I stumbled upon a REALLY interesting article as I was perusing the webs this evening about American Apparel and their mannequins. To put it bluntly, they had their mannequins showcasing themselves in their natural state. Meaning, they were baring their pubic hair all out for the public to see.
As you can imagine there was a tremendous amount of controversy, (which I’m sure AA was going for because this isn’t the first time that they have done something controversial). There was a lot of backlash mainly against the unkempt and wild looking nature of the mannequins. They were dubbed as unsightly. Does that mean that any woman who decides to go natural is unsightly and unkempt? I wanted to get a second opinion so I decided to question my roommates on this issue. Immediately I showed them the photo of the mannequins.
They screamed. I laughed. Their argument was that since mannequins are meant to showcase clothing, then the only function that they have is to be bare and presentable for the public. They too agreed that the mannequins looked unsightly and “gross”. I asked if there was a mannequin that had a muffin top or dimples in their thighs as well, would that be unsightly as well? While I agree that the photos are pretty gnarly, I don’t think American Apparel is really concerned with the pubic hair stuffed in the mannequin, I think they’re concerned with the societal perception of beauty and seek to challenge that.
Let’s run it back to the history of hair removal. It originated around the early 1900’s when sleeveless dresses became a new fad for women. The early Harper’s Bazaar made a note of removing the “objectionable hair” if choosing to get into a sleeveless dress. It was a fashion statement that ended up taking storm and with the clothing that became skimpier and skimpier over time the hair removal became more frequent. Everything on your body became “objectionable”. Now a century later we are here and going towards greater extremes of hair removal in order to keep up with standard of beauty. In my opinion, choosing to be a woman that keeps her natural hair growth is admirable to me. I believe that anyone’s personal stance on not shaving has a strong sense of comfortability and confidence in their own body (this is not to say that shaving women don’t have the same confidence). Myths about shaving point towards smelliness and dirtiness. But history shows that it wasn’t about being smelly or being a dirty person. It was about aesthetics. It was turned into an aesthetic.
Two semesters ago, I had a class with a really interesting girl who didn’t believe in bras, underwear, or shaving. One hot day she decided to put on a maxi dress and let me tell you, nothing was left up to the imagination. Although I was slightly creeped out by this, watching the way she spoke and carried herself throughout the semester made me think that this wasn’t just a girl who is lazy and untidy. She actually proved to me that she was quite the opposite. I personally can acknowledge that I have been driven by the media and people to believe that not shaving, or having that “au natural” look is something that is to be frowned upon.
I think the reactions that American Apparel got from onlookers just goes to show the way we think nowadays. I had to take a moment to pause. If this is one of the things that make me and other people reel, then what other “truths” or “standards” have I taken upon myself in order to keep up with the Joneses? Sidenote: I personally do not exercise the practice of not shaving. I can’t handle the ramifications of that especially on a college campus, but I sometimes wonder if one day I will be able to shrug it off and just do whatever I feel.
Tell me what you think in the comments below!