Musically, I’m pretty neutral about Amanda Palmer. Not a fan, don’t hate her music; just chilling here in Switzerland. But for someone who has no real opinion about her music, I sure do have a lot to say about the views she expresses in public and the “boundary pushing” she’s also well-known for.
Some things I like about her:
Essentially, execs at Palmer’s record company (Roadrunner) asked to cut shots of her bare stomach from a video for her single “Leeds United”, and this inspired a “ReBellyon”, with Palmer refusing and fans creating a blog where they posted pictures of their own bellies and commentary. I am all for people refusing to fold under shitty and harmful ideas about how women should look and what an “acceptable body” is.
Pit hair is natural. Don’t get it twisted, disgusted dude bloggers of the internet. I am very cool with someone making whatever grooming choice they want and then saying fuck you to expectations of what women should do- once again, the body police was out in force, and I’m happy to see a middle finger raised to them.
And now, the flipside: some things I do not like about Amanda Palmer:
-Her response to the Evelyn Evelyn controversy, which is quite a good “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by this”
-Her lolz at the expense of disabled feminists, and how she was crucified by them on the interwebs. Which, to be fair, was a real group effort.
And now a new thing that I feel conflicted about (maybe NSFW based on merkins and general pubic area shots!)- where does this belong in terms of those two lists?:
This is the video for a song that started as a one-off in-joke written by Palmer for a Tasmanian tour; “Map of Tasmania” referring to female pubic hair (a euphemism I hadn’t heard before but am quite fond of now!). A fan got some video, requests rolled in, and Palmer expressed her hope for a sweet remix. More backstory is here. Although meant to be fun and jokey, Palmer says it also speaks to a deeper issue
“I’ve been really shocked and distressed to find out that 8- and 9-year-old girls are getting all their pubic hairs waxed off by their mothers,” she says. “I think if I have any purpose at all, it’s to stand up there and say, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, girls. You totally have a choice. You can wax it, you can shave it, you can grow it out, and this really is up to you.’ That’s the way that I feel about everything, that you just need to know there’s a choice out there.”
Well, awesome. I love choice! (I am a feminist, after all…hahaha…). And I’m certainly pleased that people are speaking out and saying that rigid beauty standards and expectations are damaging. And I can’t not be a fan of glitter merkins. The merkins in this video are the bomb.
But……..this is a song about telling women they have choices, right? And that however they want to groom (or not groom) their pubes is totally 100% fine, right? Because these are some of the lyrics
Soft and sweet and shaped like a triangle
Some girls want no shape and they shave it all
That’s so whack, it hurts with the stubble
Walking ’round and look like an eight-year-old
Sorry, my bad. It’s really up to you, ladies. But you know, waxing it all off does mean that you’ll be walking around looking like an 8 year old.
Right now I might seem like the nit-picking spoilsport trying to ruin everything for everyone. But the thing is, every article or discussion I’ve ever read about the “to groom or not to groom” debate has turned from people discussing how they’ve felt shamed for not waxing it all off to people shaming women who do wax it all off. And I get it, I really do. When you feel as if a choice you make puts you in the outsider or “abnormal” category (such as being a full-bush lady in a society that sees pubes as disgusting things to be gotten rid of), you push for ideas of acceptability to be broadened so that more diversity can be portrayed and celebrated. But it can be easy for that goal to turn from “accepting everything” to “making the old norm unacceptable”, and just reversing the status quo. This happens when people talk about bodies too: people want the celebrated ideal of the supermodel body to not be the only acceptable body, but end up ripping into thin women (“eat a sandwich!”, “do you ever eat??”). So, rather than adding more types to the “acceptable” category, it ends up being just a restrictive as before but in the opposite direction or with an alternative ideal held up as the gold standard.
It makes me feel bad to read comments from women saying “ew, why would you shave it all off, you’d look like an little kid!” and “your boyfriend must be some kind of child-loving perv to like it bare”. Maybe these people have been hurt by comments about how dudes wouldn’t want to be with a woman who has pubic hair, and I can see how hurt can provoke that reaction. I don’t want any woman to feel shamed for her choice, be it all-on, all-off, pubes sculpted into a lightening bolt, or anything else.
This is why I’m a bit conflicted about Map of Tasmania: on the one hand, big ups for saying there’s nothing wrong with not waxing your pubic hair (and flouting some oppressive ideas of what women have to do). On the other hand, the same song that’s meant to make women feel empowered with choice is still shaming some kinds of choice. So it’s just a reversal of the norms, it isn’t really about diversity at all. If that line about looking like an 8 year old wasn’t there, I think I would love this song. It would be funny and cute and the comment about painful stubble is more of a personal preference comment. A light, semi-raunchy song about pubes and how there’s nothing wrong with them would be very welcome.