Joshua Williams Interviews Bare to Bush tumblr blogger about pubic hair on the Naturist Living Show Podcast
Note from Felicity: This month’s episode of the Naturist Living Show podcast covered a topic that never gets old in the nudie world (and arguably in the non-nudie world, too): pubic hair! As part of the show, our friend Joshua Williams contributed an interview with the woman who started a wonderful body image blog called Bare to Bush.
I liked the interview so much I decided to see about publishing the transcript on our site, so here it is below! You can also scroll to the bottom and listen to the whole show (Bare to Bush interview starts at around minute 29:00).———————————————–
Introduction from Joshua Williams: It’s great to be on the Naturist Living Show today, in the role of an interviewer. I’ve appreciated my many conversations with Stephane on and off this podcast. A few months ago, I came across a very interesting tumblr blog called Bare to Bush, which describes the project perfectly.
On September 16th, 2013, a woman decides to shave off all of her pubic hair, and then follow its regrowth through words and images, on the internet. And while it sounds completely sophomoric, the reality is that the journey, if you will, has been rather profound. It turned into an opportunity to consider her own body and open up a conversation with other women and men about bodies in general, the good and the bad.
I am pleased to have had a conversation with the founder and writer of the blog and now the website, baretobush.com. However, as the blog is written anonymously, we chose to have to have the conversation via chat and then use the transcript to record an interview with another woman’s voice.
Of course, we discuss the reason for this anonymity in the interview, but also delve into discussions related to nudity, sexuality, body acceptance and of course, body hair.
Joshua Williams: What was the genesis for this rather unique project?
BtoB: Honestly, I was bored one day so I shaved my pubic hair. I have always thought it’s funny how people have Tumblr blogs about ridiculous things that seem like no one would care, so I got it in my head to create a blog where I followed the re-growth of my pubic hair just out of pure boredom and to entertain myself.
Sort of like how people say, “it’s as boring as watching paint dry,” I figured it would be a fun, boring photo journal of hair growing back.
And of course, Tumblr allows you to do something like that, unlike other social media platforms! Did you feel like there was something you could prove by doing it, for yourself or others?
BtoB: Not really. I mean, I wish I could say that it was all this pre-meditated platform from which to reach out and talk to people about their bodies, but that’s totally not what I intended. I really just did it for fun and figured I’d have just a couple people following it who also thought it was funny or who simply wanted to see pictures of a girl’s crotch.
And I’m sure there are those that visited the blog for that very reason! At what point do you think it took on a different dimension?
BtoB: I think the first time I really realized that it was having an impact was when I made a post about the reality of nude photography. I had no idea it would explode the way that it did, I just had it in my brain that I wanted to show people that all of the “self shot” images they see are still posed and carefully positioned and that the body can be so different depending on how it’s posed.
I made that post, thought nothing of it except maybe being happy that it turned out so well, and 4 hours later it had already reached well over 2 thousand people. Right now I think it has something like 103 thousand “notes” on it. That made me realize that I had accidentally started saying things that people really related to.
And with the popularity of the “selfie” and self-awareness it seemed to really connect with readers on many different levels.
BtoB: Absolutely. The internet is so full of “self” these days, but so many people don’t realize that those people posting photos still only post their best pictures, their best “self.” People think that because something is not “commercial” it’s somehow more natural, but that’s not really the case a lot of times.
I would say that most people who post all of those self shots – even something like a Facebook profile photo – post only their absolute best angles, which aren’t really indicative of how they look in real life.
There is an “artifice” to these pictures then. And all the while, do you think that women, even men, crave something more real, even when they create these “best angle” shots for Facebook?
BtoB: You know, it’s interesting. I think that there is definitely a big push for more “real” and “natural” things lately. There are so many companies who have switched their branding to attempt showing diversity in body types, a more natural look, etc. But it’s kind of bizarre because even with all of the “real” things we’re seeing lately, they’re still generally polished to be their best version of that.
