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AnuOluwapo Adelakun: The Politics Behind Unshaved Pubes

AnuOluwapo Adelakun

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It all starts from your childhood when you’re taught to bend down and wash down under there. Keep it really clean, but don’t let anyone see it. Perfectly fine. However, that’s the beginning of how other people control your view about your vagina. You wouldn’t even know that it has a name until that science class you took as a teenage in high school when you were taught about puberty. “Today,  we will be talking about menstruation” your science teacher would say with a timid or perverse tone, depending on who they really are.

You attend a 100% girls’ school and about 30% of your class has gone through the ‘horror’ of seeing their first period but everyone giggles because menstruation equals boy talk and boy talk has been top of the list of woman problems from time immemorial. It’s your induction day!

But you’re disappointed. All you hear is some mechanical explanation of how you have a limited collection of eggs and how each one dies and leaves your body every month. Your biological clock is now ticking. Your teacher painstakingly draws the diagram of the ‘female reproductive organ’ miles away from the ‘male reproductive organ’ because both must never meet. ‘If a boy touches you, you will get pregnant and then your life will be over’

You can’t say vagina. Think it, write it down in your science notebook or exam sheet and that’s enough. But you and your friends call her “Miss Titi”. It’s an inside joke. Everyone takes care of Miss Titi because good grooming or maybe because you were all ashamed to have anyone see water drip endlessly from the Afro Miss Titi wore because there’s always a long queue of eyes watching as everyone takes a shower in the huge door less space called bathroom.

It is a socially acceptable thing to buy expensive shaving creams to ensure that Miss Titi and her cousins are always bald. Bald represents cleanliness and cleanliness, godliness and godliness a major trait of a marriageable maiden in waiting. You and your friends would laugh at people who decide to tend Miss Titi like a garden flourishing with weeds. “Obasanjo farms” you would tease and snarl at the person as having horticultural tendencies. But you never see those girls when you queue up for anti-fungal creams at the school clinic to treat yet another yeast infection. 
You rather smell those kind of girls from afar and they always leave you confused as to whether your grandmother’s he-goat or a teenage girl is passing by.

A shaven vagina is also an economically prudent habit, you think to yourself.  Considering the fact that you have to queue up for 2 hours just to have  a little bucket of water to bathe with, you certainly don’t want to lavish so much water shampooing pubic hair like you are going to exhibit it a hair show.

Then you become a woman, a Cosmopolitan-reading one. Now you know for sure and without a doubt that a hairless vagina is sexy, acceptable and considerate. Sexy because, the images of an ideal woman in advertisements, on TV,  by celebrity standards and everywhere promote hair only on head. Acceptable because everyone you know shaves Miss Titi and more. Considerate because when your partner arrives for coitus, he doesn’t want to walk through the jungle and valley of the shadow of death.

So you stress. You stress about work,  about plunging stocks, about the pressure to have kids 9months after your wedding, about the shape of your eyebrows… And how soon you need to shave your vagina again because 2 weeks is all you can afford to allow for a fallow period. It’s a modern woman kind of thing and you simply cannot follow in your mothers footsteps. She’s from an era where afros reigned and ruled the day. No pressure. Just soft curly goodness. You wonder how she coped because Miss Titi is very demanding;  always wanting to grab some fresh air like an asthma patient.

Then you become an advocate. Shave your vagina you tell your friends and research methods of dealing with chest and chin hairs for your friend whose testosterone level keeps betraying her femininity.

You shop for your vagina. Soaps and creams and sprays. Whoever invented those is a genius to you. And you smell like fresh flowers there but no one knows how you take toilet breaks at work to attend to itchy Miss Titi or how many times you’ve been to the gynaecologist this year because you’re addicted to douching. “You really need to stop being obsessed about your vagina Mrs Doe. You keep getting these infections and they might affect your ability to conceive”

So you’re torn. You know it won’t be long before your mother-in-law begins to fidget about grandchildren after giving you expert advise on keeping your legs up after intercourse so you can get pregnant “quick quick!”. But you also know that to grow an Afro would mean betrayal. Betrayal of your fellow shaven vagina brand of feminists. ‘Power to the Vagina!’ It’s empowering and refreshing for you.

But what you don’t know is that your vagina is yours, but everyone thinks they have a say over it. And you let them…

Photo Credit: Warrengoldswain | Dreamstime.com</em>

AnuOluwapo Adelakun is a Women & Girls rights advocate, Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker working on issues affecting marginalized girls and women in Nigeria. She's a UNICEF Voices of Youth alumni, Carrington Youth Fellow of the US Consulate in Nigeria, US Consul General Award Recipient, UN WOMEN/Empower Women Global Champion for Change and UK Chevening Alumna. She's also an ardent reader of African literature and an unrepentant fan of the BBC series 'Call the Midwife'.

15 Comments

  1. Jummy

    June 19, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Are there women who really obsesses over their vaginas like this?

    For me, I prefer is absolutely clean shaven, not because any society conditioned me to it. Fresh air hits it better when it’s bald that’s all. Like a bald head. Lol.

