Big bush energy: From feminist statement to body hair trend

Big bush energy: From feminist statement to body hair trend

As a writer, I sometimes worry about my Google search history. If anyone of my acquaintance is found dead in unusual circumstances, the evidence on my computer will be compelling. Anyone wishing to blackmail me would find plenty to suggest that my squeaky clean image hides a yawning pit of moral turpitude. Of course, it’s all for research. There’s nothing this writer won’t look up (except that). So, when my editor asked me to look into “big bush energy”, the “feminist” response to “big dick energy”, I typed in the search term fearlessly.

I need not have worried. Most of the results were about the energy policies of former US president George W Bush. Those that weren’t about George W were unlikely to break the internet. Though the first link tantalised with the suggestion, “The vagina is basically taking over the beauty world”, the first image I saw was of a slim white female in a pair of slim white pants from which sprouted a few sprigs of fern. That’s not a euphemism. It was actual fern.

Big dick energy is about channelling the charisma that seems to be the birthright of a man with a big penis. Meanwhile, big bush energy is… the latest trend in women’s personal grooming. Big bush energy advocates are stepping away from the waxing parlour in order to… um. Well, its heroines are such Hollywood greats as Julia Roberts, who dared to walk the red carpet with hairy pits at the premiere of Notting Hill. What a woman! What a statement! What was the statement again? Er… 

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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Who else has dared not to go bare? Apparently Miley Cyrus dyed her armpit hair pink… Anyone else? Anyone? Ellen? Oprah? Amal? Nope. Not that I could find. I did Google “stars with hairy armpits” and found a shot of Madonna in a list of “nine celebrities who don’t shave their armpits and who never apologise”, but when a list can’t make 10, then you know you’re in trouble. I found a bigger list of stars who’ve admitted to having ingrowing toenails.

Julia Roberts showed her pits in 1999 and she herself has said that she didn’t flash the fur deliberately. It was simply that she had no idea how low the armpit holes on her borrowed dress were. She didn’t set out to initiate a trend – and she really didn’t. The vast majority of the women of Hollywood and the music industry are still peddling the myth that they’re hairless from the eyebrows down.

While big dick energy is unashamed in its focus on the phallus, big bush energy swerves the V-word wherever possible. It even swerves the P-word (OK, pubes) for the most part. Most online articles extolling its virtues aren’t even illustrated with a photograph of the type of bush in question. Far from being empowering, big bush energy is yet another cover story for a new way for women to find fault in their bodies and pay handsomely to try to correct that fault. Yep. Scratch a trend and discover another way to market feminine hygiene products.

Don’t think that just because you no longer need to buy razors and Veet that the beauty industry isn’t still after your money. Now that in theory you’re allowed to have hair down there, is it soft enough? Not sure? Don’t worry. You can spend £46 on a bottle of Fur Oil from Fur, a company dedicated to minge management. Their Fur Oil is a signature blend of nine natural oils, designed to nourish your pubic hair. 

In the pink: products aimed at women are big money spinners (Getty/iStockphoto)

Fur also sells its Stubble Cream for use after shaving or waxing and Ingrown Concentrate for tackling ingrown hairs. Laura Schubert, who co-founded Fur together with her sister Emily and Lillian Tung, told Dazed Digital: “Even now, seeing all these brands out there that are beginning to embrace body hair and body positivity as a message is proof to us that we have successfully created a movement and spurned a trend, which will hopefully end the taboo around pubic hair and body hair.” Right.

It’s not just hygiene products. If you’re too young to even have any hair down there, you can still embrace the trend with some nice pink stationery. Living Love are selling notebooks on Amazon with the title proclaiming I Got That Big Bush Energy (caps: publisher’s own). The blurb asks: “Have you got the strut and swagger of Big Bush Energy? Of course you have! Girl, you got it going on! No one’s going to tell YOU how to wear your hair – here, there and everywhere! A confident, badass babe, you won’t wax or pluck and you don’t give a f*ck what people have to say about that. Big Bush Energy is a vibe, an attitude… and now it’s a fun notebook, too!” The 150 page books, which retail at £6.50, are decorated with a picture of a smiley face or a peacock feather, so you won’t get into trouble at school.

Living Love also make a notebook with the title Oh My God – I Got A Text! specifically for writing down your thoughts and feelings about the latest series of Love Island

Love Island itself, where nary a hair is out of place, suggests we’re still a long way off the day when spas and salons stop offering Brazilian waxing services. Here’s a whole generation of young people raised on pube-free porn who would doubtless react like John Ruskin on his wedding night if they saw a naked woman in her full natural fluffed up resplendence.

I’m possibly maligning poor old Ruskin, who is rumoured to have been revolted by his wife Effie Gray’s pubic hair since, raised on classical art, he didn’t know such stuff existed. When he said at the proceedings to annul their marriage, “though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it,” he might have been referring to an outie belly button or a sixth toe on each foot. Thanks to Ruskin’s delicacy in not naming those “certain circumstances”, we’ll never know.

So should we embrace big bush energy now? Alas, I don’t have the energy to get excited about it. It’s not a movement. It’s a marketing tool. Shave or don’t shave. Perm, plait and primp your pubes if that’s what floats your boat but let’s not pretend it’s a feminist statement. 

‘That’s not a euphemism. It’s actual fern…’ (iStockphoto)

In its interview with Laura Schubert of Fur, Dazed Digital gushes that Fur’s products are used by “feminist shero Emma Watson”. That’s Emma Watson the actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. An unnecessary pubic hair softener costing £46 seems a strange choice of endorsement for Watson, who has argued that feminism “is not a stick with which to beat other women”. In its current incarnation, big bush energy isn’t freeing women from the tyranny of unnecessary grooming, it’s adding a whole new layer of fuss and expense. If that isn’t the definition of adding another stick to the armoury the average woman faces every day, I don’t know what is.

As Caitlin Moran would doubtless ask: “Are the men worrying about this as well?” Of course they aren’t. That said, if you do have a problem with ingrown hairs because you’re still waxing, you can find much cheaper solutions in the men’s grooming aisle.

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