To Wax or Not to Wax: Our Fool-Proof Plan

Waxing will never be a totally feminist act – but here’s how you can make it a little more consciously female-friendly. Questions to consider before you wax:

1. Why are you doing it? Is it because your partner asked you to, because all of your friends are doing it, or because Gwyneth Paltrow is doing it? Or just because you prefer it? (Hint: We’d only declare you cleared for the landing strip if it’s the latter, whether it’s because it improves your sex life or simplifies your everyday shaving routine.)

2. Is it in your budget to spend $60 to $100 per month on this extra service? Can you maintain it?

3. Can you have a no-nonsense conversation with your waxer about how much of your hair you’d like to keep? Because if you can’t bring yourself to talk about labia—even in coded terms like undercarriage (our personal favorite) and front-to-back—you aren’t ready to go Brazilian.

4. Do you have an impeccable, upscale salon or spa—as recommended by many, many friends and reputable publications—to which you can go for your wax? If not, forget it. Please. We beg you.

5. Does waxing make you want to vajazzle? If so, sorry, you’ve lost us.

6. Does waxing make you want to get labial plastic surgery or rehymenization? If so, sorry, we cannot support you on that, either. Lines must be drawn.

7. Does your own waxing regimen inspire you to take your 8-year-old in for a similar procedure? In the name of sisterhood, we must stop you there. Let her grow up and decide for herself.

Six steps to making your waxing a little more feminist:

1. Visit a website like MyVag.net or VaginaVerite.com to explore all sorts of sex-positive, empowering ways to feel good about your ladyparts, waxed or not.

2. Watch some porn online. Realize you don’t want to do most/all of what those women are doing.

3. Learn the lingo and research good salons if you do decide to go.

4. Talk to your lover about what he or she prefers and why. This doesn’t mean you have to do everything he asks for; it just means you’re getting his expectations out in the open so you don’t find out at the wrong time (like when you’re watching porn together and he says he wishes you looked more like the chick onscreen) or find out the hard way (like when you undergo the pain of your first Brazilian as a surprise for him only to find out he hates waxing as much as you do). Also, feel free to tell him what goes into making your ladyparts so smooth—go ahead, be dramatic about the $80 cost and every bit of the pain. He should know what you go through, and he should be just fine with seeing you between appointments. Then talk about what you prefer and why. This is your chance to tell him you’d love to go certain places on him if he could, perhaps, take a trimmer to them. Or to tell him you love his hairy, Tom Selleck chest and hope he’s never inspired to visit a salon after a late-night viewing of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

5. While you’re at it, ask your lover what he or she likes about your vagina. Straight men and gay women tend to like them more than some of us do, and can help us love ourselves a little more.

6. Talk to your girlfriends about waxing. You’ll find out what other women are doing and not doing, and you’ll have much more fun than you would having your 732nd conversation about your annoying boss and your friend’s non-committal boyfriend.

 

 

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @jenmarmstrong


Our Poor Vaginas

When a Cosmo headline promises to help readers get a “sexy vagina,” you know we’ve gone wrong somewhere. Here, all this time, we’d thought that if we had just one inch of sexy on ourselves, it resided in our sex organs. We figured maybe, just maybe, the place where their penises go might turn men on. We thought perhaps the millions of males who paused their VHS tapes of the 1992 movie Basic Instinct at a certain moment when Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs for all the world to see a flash of her goods—and the millions more who continue to search for this screen-shot online to this day—might have been predisposed to like pussy. (Then again, that is a hot white mini-dress she wears; maybe they just appreciate the simplicity of the design.) What we’re saying is we didn’t realize it could be such a chore to sex up the part of us that performs the sex.

Oops, take that back: We did realize it. We’ve realized it since the late ’90s, when suddenly it wasn’t just porn stars who found it an every-day necessity to hire a lady to pour hot wax onto their genitals, then rip it allll off, to, you know, keep things tidy down there. Organized. Sexy. In fact, a startling number of us pledged complicity to this trend—known by the seductive term Brazilian bikini wax—for something so painful, given that, unlike porn stars and swimsuit models, we couldn’t even claim it as a tax write-off. Among women in American urban centers, this has even become the norm, as routine as a manicure-pedicure or highlights, more routine than a dentist appointment. It is no mere biannual affair, after all. Keeping your honeypot sexy takes dedication, darling.

