What does pubic hair have to do with cervical cancer?
You’d think nothing, right? Well the Canadian Cancer Society sure has a surprise for you!
Julyna, which I’m pretty sure is supposed to rhyme with vagina, is a new public health campaign which asks women to “trim their pubic hair into a creative design and solicit donations for doing so from friends and family.” Apparently, painstakingly shaping your pubes into a lightning bolt or a star or a Mickey Mouse head (!!!) and then telling everyone about it will raise awareness of cervical cancer. Sorry, but what?
The CCS says that Julyna was modeled after Movember, which called for men to grow fantastic moustaches and solicit donations for doing so. Because, you know, pubic hair is like a moustache for your vag or something
Logistically, this is stupid. With Movember, everyone wins: dudes get to indulge their fantasies of growing a Tom Selleck style face caterpillar, everyone else gets to laugh with them about it, and people good heartedly give money to raise money for cancer research and awareness. This does not translate to pubic hair at all. How would anyone even know about it? A moustache is visible, but what am I supposed to do? Wear a button that says “ask me about my star-shaped pubes!”?
For real though, do the people who run this campaign have any idea how annoying and painful and expensive pubic hair removal is? Growing a moustache is easy—just leave your face alone. Not so for shaping your pubic hair into a happy face, which takes time, money, effort, pain, and probably a considerable amount of flexibility.
But all this masks what is really bothering me about this campaign, which is that anyone’s below-the-belt grooming choices are personal. Asking women to disclose such a thing to anyone they’re not intimate with is creepy, invasive, and reinforcing the notion that women’s private parts are public property.
The Julyna website goes so far as to suggest that women shaping their pubic hair “promotes healthy lifestyle choices,” and that grooming your bikini area into the shape of a unicorn* is “exercising personal wellness.” Yo, CCS: last I checked, shaving your pubes was a private aesthetic decision that had nothing to do with health or wellness. But good job adding to the stigma of unshaved female bodies as dirty and sick!
In addition to all of that, this campaign does nothing to target the demographics that are most at risk of cervical cancer. The young middle class women targeted by Julyna are actually more likely to be overscreened for cervical cancer. Older women are routinely underscreened and at a higher risk, but this campaign completely overlooks them in favor of being controversial.
“Let’s face it, it’s a very crowded event market in Ontario and right across Canada,” said CCS’s Guy Laporte, “and so events need to be unique to stand out.”
Oh, Julyna stands out all right. It stands out as a poorly developed, poorly implemented, poorly functional public health campaign that does nothing to address the issue at hand. “Unique,” though? Nah. There’s nothing unique about diverting attention from serious issues like cancer and refocusing it on women’s bodies. That’s just the same harmful, sexist BS you’ll find in media everywhere.
*a unicorn shape would actually be pretty cool–but it still doesn’t raise awareness or work to prevent cancer!