The “real” models are still symmetrical, attractive and shot with studio quality lighting and people who know what they’re doing. So, yes, I do think that people are craving something real and while it seems like we are getting that, through media and through selfies and all of this, I sometimes wonder if it’s sometimes just a different version of the “best angle.” Does that make sense? I don’t know if I explained that very well.
Yes, that makes sense. To a certain degree, humans want to see the ideal rather than the real, I think this has been the case in art for centuries…much before fashion magazines, etc. And what about when you add the “nude” component? This, of course, changes the dynamic to some degree.
BtoB: Nudity is such a bizarre element. Because on one hand it’s such a simple, easy concept – I mean, hello, we’re all born naked – and it’s also so polarizing and taboo. I think that within the realm of nudity, people are possibly even pickier about making sure things look perfect. No one wants to admit their breasts sag a little or that they have a weird hair on their stomach.
If they’ve got a birth mark on their arm or something, it probably wouldn’t be as big of a deal because they’re used to seeing it and it doesn’t much matter. But if it’s something that’s usually covered by clothing and then revealed only to your partner, it has a different kind of feeling behind it, I suppose. I definitely used to agonize over how I looked while naked, so I can certainly relate.
That’s a very interesting point, the revelation, from clothed to naked is often more “titillating” than the nudity itself. It’s the tension there.
BtoB: Definitely. I’ve read interviews from people who have done life modeling for schools and they always comment about how the weirdest and most “revealing” part is the moment when they take off their robe and get naked for the first time in front of a group.
The grand unveiling of the form. Once they’ve been naked for a while, it’s not such a big deal.
You mention your feelings for your own nude body. This project certainly allows you to perceive your body in a different perspective than perhaps you did prior to this. What was your relationship with your body…and can you speak to any changes you’ve experienced over the past few months?
BtoB: I have had a lot of different relationships with my body. When I was a kid, I didn’t notice it, it just was what it was, and then as a teenager I despised it. I was never skinny enough, pretty enough, and so on. The standard teenage dilemma. As I got older, some of those things started slipping away and some of them held on longer than others.
I still have issues here and there, but it’s very rare. As far as how this project has changed me, I guess it’s kind of solidified the, “Hey, my body is actually totally ok and I’m good with it!” feeling that’s been growing inside of me for a while. But honestly, aside from being a giant, internet-pat-on-the-head, I feel basically the same now in regards to my body as I did before I started the project.
Fair enough! Have you ever experienced social nudity, or being nude in front of others, or only on the internet?
BtoB: Yeah, I’ve been naked in front of people before. I’ve been to a couple of nude beaches, and that was always interesting. Interesting, I guess in that there was nothing weird or surprising about it for me. It was like, “Oh cool, I won’t get tan lines. There’s a guy over there staring at my butt. Whatever, I have a nice butt.”
I appreciate your self-confidence and your matter-of-fact view. That comes across on your blog.
You’ve chosen to stay anonymous, which as you point on your website, is less about divulging your identity and more about allowing women to relate with you. Can you speak more about that?
BtoB: Yeah, that’s been an interesting decision. I mean, I started it anonymously with no intention of showing my identity. Of course I wasn’t incredibly careful about it because I figured I’d have only a handful of people paying attention to me.
Once I started receiving recognition I started panicking like, “What if someone finds out who I am?! What would happen? Should I just out myself now and get it over with?!” But of course, I calmed down and realized that 1. that’s not likely 2. it wouldn’t matter anyway and 3. being anonymous is actually a really great way to allow people to relate to me.
I think that when we see other people, we immediately associate them with things. If someone saw my face, their reaction might be, “Oh. Well whatever, that girl’s pretty why is she talking about her body she has no reason to complain” or maybe “Oh weird, she looks like so-and-so and I hated that girl.”
And that would shut people down and limit their own ability to see themselves in my writing and my pictures. You wouldn’t believe how many women have written to me telling me that we have almost identical bodies, and if I showed my face, I’d lose that sort of open-door, “I could be anyone” feeling. Suddenly I would become a person instead of just a body or an idea.
So in a way, it’s provided a more open communication with others?
