Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mind Your Own Damn "Midlands"

So I came across this little tidbit on uber community gossip blog Oh No They Didn't! the other day:
Screen star Kate Beckinsale was shocked by her Pearl Harbour co-star Ben Affleck's negative stance on English women - and made it her "mission" to smash his prejudices.

Affleck insisted girls from across the Atlantic didn't match up to the image-conscious Los Angeles ladies he was used to.

She recalls, "Ben Affleck used to say, 'English girls are really bad at doing their bikini waxes, and smell.'

"I thought, 'I will make it my mission to prove you wrong.'"

Lovely, right? Now I already loathe Mr. Affleck. He and Matt Damon both remind me of smug little monkeys, and B.A. always struck me as a bit of a jerk. So I shouldn't be surprised, really, that he would say something so ridiculous re: English women and their bikini waxes, especially since the state and style of women's' pubic hair has become such a popular topic of conversation. But are we really going to pretend that there isn't something inherently offensive about chumps like Ben Affleck making sweeping generalizations about how women should groom themselves?

In an episode of Sex in the City, Samantha's man friend comments that she's getting a little "wild down there." And in the previews for Mrs. Henderson Presents-- a movie about the opening of the Windmill theater during wartime London -- Mrs. Henderson (Dame Judy Dench) tells her manager not to worry when she informs him that her actresses will be appearing nude. And she tells him that he can put aside his concerns re: "the midlands," assuring him that "we'll have a barber." In a preview filled with ridiculously cliched jokes, even the SB had to admit that this one takes the biscuit. You can use all the gardening metaphors you want, but this ain't no Wordsworth.

And even if it was, it wouldn't be any less offensive. Pastoral images, particularly in America, were often invoked in order to conjure scenes of an unspoiled feminized wilderness just waiting for the white man to come over and cultivate it. Imperialism has always loved looking for a new garden to trim. And the rapist paradigm implicit in the cultivator / penetrator metaphor in these narratives is clearly articulated in ecofeminist analyses. And when it goes wrong: "the horror, the horror."

In the quintisential chick-lit cream puff, The Bergdorf Blondes, the protagonist refers to her vagina as "Rio." It's named, of course, after her Brazilian bikini wax. I'm sorry, but am I the only one disturbed by the undertones of orientalism here? Am I the only one made uncomfortable by sentences like "I got my first brazilian!" Hello! Brazil was the last country to outlaw slavery in the Americas, it suffered for decades under dictatorship and IMF structural adjustment programs, and is often depicted as a pleasure zone for rich white people who want to dance with exotic brown skinned people. Isn't it sort of troubling that people like Gwyneth Paltrow now go around crowing "a brazilian changed my life!" Good luck with that, sister.

Of course people can do whatever they want to their own bodies. It's when they start telling other people what to do that bothers me. But I do think that this trend (often lumped in with the macro-trend commonly referred to as "pornification") ought to be looked at critically. So I'll just leave you with this little bit from Mimi Spencer:


This salon article
Let Waxing Wane
13 year olds waxing
Ben Affleck likes his nuts


mzn said...

Love the links.

You know, men are getting rid of their hair, too. I haven't seen The 40 Year-old Virgin but everyone is talking about some kind of hilarious chest-waxing scene. And men straight and gay alike are waxing more than just their chests. Hairlessness has become a beauty ideal for both sexes and it's no coincidence that achieving it costs money while the alternative, letting it grow, is free.

femme feral said...

I was going to write about men waxing, but thought I'd save it for another post. But yeah, the whole "manscaping" trend is big on shows like queer eye.

rockslinga said...

it's sad, because even though i consider myself a feminist, i fall prey to the hairless ideal. when i am not dating, i grow out my hair...everywhere. and i'm comfortable that way...until it starts getting too wild. it's funny that you mention that SATC episode. it ended with samantha shaving off the guy's pubes, instead of just growing hers. anyway, there's a very anti-LA episode when all the girls go to LA and the brazilian waxer takes off all their hair. and they have a great conversation about all the little girl/feeling naked aspects of "going bald".

Bloglisted said...

uh-oh. i like waxing and ben affleck. i think i'm just going to shut my mouth on this one. :-)

femme feral said...

Hey Jenny, if you wanna wax, more power to you! Like I said, people can do whatever they want to their own bodies.

But I can't let Mr. Affleck off the hook.

Bloglisted said...

Lol. Okay, fair enough. :-) What do you think of Matt? Cause I was just going to write a post about Matt!

