Comedian Ruby Wax explained: “Vajazzeling is the female art of shaving hair around the vagina and replacing it with something sparkly, be it diamonds, glitter or anything found at the newsagent.”
In previous generations where the Brazilian was seen as an extreme form of female grooming, Generation Y and their predecessors have now been faced with the difficult question: If I’m a feminist do I have the freedom to trim, shape and change my pubic area in any way I please?
Led by MC Jude Kelly (who launched the Women of the World festival), the panel included Mia Freedman, the founder of website Mamamia, and its editor Jamila Ritzvi, as well as civil rights campaigner and director of Liberty Shami Chakrabati, one of the frontrunners of the Australian feminist movement, Dale Spender, and Ruby Wax. The discussion was about what it is to be a feminist in society today, standards of grooming and hygiene included.
“If you thought the feminist movement was dead, how many of you would be here now, or would have been able to work and gain an education?” said Dale.
“Being a feminist is about having a voice and having a choice.” Mia Freedman said.
We live in an era of porn on demand, confronted by billboards of women posing in little more than dental floss wedged up their backsides. Jude pointed out that pornography presents women as being without hair: “Young women have to shave their pubic hair in order to be ready for a sexual encounter as men expect them to be hairless,” she said.
Mia addressed the topic of labiaplasty, and the unrealistic expectations the media plays in female body image. “In Australian men’s magazines, there is a law that vaginas must be digitally altered to look closed and all external parts trimmed off,” she said. “Because of this, women feel ashamed of their vaginas.”
So for women who feel the need to grow their pubic hair like a cheer pet, you sure won’t gain any feminist credentials. You may repel men, and Ruby. “I just prefer the look of hairless men and women,” she said. “It’s more attractive.”
If you arrived at this event expecting hard issues such as systematic rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo or female circumcision in the Middle East, you’d be disappointed. If you like a light-hearted discussion by powerful women, then this was your day.
One important issue was raised. Hairless or hairy, vajazzled or not, where does a woman draw the line between being sexually liberated and sexually available? That question remained unanswered.