The View From The Bikini Line

I don’t know why I missed last Thursday – I blame the profusion of bank holidays, or maybe it was the threat of yet another 48 hour tube strike that was going to go ahead and then, well, it wasn’t.  Or maybe I ovulated late.  Then we had a Monday off and now I can’t remember whether I had a wax 24 hrs ago or 48 hrs ago and subsequently whether its safe to swim.    Then I paid my salary a day early, replaced my Gelish nails three days late, forgot what date my mother was due back from exotic climes, got fined for delaying payment of my National Insurance and forgot to take the bins out.

But what I did manage to do, and even managed to do it within the prescribed deadline, was to register for postal voting for the upcoming local and Euroland elections.  I won’t be able to vote on Europe in person, as I will actually be on holiday in Euroland.  Voting is a love-hate thing with me, as I love the democratic practice of taking part in a vote and think it of optimum importance, with GCSE history book black and white pencil impressions of Emily Davison falling under that horse at the Derby looming into my mind if I so much as waiver slightly on my intention to pop the old cross in the box on the form.  But it is a hate thing as I loathe all politicians, everything they say, everything they lie about and everything about their cheap suits and estate agent faces.  I loathe myself for repeatedly believing them over the years.  It is only my fault, I say.  I mean, in my time I have been known to believe the lies of handsome men but a woman is certainly going a long way to letting herself down when she starts believing the lies of ugly ones.

But, I thought, whilst applying a hair dye colour test in the office loos when I should have been doing my dictation, what would Emily Davison have done?  Would she have refused to vote if given the chance, because she was annoyed about Stanley Baldwin or Lloyd George?  Would she have allowed Churchill’s face, like a week old Cornish pasty, leering down at her from a advertising poster (for the Liberal Party, as he was in those days) to put her off or make her lose hope?  No.  I suppose if we call Emily Davison anything we can call her the finest of the first-wave feminists.   Too precious a thing to waste, that right we all take for granted about popping along to the ballot box on election day.  Before going to work in a job.  Where we legally have to be paid if we decide to have a baby or happen to not be a man.  Where we legally have rights.

I have realised if feminism is about anything its about forgetting to say thank you.  And it was a sacrifice that Emily Davison did what she did.  You have heard of third wave feminism of course.  It’s been around since the early 1990s but no one told me I was one until the phrase abounded in the national lexicon in about 2006, when we all realised we should take notice.   We can only do it because of the second wave movements regarding sex discrimination and equal pay that the 1960s and 1970s feminists saw to so that we, rudely, get to forget to thank them.  But this is for the first V :  Voting.  But the other V, Vagina is a whole host of people telling us what to do with it, how to dress it, whether to trim it, strim it, take it on holiday to Strasbourg, wax it, don’t wax it, and not shut up about it.     The problem with bikini waxing is that it has been appropriated as subject which is about feminism, whereas in actual fact it isn’t : it is a convenient site upon which anxieties about feminism get projected.  Onto topiary.  “What should I do with it?”  “What would a second wave feminist do with it?”  “Am I buying into the patriarchal control of my body by having a Brazilian?”  “Should I do a Gwynnie and let it roam free?”  In other words, so obsessed is the media in what we’re doing with them, that we develop an anxiety about it ourselves, which depletes the whole point of being a feminist which is to actually let yourself have non-patriachal fun with it in the first place.  It’s just a vagina.  And it’s our vagina.  Did we swap male oppression in order to be told what to do by oppressive, angry Guardianistas intent on growing beards, or from irate Telegraph readers telling us to just shut up and get on with being ladies?    It didn’t ask to be politicised.  Do what you want with it.  Wax the lot off or let it grow out.  It’s yours.   Ground Rule No 1 : Feminism is about choice.

Back in the biological, rather than the political world, nothing is fun in my waxers : “My husband dissn’t like eet unliss I have everythink oeuf,” says my waxer.  I see her fortnightly.  She speaks three languages.  Unfortunately, in none of them can she tell her husband she’s tired of bikini waxes.   She then wastes no time in telling me that I am old fashioned because I only go for the trim on the sides – a.k.a. the bikini wax.  “Everyone who comes in heyear has it all oeuf”.  It took me a while to realise she wasn’t talking about eggs (“oeuf”?)  but that she was talking about regularly carrying out procedures so intimate she practically gets to see everyone else’s eggs.  Then I began to think about it.  I’ve been told you have to be careful about the standard bikini wax, because, like wearing Chanel No 5  it’s A:  a bit 1980s, and B. tends to remind men of their mothers.  Now, I’m not saying we should sleep with men who say when they first see your vagina “Oh brilliant, it’s not a bit like Mummy’s” but no one wants an old-fashioned vagina.   Also, there’s something depressingly tidy and home counties about a standard bikini wax.  “I’m just off to get my bikini done” implies you’re going swimming or competing with other ladies in an imminent Greek Islands beach holiday.  Its implication is at best, pragmatic, and at worst, sporty.  It has no overtones of either overt sensuality or “take-me-as-you-find-me-its-my-bush-and-I-love-it” third wave feminism.   I may be many things, but I don’t think I’m old fashioned.  Then, with my sole of my foot wedged around her waist whilst she tackled with the undergrowth, I realised.  I was a first-wave waxer.  Mine was the Emily Davison of bikini waxes.  It hasn’t even got to the polling station.  There’s everyone else travelling around the world (Brazilian / Hollywood) in their underpants and I’ve barely left the station.  This is not due to political implications of having it all “oeuf” but due to a cowardly and embarrassing low pain threshold.  I need to graduate into the second or third wave of waxing or else I’m totally old hat.  But then if I was very fashionable I would be doing the utterly up to the minute thing and letting it grow out, like an unhappy brillo pad.  And I don’t want to.

Emily Davison probably wouldn’t have had an intimate Brazilian, I mused, putting the hair colour behind my ears in the office loos mirror and waiting for the warm, ammonia hit of a hairdresser salon on a rainy Saturday morning to hit my nostrils.  She had no vote.  She had no wax.  She had no choice.  Waxing isn’t the issue, and voting or not voting isn’t the issue.  But our generation’s failure to say thank you for the women who fought before us remains hugely embarrassing.  So I registered for a postal vote.  Because I can’t not.  Because all of us, if we asked ourselves a few basic questions,would not hesitate in answering in the affirmative : we are all feminists now.  So, if you think it’s a good idea to put an article in Sunday Times Style supplement setting women up in binary oppositions about the Hollywood / No Wax debate, don’t bother.  We’re all over it.  We really like our vaginas and deal with the hair that grows on it the way we want to.  It’s more important to write about countries where women can’t get safe abortions or can’t get married to the person who they are in love with, or those women whose heads are battered and bruised from being repeatedly bashed against the glass ceiling.   Do Emily Davison a favour : stay out of the bikini line and write about them.

Please return to the London Bluebird if you enjoyed this brief – but robust – outburst of militancy.  If you didn’t then please don’t.  Our next update will be on Thursday May 22nd!  That’s the day when you’ll all be voting, WON’T YOU?





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