Anonymous said...

When I used to train at Golds in Venice, Cal. Ben Affleck propositioned me. He gave me the creeps, is not my type and in relation to your post he is a hypocrite as he was out of shape/flabby and stunk.

I found out the next day that he was dating Jennifer Lopez and laughed madly about it with my gym friends.

femme feral said...

Anon, that story about B.A. is hilarious!

And Jenny, I do not care for Matt D. But you know me...I only like gay cowboys.

porkmuffin said...

this whole topic disturbs me. of late i have been "going wild" by not shaving ANY of my areas. pits, legs, and midlands are free to do whatever they please. but i feel pressure. pressure to shave. it's from an unknown, unspecified place-- i suppose it's "the culture". it sucks though, because i have a hard enough time getting laid as it is, and i feel like if i did start dating the pressure to shave would be even more intense. fucking hell, i cant win.

Donny B said...

Yeah, tell Ben to hit the gym and maybe he can start criticizing other people's looks (well, not even then).

But Matt? Come on, he's adorable and actually talented.

femme feral said...

I say be as wild as you wanna be, P.S.!!! It seems like a no brainer that doing what you want is more attractive than not. Plus, I read in one of those articles that the whole point of pubic hair is likely to trap pheromones, which basically telegraph sex, so... that seems good. I don't know. It seems preferences with these sorts of things really covers the whole spectrum.

Bored Dominatrix said...

You mention that a character names her vagina "Rio" after her brazilian bikini wax. Realizing that it's the character (and whoever created her) I really need to scold, I'm still going to get on my own little hobby horse and point out that a vagina (which is the internal passage from the vulva to the cervix) does not have hair, but a vulva does.

re: guys getting waxes--my gay ex-fiance in Belgium has told me that it's all the rage these days to get a "back, crack and sack wax." Sounds like fun, aye?

lost clown said...


If hair wasn't meant to be there it wouldn't grow there.

ow ow ow ow ow. I cross my legs just thinking about someone waxing my labia. OW!!!!!

No way in hell. And Ben Affleck's a poo head.

Anonymous said...

"I thought, 'I will make it my mission to prove you wrong.'"

Um, was anyone else disturbed by this response? Poor Kate! Why not, "I will make it my mission to spike your lunch with as many short hairs as womanly possible. Now, where did I leave those tweezers....?"

Swayframe said...

I say we start collecting our pube-laden wax strips, those of us who wax, and mailing them to B.A. direckly.

Also, I need some clarification. How exactly does one wax the scrotum? Or the labia? That skin is tooo thin, my little munchkins, to be yanking out hairs by the follicle-load. The areas adjacent to the labia/sac, i.e. the groin, are what one waxes, I believe.

lost clown said...

oh well in that case....OW!!!

I like your idea of mailing hairy waxing strips on mass to the poo head.

femme feral said...

B.A. better be careful opening his "fan" mail.

Anonymous said...

Got here from Carnival... of Feminists, that is, not from Rio even tho' we are discussing "Brazilians".

I am female, and I will never, ever, get a Brazilian bikini wax. I once, as a lark, and because my SO expressed interest, shaved off my pubic hair. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time. I am not, or wasn't at the time, admant about shaving or about not shaving any part of my body. If I have time, I shave. If not, I don't. Once the deed was done, I was surprised by my feelings about the effect. I was truly disturbed that I looked like a prepubesent girl. I was even more disturbed at how much that turned on my SO. In my mind, underage children are not appropriate fetish objects, and the attempt to give an adult woman the appearance of an underage child for the purpose of making her more sexually attractive is twisted in ways I cannot begin to describe. Anyway, why is it acceptable to have labia majora hanging out of a thong bikini but not hair? I'll be wearing boy-shorts from now on.

louiswap said...

Prepubescent girlism isn't what the wax job is all about.... Listen up you pretty gals: That reference is sooo hypocritical. I don't want to see a mustache on my female dates because I don’t date otters (not because I want to see a little girl’s mouth). I don’t date goats, therefore I don’t want to see fur on my girlfriend’s legs (not because I want to see some skinny little girls legs). I quit dating gorillas, therefore I no longer want to see pit pelts (not because I want to see some little girls arm pits). Same goes for the chest, ass, crotch, feet, and etc... Pubes are the sickest (Eeeeyuk). Prepubescence is nowhere in the picture.
You want to see males who wax smooth.?? Watch the WWE (Professional wrestling)..