Growing Your Pubes for Cancer - or rather Trimming Your Pubes for Cancer

Remember Movember? The cancer fundraiser that had men growing their mustaches to raise money for prostate cancer. Well, a group of women in the Toronto area have decided it's their turn. They have started Julyna - a month in which they will not grow, but rather trim and coiff their pubes to raise money and awareness for cervical cancer.

I found out about this through a post on the New View List Serve. The New View is a group of amazing people, mostly women, who are promoting a 'new view' of women's sexuality that is inclusive of the whole person and the diversity of women's experience. They are against the medicalization of female sexuality. They are unbelievably smart and active and strong women such as the likes of Petra Boynton and Leonore Tiefer. One of them posted about this campaign and a then a slew of responses followed, most of them questioning and criticizing it as silly, misguided, sexist,and potentially heralding the sexualization of cervical cancer.

I get where they're coming from and I admire and respect these women, but for the most part I disagree with them. What the hell is the harm here?

Okay - here is the potential harm and the things that they are criticizing - and that I question as well.
1. Why is it called Julyna? It's a contraction of July and Vagina. But we're not talking about vaginas here, are we? They are not trimming their vaginas because vaginas do not have hair in them. This is something that drives me crazy! The vagina is the canal leading from the vulva to the cervix, it does not encompass everything from the belly button down. So they are trimming the hair on the mons veneris or mons pubis if you lie, and the vulva and labia. So it should really be called Vulvy or Julybis. Please, we are adults, use the right language!
2. The guys grew their mustaches for Movember, why do the women need to trim? why can't we grow out our pubes too? The answers' easy, somewhere in the last about 15 years, we decided female pubic hair is disgusting. So even if it's for charity, we're not willing to grow it out and tell people we're doing that. I hate that. I hate the double-standard and the branding of something completely normal and natural as disgusting and unsightly. I think if they were growing it out, it would be a much more radical statement.

But do we really need to be so nitpicky? Chances are pretty good that the women who thought up these campaigns never thought of these things. The misnaming of female genitals is common parlance and trimming pubic hair is accepted in the mainstream so I'm sure it never occurred to them there might be political overtones to this.

One of the criticisms is that this is yet another thing that makes people feel like their doing something while diverting attention from the real issue and real activism. While that is an important issue to me (no, posting your bra color on your facebook status does not raise awareness for breast cancer), I don't agree in this case. The women who started this are actually asking people to donate to them so this does two things:
1. it raises money
2. it compels them to explain to each person they approach for a donation what they are raising money for and why - it's an opportunity for them to explain to other women how women get cervical cancer and how they can prevent it - if this makes any of the women go for PAP smears when they otherwise would not have, they could potentially be saving lives
This is hardly trivial.

So I say lighten up, give them a break, trim your pubes or let them grow naturally, donate to Julyna, and get yourself a PAP test.

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