'Bring Back the Bush' - a response to the Channel 4 documentary

Lily Abery responds to the recent Channel 4 documentary 'Bring Back the Bush'.

Lily Abery
5th February 2020
Image: Instagram ava_secrets
In the Channel 4 documentary which aired on 27th January, campaigner Chidera Eggerue grows out her pubic hair for the first time in years for a public exhibition, as she explores our relationship with the hair of the nether regions.

Embarking on a social and personal experiment, Eggerue does not work alone; she recruits four women: a model, a student, a cage dancer and a fashion influencer in her journey on re-growing a fundamental element of a woman’s aesthetic makeup. The documentary was not only interesting and insightful, but also extremely thought-provoking. Hair removal is something so routinely fundamental to millions of women and men’s grooming routines and the social stimulant for a billion-pound industry, and yet the conversation about it remains minimal and muted.  

Though men experience similar societal pressures to remove, grow, or simply to have or not have hair; the grooming issue does seem to lend itself more to womankind. In the documentary, questionnaires and surveys were carried out, including a confessional booth where women and men discussed their personal relationships with their pubes. Eggerue asks questions such as ‘How does having more pubes make you feel?’, with many of the answers sadly including adjectives such as ‘dirty’ or ‘unnatural’. These responses are not only interesting from a social perspective, but also from a scientific one.

Porn is where many young people go to learn about sex and what makes women desirable.

The perception that having more hair on your genital regions is ‘impure’ or ‘unclean’ is fundamentally wrong- your pubic hair acts as a cushion between your underwear and your vagina; without that cushion, you are more likely to develop an infection. So, where has this perception come from? The majority of the answers point to the pornography industry. Online access to porn has soared in the last 10 years. One leading porn site receives over 1 million visits per day. In the UK, and indeed worldwide, porn is where many young people go to learn about sex and what makes women desirable.

The moral and ethical implications of this are obvious, that porn is so accessible and used as an educational source, a way for children to seek answers to a topic so often avoided by the adults around them. A porn director in the documentary spoke of how hairless vaginas are preferable because from a practical standpoint, you can ‘see more’ and the shot is less difficult to obtain. Upon reflection, maybe there is more to this than meets the eye. If there is a preference for a more naked vagina in porn, then maybe this is a wider social issue.

The societal-structural desire for not only a patriarchal but also a capitalist western society to have full access to women’s bodies therefore becomes very clear. Let’s talk facts. The laser hair removal industry in the United States is predicted to be worth $3.6 billion by 2026. That doesn’t include razor sales, waxing or hair removal cream. This is a multi-billion-pound industry. It is not surprising that the social stigma around women’s body hair has remained so potent for so long then, there is simply too much at stake.

There is a delicious irony in the definition of the phrase: ‘beating around the bush’ which ostensibly is to ‘delay avoid talking about something difficult and unpleasant’ which is exactly what people do when faced with the topic of pubic hair. Perhaps it is time for all of us to stop beating around this bush, strike up a conversation and break some stigmas in 2020, surely not that big a task? No? Oh well, I tried. 

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