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Bush Ain’t What It Used to Be

Let’s not beat around the bush: Amber Rose pulled a seriously public pubic move when she posted an Instagram photo of herself glistening and bottom-naked for her third annual SlutWalk, revealing that she’s sporting bush. It was deleted by the naked lady-parts police in a few hours, but Rose relocated it to Twitter, where it lives on. The hubbub sparked the Twitter hashtag #bringbackthebush, where Rose instructed her fans and followers to “Post your version of my picture and hashtag #AmberRoseChallengebehalf of feminism, body positivity and not conforming to society norms of how we should live, what we should wear and where we should shave.”

As is to be expected, the results are a mixture of prankishness:

And pearl-clutching:

For one thing, you can’t see where her child came out. I wish you could, because then we could tell if this is real full bush or maybe the full-bush Brazilian (more on that in a second). Regardless, bush is already back — in many ways, it never left — and that is a good thing, and Rose is not the first or only one waxing supportive for bushiness.

Though such public displays of pubic affection may make it seem like this is a new thing, a 2010 study found that most women always have some pubic hair down there, and the majority who trim it back or remove it altogether are typically younger, partnered women.

But like no-makeup makeup, rocking a bush doesn’t necessarily mean full, untrimmed bush. Rose’s, for instance, looks neatly shaped into a natural bush-like state. It may very well be the “full-bush Brazilian” that hit in the last few years for women who keep the crotch and ass ripped bare but leave some up top. It’s “hippie in the front of your crotch and a porn star in the back,” as Maureen O’Connor wrote at New York magazine in 2014 — a kind of pubic hair version of “having it all.”

Or Rose may only trim around the bush to keep it fully enclosed by most bikinis, which, coincidentally, was the reason the Brazilian caught on in the the first place — because it removed most or all of the hair, with the option of a triangle or landing strip up top, so that tiny bikinis could be worn with no visible nod to hairy adult womanhood.

Prior to that, bikini lines were shaved starting in the 1960s, aided by Playboy’s centerfolds, and the fluorescent-lit invasiveness of internet porn did its part in cementing the gradual removal of all hair, too. After the Brazilian showed up in 1987, the wax-and-strip approach reigned supreme until around 2013, when a handful of celebrity women like Lady Gaga, Gaby Hoffman, Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow and American Apparel mannequinswent the other way, either showing themselves with some bush or admitting they don’t do dick to the hair down there. (In Paltrow’s case, she told Ellen DeGeneres in 2013 that she works a “70s vibe.”)

Perhaps this all happened because of years of feminist reclaiming of body hair as natural and good, or reminders that pubic hair actually serves an important purpose in preventing friction and tears that give infections a leg up. Or the fact that, while being hairless can feel good during sex, it’s most often practiced by younger women who are having the least good sex of their lives. Interestingly, a number of younger performers in porn are said to now opt to keep bush. Or maybe it’s because social media has flooded us with a much more diverse, truly representative sample of what people actually look like — and the breaking news is that it involves body hair.

That said, I do have a quibble: Full bush and so-called ’70s bush would stick out around your bikini line, possibly travel up to your navel, creep up around your ass, and generally be a much unrulier bush. This is not that. Earlier this year, 29-year-old model Ashley Graham told Glamour she has a “full bush.” But a photo on Instagram of Graham in a bikini suggests the superfluous stuff is trimmed, too.

Instagram post by A S H L E Y G R A H A M * May 30, 2017 at 5:50pm UTC

These are not criticisms of these women and what they do with their pubic hair in the slightest. This is not bush shaming! There is no correct way to do pubic hair, and no “correct” way to do bush. It’s just that if you were born before 1980, hearing all this talk of full bush is going to be confusing when you see Rose’s picture. This minor note is only worth pointing out because the women who kept true full bush alive while the rest of the world waxed and lasered it down over the last three decades risked being seen as about as a sexy as a pair of support hose. “You can tell I can menstruate and hold political office and see R-rated movies because I have soft, fluffy bush,” is what full bush means.

Or rather, used to mean. The U.K. paper The Express noted in 2015 that “the 1970s bush is back, but it’s more pampered and preened than ever before.” With it, they note, are a series of new products to help keep it fresh and moisturized and other things that are probably as necessary to your vag as a juice cleanse.

That’s okay — even our bushes are not free from capitalism’s greedy gaze. Rose’s bush shout-out, though, has still moved the razor in the right direction. If nothing else, it’s proof that even if the new bush is bush-lite, bush is bush. Bush is easy. And bush is good.