20.1.14

FASHION, FEMINIST OR FETISH - THE BUSH IS BACK

When American Apparel unveiled their Valentine's Day window display at their SoHo store, it caused quite the media surge. Never one to shy away from controversy, or for that matter breaking conservative views, the brand have yet again sought to combat societal expectations of body image. With mannequins clad in sheer underwear with an abundance of faux pubes clearly visible to passers-by. According to someone who works at the SoHo shop, it was supposed to represent the 'rawness and realness of sexuality.' 

Now, this isn't the first time that American Apparel has made news with matters regarding the pelvic region. Back in 2011, AA caused a stir by addressing the taboo of pubic hair when releasing an advert of a girl in slightly sheer pants showing her pubes, a jumper and nothing else. While many viewed this as sleazy, others respected the boldness the brand was taking on the subject of body image. While American Apparel often mention the idea of 'natural beauty' in regards to their advertising campaigns,  can this latest display be seen as fashion forward, feminist or just another publicity stunt?

image from gothamist.com

Sitting proudly in Manhattan, the above window display that was first brought to media attention by gothamist, was erected in the middle of the night and unveiled the next morning. Its reception was one of shock, surprise and ultimately embarrassment, no doubt the intention of the creative director of the brand. With mothers shielding their children's eyes, others taking shifty looking sideways glances,  and some thinking it overtly sexual or perverted. The mood was apparently light and funny. But is the matter really one to laugh at?

image from gothamist.com

Surely, this just highlights the severity of societies' expectations and media representation of female body image. It has become so common for women to be bald as a baby 'down there' that even the notion of a woman having pubes both disturbed and disgusted many. In a statement released to ELLE.com American Apparel said:

American Apparel is a company that celebrates natural beauty, and the Lower East Side Valentine’s Day window continues that celebration. We created it to invite passerbys to explore the idea of what is ‘sexy’ and consider their comfort with the natural female form. This is the same idea behind our advertisements which avoid many of the photoshopped and airbrushed standards of the fashion industry. So far we have received positive feedback from those that have commented and we’re looking forward to hearing more points of view. 

Although this is a very well-thought out marketing strategy, clearly to gain media and press attention, I do think the message behind it, of accepting the natural female form, is of increasing importance. As women, we are bombarded by the idea that hair in places other than the head, brows and lashes, is unacceptable. From porn to pop culture, women are portrayed as absolutely hairless, and girls as young as thirteen have asked beauty salons to remove all hair from their nether regions. 
Porn is often to blame for the 'unrealistic' ideals of the female form, with young girls with no body hair often taking centre stage as it were in modern day porn. However, go back forty years, and porn was bursting with bushes. Each generation has ideals of what is deemed 'sexy' thus relating body hair to fetishism and fantasies. However whether how you prefer to groom yourself should not reflect your sexual preference.
Recent articles in Metro and The Guardian have both addressed the subjects of bushes being back 'in', and Cameron Diaz has also stressed the importance of body hair being present for hygiene reasons. Now I'm by no means saying that pubic hair goes hand in hand with feminism, nor am I saying it's anti-feminist to shave. It's more about choice and variety. Whether you want to trim, wax into a landing strip, take it all off in a hollywood or go full on bush how nature intended, the point is it's up to you and your personal preference. While American Apparel chose to show completely untamed pubic regions, their message was clear: sexuality and what can be considered as 'sexy' is entirely open to interpretation. 

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