Girls is an American television series that has recently amassed a great deal of media attention. Lena Dunham, the show’s creator has vocalized her desire to challenge stereotypes and specifically does so by challenging conventional beauty ideals. Dunham, who also plays the role of Hannah, the show’s protagonist, does not fit the stereotypical ideal of beauty in modern America. Even so, Dunham constantly strips down in front of the camera with no shame in showing the world what a real woman’s body looks like. The controversy over Dunham’s body is actually quite ridiculous if you really think about it. I mean, who honestly cares if she gets naked on camera? Plenty of other people do it. Even so, Dunham’s voyeurism has received both positive and negative criticism. While many praise Dunham for her resistance against stereotypical notions of beauty, others criticize her and go as far as to call her body disgusting. The fact that there is such controversy over one woman’s body illustrates our society’s obsession with beauty. If someone that gets naked on television isn’t a size 2, she is automatically a major topic of public conversation.
What stands out most to me is this rhetoric of disgust. Women’s bodies are constantly referred to as disgusting. Whether a woman’s period is disgusting or her fat rolls are disgusting, this term is thrown around as if it has no effect on the person being described in that way. It is obvious by the way many women feel obligated to hide their bodies and keep silent about specific bodily functions, however, that this is not the case. In fact, one bodily function that seems to cause women a great deal of embarrassment is the growth of body hair. While I will not delve into the debate over women’s body hair as I am myself conflicted about the issue, I would like to point out that pubic hair, specifically, is a topic that seems to pop up in conversation more often than people would think. Questions like “How much hair is too much?” or “Do men like it shaved all the way or do they prefer a landing strip?” are prevalent amongst all female groups. The real question, however, really should be: Why the fuck does it matter what men want my vagina hair to look like? Unfortunately, it is hard not to be affected by societal pressures and I think that Lena Dunham’s work is a step in the right direction. In fact, the issue of pubic hair was actually mentioned in last Sunday’s episode (I told you its more prevalent than you may think). I have attached a link to the episode at the bottom and have transcribed the conversation, which can be found 9 minutes and 18 seconds into the episode, as follows:
Hannah: What’s that?
Jessa: Penthouse, from 1979
Hannah: You think that’s Frank’s?
Jessa: No, it’s too good for Frank
Jessa: (Whispers) Oh my God. Look at that bush
Hannah: Oh my God. You would like fully get lost in that bush. It’s like a walkabout situation, it’s horrifying.
Jessa: I know
Hannah: They’re crazy vaginas
Jessa: They are NOT crazy! They’re the way they’re meant to be
Hannah: I don’t even think I could grow a bush like that
Jessa: These women should be really proud because in a way it’s the most noble thing you can do, is to help a boy find his sexuality, help a boy become a man, you know?
Hannah: Probably THE most noble you know, aside from being like a doctor or a firefighter
Jessa: Who says she’s not a doctor? (opening the spread)
This excerpt is not only funny but insightful as well. I am not advocating growing out a bush, but what I am doing is challenging you, as the reader, to define you body hair the way that best suits you. Despite the comic quality of talking about pubic hair, I think it’s something that we can all question and think about in terms of society’s pressure on us to conform. Perhaps we, as women, can begin reclaiming out bodies by starting with the way we trim ourselves “down below.”