    Plus even though I like it clean shaven I’m too busy to keep it that way, so I do what I can.

    It’s not that serious oh.

    • tolu

      June 19, 2018 at 7:48 pm

      Anu your sooooo funny gosh lols. Well a reasonable woman keeps herself clean especially TITI because theres a smell thst comes with pubic hairs both those under arms lols. And most importantly your vagina is not a public place its meant for one man alone thats your hubby but when mutiple THIEFS come in it also causes it to smell and brings infections. So ladies, take care of your TITI by keeping yourself shaved and your legs closed so on your wedding nite your hubby will get inpsirations.

    • Fleur

      June 19, 2018 at 8:56 pm

      Thank you oh. I had to read it twice because i could not believe this entire epistle was about shaving the vagina. First of all, shaving the vagina has never been about hygiene. It has always been about its appearance to someone other than the owner. Therefore, shaving in secondary school was not as big as this writer has made it to be. We were not brandishing our vaginas to spectators we wished to impress at the time. Yes, we shaved the arm pits. But that was to first control odors, and second not have to explain the unusual nature of your pit hair to spectators who have to see it during sports or when you are in your after school check dress. Not vagina. Na wa.

      BTW ladies, be careful what you load on your vagina in the name of making it presentable. Many chemicals in tehse body products that impair hormone levels. The author talks about worrying about bringing that grandchild. Maybe na the too much cream for vagina. If God wanted the vagina to be shaved in order to be clean, you bet he would have made it bald or given it the ability to shed hair on its own.

    • Dayo

      June 21, 2018 at 12:08 pm

      Fleur, no different from brushing one’s teeth, personal hygiene and appearance to others are not mutually-exclusive.

  2. Lilo

    June 19, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    This is sooooooooo true,!im ready to scream. Nice write up.. My vajayjay products have a section in the cabinet. Thanks to European Wax Center – they got me hooked on the exfoliating scrub, the restoring serum and the ingrown hair wipes. Plus waxing every 4 weeks. Now I have to clarify that doing this makes me feel liberated. I enjoy taking care of myself however…..dang this thing is not a joke and ain’t cheap. That’s just for down here alone…so imagine adding eyebrows, eyelashes, pedicure (no mani for me) yoga and Pilates monthly membership fees and quarterly facials. Kilode? Meanwhile guys just shave their heads and that’s it. Lol

    • mee

      June 19, 2018 at 2:39 pm

      You try. Me I keep my hairs oh, I love them. Didn’t shave till I was 16 and honestly, I love being single cos I don’t have to shave. My ex loved hairy pubes (or so he said when he realised that my hair grows there daily). I shave then in less than 1 week, the place is full and I can’t wax.

    • Dayo

      June 20, 2018 at 5:39 am

      @Lilo, TMI with all them details…LOL!

      Anyway, women just love to turn about anything and everything into some sort of agenda. So we are now being lectured that basic hygiene is “the beginning of how other people control your view about your vagina”! Proceeding by such logic, is being taught to wipe our ass the beginning of how other people control our view about your arses?! Or dudes being taught not to let strangers see their blockus the beginning of how other people control their view about their Richards? Abegi, sometimes basic hygiene (and/or decency) is just that!

  3. 'Wande

    June 19, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Well written!!!

  4. Vicky

    June 19, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    This one i deep.

  5. meah

    June 19, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Errr, if you want to shave, shave. If not, let it grow. Its really not that deep…

    • chichi

      June 19, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      Most things are not deep doesn’t mean it’s nit worth talking/readers about. As for me I do feel a little more out together when my legs, bikini, underarm and brows are shaved, waxed and threaded. I agree it can be a chore at times but makes me feel just that little bit more confident and freeer, even if no one is seeing it. Just for me is enough.c

  6. SoRelatable

    June 19, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    This is so relatable and well written…. I just never have time to shave and even when I do, I get a lot of bumps down there… It’s not easy being a woman! ?

  7. Seriously

    June 19, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    Thanks for this article. This is serious for me. I don’t like hairs on my body and it has nothing to do with society standard or expectation. I smell fresher and love the texture of my skin, it’s a lot smoother and clearer when there’s no hair. I’m hairy, so im constantly shaving & waxing. My mom gets so upset but lucky her hair doesn’t grow on her body for whatever reason. When I was younger, I did different hairstyles, color it, cut it short etc I used to celebrate the joy of having my hair grow faster but now i can’t keep up with the pubes.
    I’m looking into laser, I will like to permanently get rid of all hairs on my body. I will do anything to achieve that.

  8. Drakkar

    June 19, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    Nice writeup with one major factual error. The external female genitalia is known as the Vulva. The vagina is the birth canal and is an internal organ. Therefore you cannot shave the vagina. It is important to use correct terminology. The issue of shaving vs not shaving is clearly a personal one. If you are prone to ingrown hairs or shaving bumps please proceed with caution

  9. Nene

    June 21, 2018 at 6:01 am

    And the point of thus article is/was ?????

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