done it without question. But actually I realised that I did it because I wanted to and I liked the feeling. As it happens my daughter is now eighteen and the complete opposite. Legs, underarms and I’m presuming everywhere else! Neither of us is any more or any less of a feminist!

  6. I am all for do what makes you happy. However, for me, I have never gone full Hollywood as I felt it was important that my daughter know what is natural and not feel compelled, consciously or unconsciously, to remove the body hair she gains. I was not convinced that by removing it all I was not trying to look like a pre-pubescent when her body is changing to be a full woman and that made me feel uncomfortable. Once she is a bit older I won’t worry about it but for now I opt for minimal grooming in the lady garden (I actually had laser down on my bikini line years ago and that was when I had to think long and hard about this).

  7. Ever since I’ve had hair ‘down there’ I have always shaved it. As a teen I hated how my hair ‘mixed’ with that time of the month, so I decided to always keep it totally hair free. It felt cleaner. It never crossed my mind how I was ‘supposed’ to have it. I was too naive and led by practicality! My mum only started shaving her legs recently – haha! x

  8. That’s a question I have been pondering for quite a while. My mum, a bra-burning feminist of the 60s, had quite firm opinions on the matter, thus being rather appalled when I started shaving my legs aged 14. I can resolutely say that back then, I hadn’t even come across porn. In fact, the first porn I ever watched was a Betamax tape originating circa 1971 – more hair than my young teenage eyes could ever unsee. Also, social media was not invented and women’s magazines didn’t exist in our house. Hence, I don’t think my own hairfree appearance was influenced by anyone but my very own wish to be less hairy.
    However, I almost altogether stopped using make-up and slowly weened myself off the idea that something was missing when I left the house bar- faced. I always liked my face without makeup and didn’t really wear it for myself. In that case, I was undermining my own feminist believes.
    To a certain extend, we are all influenced by the constant drip-feed of how we have to look and behave. I think conversations as the above are necessary and healthy – and as long as we are doing things for ourselves, all is good. Dx

  9. I went for a bikini wax once, before a big romantic weekend away with a fella, and had an awful reaction to the wax. I came out in spots and have never felt so unattractive in my life! Since then I have never been back, although sometimes I think I should. Sorry if too much of an overshare?! ;) I shave because I want to. I feel more attractive when I do and although it is probably society that has brought me up to think this way, I shave because I want to. It makes me feel better.

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