To Wax Or Not To Wax: Advice From The Wurtzel School Of Incredibly Depressing WomanityS

Courtesy of a "Nerve Debate," we now offer the worst reason ever to get a Brazilian wax: because Elizabeth Wurtzel says so.

Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation and an incredibly depressing essay about getting older, basically plays the bad cop to Nerve editor-at-large Jack Harrison's good cop in this particular debate, titled "The Brazilian Wax: Bare vs. Hair." Speaking almost like a cliche of The Kind of Guy You'd Want To Have Sex With, Harrison says he likes all of a woman's natural smells, secretions, and adornments, including pubic hair. Wurtzel (perhaps unsurprisingly, given her much-publicized reliance on various beauty treatments) disagrees.

She argues that men prefer a naked snatch, and that this is "just the way things are and will ever be." After speaking for all men and predicting the future, she moves on to generalizing about the preferences of her own gender:

I think we women don't feel entirely female unless we're slaves to beauty.

And:

[A]t one time, when you got pubic hair, it meant that you were an adult. Now, you get it removed to show that... you're an adult. There's something childish about being hairy, now that Brazilians have achieved vaginal hegemony.

And:

I guess there is a philosophical sickness that drives us to do things like go to salons for hair removal: it's an insane drive toward achieving a state that we'll never get to, that we'll always be approaching, stuck at some horrible asymptote. But I guess it makes me feel better to try.

In her post on Wurtzel's aging essay, Sadie wrote that Wurtzel "has always ascribed a universality to her own experiences" — and really, the best response to her thoughts on pubic hair is, "speak for your fucking self." The truth is, I do know women who get Brazilians because men like it (or, as Wurtzel says, "the audience response had been very, very good"). But I also know women who do it because they like the way it feels, or looks — and I know women who keep a full bush for those same reason. Yes, institutionalized standards of beauty are fucked up, and yes, the ideal of female hairlessness is one such standard of beauty. But getting a Brazilian doesn't necessarily mean you don't feel "fully female" without one.

It's a little weird that I started out this post defending waxing, since my personal sympathies lie with Harrison and his let-it-all-hang-out philosophy. But Wurtzel makes all female grooming sound like such depressing drudgery that I feel like stepping in on its behalf. Feminism has long had a fraught relationship with the modification and decoration of the female body, but one of the few nice things about the current post-feminist morass is the widespread recognition that dressing up, wearing lipstick, and, yes, even getting a Brazilian, can be kind of fun.

Yeah, so waxing hurts a lot more than lipstick. So it produces a look that some people think is infantile. That doesn't mean everyone who does it wants to look like an infant, or that every hair removed is an act of willing enslavement. Wurtzel's "insane drive toward achieving a state that we'll never get to" does sound like a pretty good description of the attitude toward beauty that women's magazines and advertisers want us to have. But just because Wurtzel drank that Kool-Aid doesn't mean we have to.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic — maybe it's impossible to make choices favored by the beauty-industrial complex without in some way enslaving oneself to this complex and all its evil familiars. But Wurtzel's idea of womanhood is so heartbreakingly constrained — by men, by porn, by standards of beauty that are totally entrenched and unchangeable — that it seems to leave no room for taking actual joy in our bodies. And I have to believe we're freer than that.

The Nerve Debate, The Brazilian Wax: Bare vs. Hair [Nerve]