The question: Why do we do this? And does every rip of the wax take a little bit of our feminism with it?

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My Mouseketeer Icons

The bizarre mouse-ear-flapped beanies that the 1950s Mouseketeers made famous were, as it turned out, a bit of a reverse-sexist proposition. They brought out the vainest impulses in the teen boys in the cast who’d slave over their pompadours daily only to have their coifs smushed by the ridiculous headwear. “All the guys hated the ears,” Mouseketeer Lonnie Burr says in my history of The Mickey Mouse Club, Why? Because We Still Like You. “[Producers] would always want us to wear it like a monk.” Adds Mouseketeer Tommy Cole, “All of us boys had full manes of hair, and they wanted none of it showing. The girls all still looked pretty because they had these waves of hair flowing down, but they wanted to make the boys look like little bald people!”

In fact, looking prettier wasn’t the only way the girls outshone the boys on the mid-‘50s kiddie sensation. Though producers struggled to keep gender parity in their fluctuating cast of up to 24 kids, finding pre-teen and early-teenage boys trained in dance was no easy feat in the alpha-male-dominated Eisenhower Era. The core group of the most popular male stars — Lonnie and Tommy chief among them — came with loads of talent. But keeping the cast fully stocked with singing and dancing boys proved a constant challenge, while incredibly talented girls were often shoved to the background or dismissed altogether.

And yet, despite this female-dominated atmosphere, it was the girls — breakout star Annette Funicello and her female co-stars — who still somehow suffered disproportionately, at least when it came to facing adolescence in the spotlight. Breasts became a particular obsession on the show, both behind-the-scenes (where producers asked the girls to bind their bosoms to keep the program as chaste as possible) and in front of it (where the binding fooled none of the boys who’d gleefully tune in to “watch Annette grow!”). Panicked Disney memos asked costume designers to “try larger sweaters” and cameramen to “keep from shooting the girls in profile.” Curvy Mouseketeer Doreen Tracey would later tell an interviewer that executives requested she and Annette wear “silly tight T-shirts under our sweaters to try and flatten us out. Naturally, we used to punch holes in the right places.”

The girl Mouseketeers became early test cases in what’s now an accepted part of being a female adolescent star: The dichotomy of the particularly intense (and pervy) scrutiny of the male public gaze and the pressure to remain a virginal role model. From 12-year-old fans to grown men, the reaction always seemed to be the same. Doreen recalls an incident in which she and Annette ran into Walt Disney and some of his executives one day at Disneyland. Just after the girls respectfully said hello and wandered past, they overheard one of the men say, “What do you think of the girls? They’re turning out to be very nice young ladies.” Disney’s jokey retort: “They’re more for the fathers than the kids on this show.” Doreen, wise in Hollywood ways beyond her years, recalls thinking, “Oh, wow, we’re growing up, we’ll get a bigger and better part.”

Though the show itself would end soon after that, Doreen would prove correct about which of the girls’ attributes would get them noticed in showbusiness at large. And it wasn’t their impressive dance skills. Annette, of course, would become an icon thanks to a series of 1960s Beach Party movies featuring her making eyes at Frankie Avalon while wearing various bathing suits. Her mentor, Walt Disney, famously asked her to keep her navel covered to protect her reputation, but one look at Annette in a bathing suit shows it was hardly her navel that boys were flocking to the theaters to see. Doreen, meanwhile, dropped out of the national spotlight while she got married, had a baby, got divorced, sung to troops in Vietnam, and got a job with Frank Zappa — but couldn’t resist returning to pop culture consciousness in 1976 with a flashy nude spread in men’s magazine Gallery (complete with Mouse ears and little else on). When this move went over poorly with Disney executives, she did it again two years later — this time posing defiantly in a trench coat in front of Disney Studios.

