A recent post at New York Times reports that there is a new trend troubling many modern parents: teenagers and bikini waxes. The article suggests that as summer camp approaches, more and more girls are lining up for some hair removal. “For some female campers, that process may now include a visit to the waxing salon for removal of the hair on their legs and underarms, above the lips and even at the bikini line,” the article says. The idea of teenagers getting a bikini wax has many commenters clutching their pearls, but I have to wonder, why all the outrage?
At the end of the day, waxing is a legitimate (and longer-lasting) form of hair removal. We could probably debate until the day is long why our societal beauty standards require women to render themselves nearly hairless, but the fact is that a majority of women engage in hair removal, and approve of their daughters shaving their legs and nether regions as well. I’m curious as to why a bikini wax, then, is so controversial. To be clear, I’m not talking about a bikini wax that involves serious landscaping downtown. But I see no problem with a teen using this or other methods to assure that she can go swimming without fear of a stray public hair. Adolescence is a time that is wrought with self-consciousness, and girls are typically self-conscious about being in a swimsuit AND about the bodily changes that are brought on in puberty. Hair “down there” is surely an embarrassing predicament for many young girls, and shaving that area can be difficult and can lead to bumps, itching, and irritation. Why, then, if girls are expected in polite society to keep their pubic hair groomed, should waxing be off-limits?
For families who have the budget for waxing, I think it’s a reasonable way to remove unwanted hair. I do think that there are a few caveats. I think that waxing should be at the child’s request, and only done with informed consent. I don’t think it is something that should be forced by a parent, and if it proves too painful, then other hair removal options should be explored. That being said, there is nothing overtly sexual about hair removal, and a modest bikini wax should not be shameful. In fact, I think parents do well to make sure they are giving their young girls the tools they need to feel confident around their peers, and hair removal may be part of that.
I still remember a shaving episode that occurred when I was at summer camp as a young teen. I was shaving my legs to go to the pool, and a large grasshopper hopped into the shower. I was so startled that I pulled back on the razor and nicked myself deeply on the shin. It bled for hours, forcing me to spend the day at the nurse’s outpost. I still have a scar. I also remember not wanting to go swimming at camp because shaving created unsightly bumps that I was mortified that other people could see. I would have much preferred my mother to have taken me to get my legs and bikini area waxed. Unfortunately, my mother’s view of bikini waxes reflected many of the comments I’ve seen related to this trend: that bikini waxes are for the sexually active.
I certainly don’t think bikini waxes are for everyone, but I don’t think that we should be projecting judgment onto families who choose this as a hair removal method for post-pubescent girls.
What do you think? Are bikini waxes appropriate for minors, or is this an example of girls being sexualized at a young age?