BtoB: Absolutely. I think that had I shown my face from the start, the project would never have gained as much momentum. Or at least not with the same kind of “body positivity” crowd. I may be wrong, of course, but at this point I’m pretty stuck on my decision to remain anonymous.
It’s a trick that many fashion companies use on the web for e-commerce…by not showing the face of the model, the consumer is less likely to judge a piece of clothing based on the model wearing it.
Out of curiosity, do you think your family and friends would be accepting of the project if they knew?
BtoB: Yes and no. Or, rather, no and yes. No to family, yes to friends. Some of my friends do know, and the conversation usually goes something like, “Yeah, so I did a thing on the internet where I’m taking pictures of my body and it’s sort of popular now and it’s kind of weird but cool and I like it.”
And their response is, “Cool. Weird. Whatever. Want to play pinball or something?” I do have some friends who are really supportive and let me talk to them about it, but for the most part, no one who I have told cares at all or is ever surprised.
My family, on the other hand would be a different story if they found out. I was raised in a very conservative Christian household, so that’s not really something that they would be proud of, even if I am helping people feel better about themselves.
Is it because of the nudity, the topics you discuss, or both?!
BtoB: Both. And also that I’m showing my naked body to the world for anyone to see. Pretty much everything to do with my project is a huge violation of how I was raised.
I can appreciate that coming from a very conservative, Christian household myself. You mentioned in a post your limited information about vulvas and vaginas as a younger girl…do you think that’s normal for most girls, and how does that effect their self-image and even their relationships later on in life? Were you able to see “regular women” nude growing up? Or was that also a violation to what was perceived as “right”?
BtoB: Unfortunately, I do think that’s pretty normal for young girls. The amount of emails I get through Tumblr from women who tell me how much my story parallels theirs is astonishing. I think that usually when kids get to see nudity, it’s on TV if anything and it’s movie star nudity which is a whole lot different than a naked person in front of your eyes. I definitely think that this hurts women later in life because they’re never really sure what their body is “supposed” to look like and live in some sort of fear that it won’t match up with the idea that the person they’re with has about the female body.
I’m sure that extends to men too, to a degree, but I also think it’s a lot more acceptable for a little boy to run around naked with another little boy than for a little girl to say, “hey, let’s spread our legs and look at each others genitals!”
I never saw a naked woman growing up. I never even saw my mother naked. It was a “clothing at all times” household and you bathed by yourself if you were naked. Even swimming, I wasn’t allowed to wear a “revealing” swimsuit to call any sort of attention to my body.
I’m assuming that nudity was tied explicitly to sexuality then, even if that wasn’t communicated directly? And ultimately, that wasn’t a positive message. Do you hope that to a certain degree your blog helps women, and even girls, to see a bit of “reality” that isn’t sexually charged?
BtoB: Yeah, it was the whole “nudity equals sex” idea and also the “god wants you to cover your body” idea. Neither of which I think are healthy for a young person growing up and learning about their own body.
I do hope that my blog helps people see a little slice of reality that stands outside of the world of porn and sex and celebrities and is just an open, honest portrait of a woman who has gone through the same things they are going through. And even if they can’t talk to their mom about it or their friends about it, it’s a little affirmation that there IS someone out there who understands what they’re going through and made it out on the other side and is still learning and growing.
I’ve had countless emails from young women who told me they burst into tears when they started reading my blog because they felt like they finally found someone who understood their pain or what they were going through.
One of my most incredible emails to date was from a girl struggling with anorexia who said she’d been through countless treatments for it and nothing ever helped, but somehow, reading through my words and seeing another woman so comfortable with herself gave her just a little bit of hope enough to reach out for treatment again.
That absolutely breaks my heart, that women aren’t finding this support anywhere else in their lives, but I’m glad that they are able to find some sort of solace in what I talk about even if it just makes them feel better for that one, hard afternoon when they come home from school after a hard day or something.
That is amazing, especially, when you consider why you started the blog! And I suppose it illustrates the need out there for honest conversation about bodies and even sexuality to a certain degree. As I mentioned earlier, your posts are very devoid of artifice, very honest, in the sense that you show and tell it “like it is” including shots of hairs on your nipples, discussions about anuses, pictures of menstruation. These are such common events, and yet still taboo to discuss, let alone show. What made you choose to show/discuss these, and even say “I think it (bleeding) makes me powerful and strong”? Is it easier to be “honest” about these particular issues when anonymous?