Both Annette and Doreen grew up to be amazing women in their own ways. Annette is a universally loved star who, by all accounts, never wavered from the sweet, shy, demure girl she’d always been despite her success. Decades after her Beach Party days, she bravely shared her struggles with multiple sclerosis with her millions of fans after being diagnosed in 1987. Doreen lived an absurdly full life, touring with rock bands, writing songs, trying out competitive weight-lifting, and never apologizing for her sexy photo shoots — all the while raising a son and remaining independently single for most of her life. You have to love a lady who, at 67, says, “I’ve been trying to get a memoir done for years. But then a new chapter arises and I go, ‘Oh, no, it’s too early.’” My suggestion for her next act? Teaching budding Mileys and Lindsays a thing or two about Hollywood life for young starlets.

For more on the Mouseketeers’ lives on The Mickey Mouse Club and beyond, check out Jennifer’s book Why? Because We Still Like You. More detailed information on the book and the Mouseketeers’ lives today, visit JenniferMArmstrong.com.


A Man's Work

A Chicago event, the launch party for Bound to Struggle, a zine devoted to kink and radical politics. Hudson Cole doesn’t feel he’s out of place, but everyone else seems to think so. The others in the circle are watching him. A few are perplexed, more are suspicious, and some have outright resentment in their eyes. Cole looks around. He is the only guy in the discussion group. No, wait, there are a few other men, but they’re all transgender. As for straight white guys, he’s definitely in a camp by himself. Book by it’s cover, he doesn’t belong. Though not tall, Cole is broad-shouldered and handsome.With a shock of dark brown hair and an engaging smile, he looks like the all-American poster boy.

“I was really scared to talk,” Cole admits, thinking back on the event. But Bound to Struggle is right up his alley, its subject is one he knows a good deal about. Still, when he finally saw an opening to speak, Cole knew he needed to prove he wasn’t the typical straight white male.

“I needed to show some sort of awareness before I could even be allowed to have a voice in the group,” explains Cole. “It’s the same with sex writing.” And he would know. When he’s using the pen name Hudson Cole, it’s what he does.

Hudson Cole is an advice columnist, one of three regular columnists writing for the website Early 2 Rise (early2rise.net). His views certainly aren’t something he’s trying to hide. But they’re not what you’d expect to look at him.

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Female Friendship Is a Feminist Act

You don’t have to march at a rally to show your feminism (though it certainly doesn’t hurt): Lady-power starts with empowering fellow women in their time of need. Here, our writers share some of their favorite female-friendship moments …

“Really? I told you to download ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’?” asks Anna, laying her set of Cynthia Rowley china on the counter in our new kitchen. “Was I drunk?”

“I don’t think so. You told me to download that and ‘Engine Driver.’ These cups are great, by the way.” The porcelain is illustrated with cartoonish naked ladies, dirty dishes printed on the bottom. “I thought it was really deep,” I tell her. “I wanted Sam, but I didn’t need him. You get what you need.”

“That’s hilarious. Sam.”

“Why did I like him?” I make room for the dishes in the cupboard.

“Oh, he was cute.”

“Yeah, he was.”

Anna and I met in the spring of my sophomore year, her junior year, of college. We were fast friends, commiserating over her heartbreak for her on-again-off-again guy and mine over a boy I wanted to date who thought of me as just a good friend. But it wasn’t until the following year—around the time I was dating Sam—that I realized Anna was the one who was sticking around. Despite different graduation dates, apartments at opposite ends of New York, my semester abroad, and the season I spent working at a regional theatre in Cincinnati, the years have only brought us closer. This August we finally moved in together.

Since high school, my dating choices have ranged from not-quite-right to airport-romance-novel ridiculous, and I think they’re slowly getting better. But my taste in friends has always been excellent. The guys, even when they’re pretty great, tend to disappear if things don’t work out. Anna and I aren’t planning to live together forever, but I’m pretty confident that whenever we do leave this apartment, the main thing I’ll loose will be those dishes—not her friendship.

– Lily Blau

Just this week a friend mentioned off-handedly that a woman had approached her on the subway, pointing out that her purse was naughtily pulling up her dress in the back. This made me consider all the times I’ve been stopped, always by a fellow lady, and informed of a slight wardrobe malfunction (of which there are apparently a lot). One woman in Philly literally chased me down the sidewalk to alert me that my shirt’s tag was sticking up. Though always a bit awkward, there’s something warm and motherly about these exchanges—female strangers grooming and fixing each other, making sure we’re walking around looking as non-ridiculous as possible.

– Julia Bartz

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