When I was little, my mom was the kind who always offered to talk about “my changing body.” Those three words still remain the most cringe-inducing in my repertoire, even almost 10 years later.
And then there’s her favorite medium of education: picture books. You didn’t know there was a children’s picture book about puberty? Well there is—and it’s called Hair in Funny Places. No? Did you spend your childhood under a rock or something? My mother is one of the few who would give this book to her daughter to help during such a tumultuous time. Its images are burned in my mind even today, filled with cartoon illustrations of hormones that look like something out of a Mucinex commercial, making evil potions in pitiable teens’ bodies.
Yeah, I was scared of puberty (and judging by some of those awkward bar mitzvah souvenirs that just won’t disappear, I had reason to be scared). However, the impending doom of the funnily-placed hair was not my biggest concern. Smelling, stains, and pimples were public evidence that the worst had occurred and I had moved on from the simplicity of childhood. Hair, on the other hand, was thankfully private; and, as long as I could avoid that terrible P-word—pubic—I would survive and no one would ever know a thing.
But as it turns out, people do care about pubic hair. It’s everywhere—or is it nowhere? I guess that’s the real question that people want answered.
They call out (or praise) the Barbie-like grooming of modern porn stars; they reminisce about the bush of yesteryear (or quietly thank god that it’s gone); they debate about the best techniques, shapes, and designs with which to treat those pesky pubes. But while we’ve got all this talk about the right approach to how to deal with the carpet, my burning question is “why does it matter?” Last time I checked, the drapes were significantly more important than the carpet.
Enter the newest voice in the grooming debate: American Apparel mannequins with luscious carpets that do match the drapes. It’s quite the F-you to the Mattel approach to that area, if I do say so myself. So now Americans, rather than continuing to ignore the reality of what’s all the way down there with the help of cold, hard plastic, are having to face that scary region with nothing more than a sheer pair of underpants that leave little to the imagination. And that’s exactly what American Apparel is hoping to accomplish—or so it claims.
I’ll give this to American Apparel: It succeeded in continuing the conversation about getting over our collective fear of the bush; but, did it really “spark up conversation about what we deem beautiful and sexy” as Dee Myles, the district visual manager of American Apparel, affirms?
Well, seeing as my attraction to plastic life-size dolls is remote at best, I don’t think so. Bald, plastic mannequins with drawn-on eyes don’t really scream beautiful, sexy, or even human to me. All that I’m seeing is American Apparel playing the F-card. That’s right, Feminism. It’s covering up all its scandals (in particular, the ones involving underage girls) by “baring” it all—and it isn’t really working.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: American Apparel doesn’t garner much respect from anyone besides the niche group of neon-lycra-unitard aficionados. So, it’s a joke to think that it has the right or a good voice to make such important social commentary on the state of women’s rights. Its attempt to use taboo topics to sell clothes is as transparent as the made-in-the-U.S. on its mannequins; and luckily, everyone seems to know it.
The problem here is that pubic hair is a topic that everyone feels they have a right to comment on, and in this case, capitalize on.
The real question is why these 10 or so square inches of the female body reserved for the eyes of doctors and intimate lovers, suddenly feel like a tattoo reading “feminist”? That question, I can’t answer. But for now, I can safely say that an American Apparel storefront doesn’t hold the answer.