BtoB: I think I’m pretty honest about this stuff even when I’m not anonymous. I will have a discussion with my friends about our bodies, or their “strange” sexual fantasies, or show them my ingrown hairs. Obviously I don’t just go around blurting this stuff out to strangers, but if someone came up to me at a grocery store and said, “Are you on your period? How does that make you feel?” I probably wouldn’t even ask, “Why would you ask me that?!” I would just think about it for a second and figure out how I felt, and then tell them.
There are some parts of my body that I am still a little bit squeamish about or feel weird about, but I’ve realized that talking about it is the easiest way to get over it. It’s funny, because a lot of times I don’t know what I’m going to say about a picture at all.
I just take a picture of something, my period, for example, and then I put it on my computer and stare at it for a bit and then just start writing. Sometimes I know what I want to say, but more often than not it just starts pouring out of me and I realize how I feel as I’m writing it.
Interesting, so in a way, it’s a learning process for you as well. As I was reading through your blog, I noticed that one of the topics that seemed to create the most “buzz” out there was related to women’s armpit hair, especially when Nerve wrote an article about you. Why do you think that caused such a stir? And why particularly with women, as you point out?
BtoB: That was an interesting discovery. I have definitely received more strange looks from women in daily life in regards to my armpit hair than from men, which is what I talked about further back on my blog. But the Nerve and Reddit comments came from a lot of men too, I think.
It’s like people have this bizarre misconception that women either aren’t supposed to grow armpit hair, that it’s “unnatural” (which is crazy because it’s absolutely natural!) or that it makes a woman gross and “unhygienic.”
It was actually really eye-opening for me to see that much hate generated about that topic because I exist in a somewhat protected bubble when you think about it. The people who follow my Tumblr follow it because they like me and what I’m doing.
They share it with their friends who also like the same things, and so on. But when my pictures (not even ones targeted at my armpits, just ones that showed it as part of a different topic) found their way to “the internet at large,” it was a sudden surge of negativity and hate about my hair. It was kind of a wake up call that this little world I’m in where everybody is pretty supportive and happy and positive is in no way a representation of how everybody actually feels about these things.
Which is really the main topic of your blog, body hair! As a naturist, it’s been interesting to see the evolution of body hair, especially pubic hair. It’s pretty normal to see men and women of all ages, without pubic hair now. Why do you think society has such an aversion to hair there?
BtoB: I really can’t figure that out. I mean, sure I could say it’s all the media or the desire to look youthful or a big scam by razor companies and it’s all marketing, but I don’t know if I believe those things. Or maybe it’s a combination of all of those things.
Or maybe none of them. I think the good news is, though, that the aversion seems to be dissipating, which I think is a good thing. It seems like it’s somewhat “ok” now for women to have pubic hair, but then again, maybe I am biased because I exist in a little pocket bubble of the internet (perhaps similar to a naturist being surrounded by like-minded people) where it’s ok.
Right. I’m not opposed to body hair or having it all shaved off…ultimately, it’s a personal preference, and often one that I choose to approach differently depending on my own mood! Going back a little bit, I am curious if there has been differences in responses from women and men to your blog?
BtoB: Not a big difference, I don’t think. I would say that the majority of my following is female but I have no real way to analyze or prove that. I get emails from both parties and they seem to be shockingly similar.
I think men deal with a lot of these things too, either from a different angle or a different point of view but similar things nonetheless. Men have told me they adore it when their partner doesn’t shave, women have told me they hate shaving, both have told me I’m awful and disgusting and need to “buy a razor.” I think the reaction is similar regardless of gender.
So there is a lot of stark contrasts then.
BtoB: I think with the internet you always get more contrast. The people who don’t really have an opinion just scroll past it with no opinion, it’s the ones who want to either praise you or yell at you who take the time to write.
