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COMMENTARY: The waxing—and waning—of common sense

Jessica Yaniv. TWITTER PHOTO

 

BY COLIN BREZICKI
Special to The VOICE

A bizarre case of groin grooming came before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal recently, causing a small brush fire.

In brief: a self-identifying woman with male appendage wished to have herself depilated in the modern fashion. The procedure, called Brazilian waxing, is named after seven sisters from this South American country, who opened a salon in New York back in the ‘80s. The practice, now a multi-million dollar industry in the west, is apparently centuries old among some cultures in the Middle East. Who knew?

A Brazilian is more than a bikini wax. Technically speaking, it’s also less than a bikini wax because it’s a full take-off, unless you request a landing strip. Advocates claim depilation is more hygienic, easier on the eye and way more fun than letting your garden grow. With men it’s called a Phoenix wax, and the mind boggles at the possible derivations of that term.

Unless you’re a contortionist, either procedure requires a second party with good hand-eye coordination and the right equipment.

While I believe people are free to design their interiors as they like, I wouldn’t call waxing essential to life—unlike breathing, hydration, shelter and nutrition. As far as I know, the right to be waxed isn’t included in our Charter, while these other things are.

But nothing is guaranteed. In fact, an increasing number of people in the world who can barely draw breath have few if any of the others. Calling them rights doesn’t make them happen.

Civilized societies have hammered out further rights over the years: freedom of movement, the rights to vote and to gather in public places without harassment or fear, to read and think as we like, to speak our minds responsibly, and to be equal to everyone else. But again, calling them rights doesn’t mean they happen. Sometimes they can even cancel each other out.

The inconvenient truth is that rights often collide head on—think of a busy intersection where the lights in all directions are green.

Former President Jimmy Carter recently found that his freedom to practise his religion slammed up against another freedom that he deemed more important: women’s right to be equal in status and dignity to men. Because his Southern Baptist church preached otherwise, he left it.

Rights can be a tangled web.

Like the waxing thing.

The B.C. claimant, Jessica Yaniv, 32, demands her right to be waxed, but as a woman with male bits she presents an unusual challenge. Her suit (so to speak) has been brought against no fewer than 16 women (mostly of East Asian origin) who run waxing salons but who declined to handle the merchandise.

One salon owner, of Brazilian origin herself, is married, to a male partner, who is uneasy at the thought of his wife deforesting another woman’s male privates—yes, it’s confusing—as part of her job. It’s also a dangerous procedure for one not trained to wax the male parts of either gender.

One could argue that salon owners should find another career if they’re uncomfortable about whom they wax. In fact, several have had to do just that, as a result of the tribunal’s decisions.

One could equally argue that this waxee should engage a male waxer, though presumably she finds that thought uncomfortable. And so it goes on.

Who has the greater right not to feel uncomfortable?

My question reads differently. Who should assume the responsibility of behaving with a degree of common sense: the waxer or the waxee?

A footnote to all this concerns the complainant’s Twitter history. She has recently slammed social justice warrior and new mother, Lindsay Shepherd, and made ugly remarks about her genitalia. (Shepherd retorted and lost her Twitter account as a result). The complainant also made some seriously bigoted comments about immigrants. They “aren’t the cleanest of people, they’re also verbally and physically abusive, that’s one reason I joined a girl’s gym, ‘cause I DON’T want issues with these people [the waxers].”

“These people” themselves have reported verbal abuse and even propositioning by some clients equipped with what are termed female penises, a matter of understandable concern to some feminists who are following the case.

Finally, the complainant claims that the non-compliant waxers’ transphobia amounts to neo-Nazism, apparently the go-to term used now when someone doesn’t get exactly what they believe they should have.

In the end, one can only hope that people don’t judge the LGBTQ community by one individual who represents only herself, and trivializes the real human rights issues.

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