History as taught in schools is essentially a male business. The ranks of kings, soldiers and politicians that stretch back into the past tend to be dominated by men. There must have been women around in those days too and it’s a shame their story goes largely untold—‘herstory’ as opposed to ‘history’ as, no doubt, someone much smarter than me has put it many times before.
To make things more interesting, we shall take a thematic approach to our subject. Today’s theme will be...now let me think. I know. Hair. In summary, our lesson today will be about the herstory of women’s hair. As with all good stories, we should start at the beginning.
As I have already confessed, not much history penetrated the Pobaan cranium while I was at school, but I do remember museums and, in particular, those dioramas they used to have that demonstrated the way of life of our distant ancestors. Behind the glass you’d see a wide plain, grazed by little plastic bison or antelope. In the foreground is a rocky cliff and the mouth of a cave. A group of men is returning from a hunt, lugging a dead animal—which we are to understand as lunch—on a pole. Outside the cave, the children are playing with bones and the women are sitting around an open fire, barbecuing sparrows and stirring mud in a pot. That’s what it looks like, anyway.
Although I mention the men, I wish to draw your attention, in this herstory lesson, to the ladies. They have not yet invented clothes. Note that they are pretty hairy—hairier, in fact, than a female Ukrainian tractor driver during a beauticians’ strike. If the diorama is to be believed, when we began as people, we were pretty much covered in hair. Hold that thought as we fast-forward a few thousand years. By now, womankind has the benefit of clothing. However, for our academic purposes, we need to see through this, as it were, so we creep up to a glassless window in some low hovel to observe our subject at her annual ablutions and note that she is now largely hairless. We see that what hair remains grows in isolated tufts about her body—on her head, in her armpits and in a strange triangle in her lap—as if she were nursing an ailing vole.
What can the herstorian make of this observation? Perhaps hair which used to keep our subject warm has been made redundant by the invention of clothes? Or perhaps, contrariwise, clothes have become necessary because hair has disappeared for some other reason. Let’s not worry about the minutiae. This story is becoming much too interesting for us to concern ourselves with detail.
We’re now in the mid-to-late-20th century and we see our bikini-clad subject frolicking on Jomtien beach. She reaches up to whack a colourful volleyball and, lo, we note that her armpits are bare. From her shrieks of joy we discover she’s American; surely her Soviet sister cannot be similarly bald? But look, advance a few decades and we see that she is. Eventually, even the Russian armpit has dropped its hair like autumn willow leaves.
Which brings me up to last night when Mrs Pobaan—who is herself a woman—and your plucky reporter call in at a go-go bar off Walking Street for a drink and a little relaxation. We have arrived at showtime. Habitués of Pattaya’s go-go institutions will know that showtime is when all the usual pole-hugging dancers leave the stage, the music and lighting change and some kind of spectacle is presented. Tonight in this bar the theme is the harem. Six girls in gauzy desertwear and anklets of coins waft about the stage to the sort of music they use to entice a cobra out of a basket.
As I sip my thimble of flattish draft beer, I have to admit that I am finding the invocation of Middle-Eastern pulchritude quite enchanting. When showtime ends, the performers line up to receive the crowd’s applause. In the course of their performance the gauze has all fallen away and the jingling anklets are all that is left of their apparel. We are presented, as it were, with six pristine examples of the subject of today’s lesson—women.
I quickly realise the academic value of this opportunity, extract the field note-book from my Indiana Jones-style haversack, lick my pencil and begin to record my observations. Number of women: six. Number of tufts of hair around what some herstorians are calling the bikini-line: none. A quick calculation—zero over six multipied by a hundred. That means 0% of the women in my sample now have pubic hair.
One thing we herstorians look for is trends. We look for increasing amounts of this, or decreasing amounts of that. Is this becoming rarer and that more common? If so, we then search for reasons that explain our observations and perhaps also extrapolate into the future.
Women’s hair is disappearing. Like a rare grass that is found growing in fewer and fewer isolated locations, the outcrops are being shaved, or possibly waxed, away. Today, one can only really be confident of finding hair on a woman’s head. One suspects (though further work is needed) that these days even Ukrainian tractor drivers have a Brazilian.
Where will it end? Are our womenfolk to become slap-heads? It may be unprofessional for an academic like me to express the thought, but don’t we have enough bald blokes hanging around Pattaya bars without the girls joining in?