As you’ve alluded to, our society has a lot of mixed up feelings about nudity in general, particularly social nudity. As such, a lot of effort is put into separating nudity from sexuality, which makes sense. When I visit a naturist club or beach with my family, the last thing I want to see is sexual activity. But, sometimes, I think that we try a little too hard to disconnect the two and demonize sexuality. You were asked about whether or not your were comfortable with the idea that people might masturbate when looking at your blog. I was very interested by your answer…can you discuss that a bit more and how sexuality plays a role in body acceptance, or being honest with your body?
BtoB: Yeah! That’s a question that I get a lot, and one of my favorite types of emails actually are from men who feel the need to “apologize” to me because they found my blog and started masturbating to a photo or two and then started reading the text and ended up so on board with what I was saying that they felt guilty for using my images for self pleasure.
I totally get what you’re saying about almost demonizing sexuality and separating nudity from it entirely. I think that the things don’t need to be completely separate, you can see a naked body and be turned on by it and it doesn’t make you a bad person or a “creep” or anything.
Sexuality is such a complicated topic, there’s no way I could hope to really know and understand it, but in my own experience it IS tied in to nudity even if we want to pretend it’s not. There’s a vulnerability that happens when you’re naked that’s so different than when you’re in clothing that it’s natural to have different feelings when you’re naked or looking at someone naked.
I guess I don’t think that sexuality is evil. I don’t think nudity is evil. I don’t think that combining the two of them is evil. If someone uses my photos or my body to masturbate to, good for them! They know what they like and they pleasured themselves and can go back to whatever life they are living.
I see no harm in that. I think that nudity doesn’t HAVE to be sexual, and I’ve been in situations where it certainly isn’t, but I don’t think it needs to be completely removed from sexual feelings either.
And I guess I should clarify – those emails aren’t some of my favorites because they’re apologizing to me, but rather because they are just such honest accounts of a confused person and it’s incredibly endearing and somehow flattering.
That was actually my next question. And the reality is that “context” is everything whether or not someone is clothed or nude.
BtoB: Absoluely. There are people in my life who I can take a naked bath in front of and it’s completely nonsexual (for me, anyway) and then there are people who I feel sexually charged around just when I take off my jacket.
And of course, intent is part of that as well. One of the questions you get from many would-be naturists is if seeing people nude might alleviate desire. It definitely takes away a sexual trigger and forces you to rethink sexuality, but I think in a positive way. Imagine what effect that would have on advertisers!
One of my favorite posts is when you comment about your period being a chance to reflect on what other “private pain” others are suffering. It seems that in many ways, this project has provided you an opportunity to gain empathy. I’m also reminded of two other posts, your commentary on Kasey Edwards letter and Charlotte Roche’s book “Wetlands.”
BtoB: I like those posts too. They’re usually the ones that I feel really emotional about on a personal level. I wrote the commentary about Kasey Edwards and then panicked because I realized it was maybe too personal or didn’t fit with my project but after a little while I realized everything I DO is personal when it comes to this and my feelings on that were no different.
Sometimes sharing feelings about things like that is more difficult than sharing a picture though for some reason.
Would you mind sharing the post related to your period?
BtoB: [quoting her blog] “Just like last month, and the month before that… and the month before that, and… ok, you get it, I’ll stop, I’m on my period. Here are some highlights from this particular cycle: I spent a whole day lying in bed with the lights off, I bled through a jumbo tampon in a matter of hours, I got blood all over my bathroom floor when I stepped out of the shower and I cancelled plans with a friend because my insides felt like they had sprouted a million, tiny knives that were stabbing me.
I made a post before where I mentioned feeling beautiful, strong and powerful during my period. This is still true, but my periods have never in my life been easy. They’re painful and messy and I get cramps and headaches and bleed a whole hell of a lot. But they also force me to slow down, to pay attention to my body, to let someone take care of me for a day. They remind me that I’m vulnerable and at the same time, so very strong. They remind me that my body is amazing and fascinating and capable of so many wonderful things. They remind me that it’s ok to cry, or ask for help or ask for an extra hug that day.
They also remind me that people all around me are suffering every single day from things that I don’t know about. Maybe they’re on their period too, or have a migraine, or are fighting a debilitating disease. Maybe they’ve just lost a loved one, or have a sick child at home. The people around all of us are dealing with things that hurt them all the time, mentally and physically, but I know that so often I forget about that, and I think it’s all about me. If I’m ok, they’re ok.
I don’t need extra help or empathy, why do they? So when my body reminds me what pain feels like, or what it’s like to spend a day feeling vulnerable and scared, it helps me remember that everyone else has those days too and maybe sometimes they need the extra hug, or a kind word, or a little bit of help, and being reminded of that is a really good thing.”
What’s next for you and this project?
BtoB: As far as what comes next, I honestly have no idea. It started as just a simple, funny project and evolved into this strange and exciting platform from which I can talk about my body and hopefully help people out. Ideally, I want to break away from the Tumblr platform and direct more people to a website instead. I feel like Tumblr is kind of insular and has a really limited demographic, and I’d like to stand outside of that and let more people see what I’m doing and find out about it who don’t necessarily have Tumblr accounts. I started a website with no idea what to put on it and somehow that’s evolved into a combination of Tumblr posts and also some extra information, posts, etc.
Sometimes I think to myself, I should just stop. I’ve done enough. This is it. I have nothing left to say. And I don’t post anything for a few days, and then all of the sudden i realize I have another thing to say and I write about it and people respond to it and it rekindles that desire to keep doing it.
Ultimately, I have no idea. I wanted to stop at day 50, then again at day 75 and then again at day 100. And somehow I just keep going. But never once have I really known where I’m going with it, it just happens and I keep ending up wherever it takes me!
Sometimes, it’s best to let things develop on their own and see where they take you. I know I appreciate what you have to say and to believe it’s a conversation that’s needed out there.
I feel like we’ve only touched the surface here, there are really so many things that we could discuss! Perhaps we’ll reconnect in the future for part two. As you know, many of the listeners on this podcast are either naturists, or are interested in trying social nudity out, often to overcome their own fears and body issues. Do you have any thoughts for either?
BtoB:Definitely! I’d be happy to come back for a part two some day. Honestly, I think my advice to those people would be to just do it! What have you got to lose? I would say that 99 percent of the time, we are our worst critic and that thing (whatever it is, weight, hair, whatever) that is so enormous to us is really not a big deal to a lot of other people. I think that everybody should learn to be comfortable naked by themselves and in front of strangers.
Obviously, everybody has different comfort levels and I can’t really make a statement to know what’s best for people, but I’ve never heard anything bad come from a person who has tried out being naked. I don’t think it tends to make anybody feel worse about their bodies if they’re coming from a place of already feeling bad.
It’s similar to a lot of questions I get from people where they tell me how amazing I am and how brave and how there’s no way they could do that I do. And my answer is an honest, confused, “Why not?!” Anyone can do what I do. Anyone can get naked.
Anyone can talk about it. Go to a nude beach, post a picture of their body hair on the internet, make a blog post about how difficult their period is. People judge themselves so harshly and are so afraid of what everybody else will think, but we’ve only got one shot at life and I think it’s so important to just do what it is that you want to do because you don’t get another chance. Eventually, we’ll all die and no one is going to remember if we did that one thing that one time and one person made a snide remark. That’s not what’s going to matter.
So I guess in a short answer: the best way to get over things is by just doing them.
I couldn’t agree more! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to speak with us. How can our listeners (& readers) find out more about your project?
BtoB: It was my pleasure, thanks so much for having me! They can check out my website which is www.baretobush.com or follow the tumblr blog which is baretobush.tumblr.com. I also have an email address which I don’t mind them contacting me at if they have anything they want to share with me, but I can’t guarantee I’ll respond to every email, I do get a pretty substantial amount of them. That can be found at baretobush[at]gmail[dot]com
You can listen to this episode of the Naturist Living Show here (Bare to Bush interview starts around minute 29:00).
Or click here to see it on the Naturist Living Show website.
Republished from http://www.naturistliving.bareoaks.ca/