Strictly off the curriculum

With her debut album, Lips Unsealed, Bath based DIY anti-folk singer-songwriter, Yonic, provides off-curriculum sex education in the form of explicit songs from a feminist perspective. Completely unfazed by taboos and social norms, Yonic covers the most explicit and taboo topics from ‘Smelly Fannies’ to ‘Anal Sex’ on this album. Even the album art is gloriously vulgar and features a colourful Pop Art illustration of a vulva.

The opening track, ‘Bush’ is essentially a love song to pubic hair and educates anyone who has never shaved about the sensitivity of the skin and the discomfort of removing hair. It highlights the expectations placed on women and men by society with regard to the removal of pubic hair and celebrates the ‘lady jungle’. This is not the only mention of pubic hair on the album; Yonic personifies her armpit hair in track ‘Armpit’ which acts as an apology for shaving to meet the expectations of others. She makes a promise to her hair, “I’ll never shave you / And you’ll always be there / And we’ll be happy because we won’t care.”

In a Guardian article, Alex MK argues that pubic hair styles are not a feminist issue, but instead are about fashion and profit and are heavily influenced by the porn industry. The porn industry is beginning to feature more models with pubic hair but Alex MK rejects the idea that this is progress and describes it as an “inverted retrogress” as models are asked if they can grow more hair to appeal to a niche market. According to actor Arabelle Raphael, we would start to see more women with leg and armpit hair if the resurgence of pubic hair was to do with feminism and body positivity, but this is very rarely seen in porn.

Lips Unsealed offers a funny, open and honest perspective on topics that many people do their best to avoid

As an environmentalist, my personal social media feeds feature sustainable fashion, vegan bloggers and feminist activists, and in this world I mostly see women embracing their body hair. However, alongside this, I also see adverts for various fashion brands which feature silky smooth legs and armpits, and high legged bikinis without a single hair poking out. Even adverts for shaving products feature already hairless legs and armpits being pointlessly stroked with a razor.

Venus are leading the way for change when it comes to more realistic advertising campaigns in that their latest marketing campaign ‘My Skin, My Way’ shows actual hair being removed and also importantly includes plus size models and BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) models. But the conflicting depictions of the female body can be confusing and the important thing is to be able to separate the marketing within a capitalist society from what makes you feel empowered, body-positive and happy whether that means hair, no hair or anything in-between. Yonic’s work both highlights and celebrates this choice.

‘PMDD’ (referring to Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a very severe form of Premenstrual Syndrome) is another of Yonic’s standout tracks. It’s refreshing and reassuring to hear this topic being discussed so openly and honestly. Women are often dismissed with comments such as “She must be on her period”, but where people are affected by their menstrual cycle, conditions like PMS and PMDD can be debilitating and even dangerous, including suicidal thoughts in extreme cases. People in the UK are largely uneducated about menstrual health, but that is all set to change thanks to campaigners such as Alice Smith who have secured a place for menstrual health education on the UK national curriculum from 2020.

Yonic’s track ‘Wrinkle’ addresses the pressure on women to remain youthful and the commercialisation of anti-wrinkle products. Once marketed as ‘anti-ageing’, this term is now rightly taboo, however the message remains the same, that women should not show signs of ageing, and that wrinkles should be avoided and ‘fixed’. Yonic speaks against these products and celebrates her creases with lyrics such as “My smile lines are deep / Because I’ve smiled a lot / So why would I pay to take that away?” She once again highlights the double standards of society, “Men get rugged / And women get haggard / He’s a bachelor / I’m a spinster / Well fuck that!”

With regard to these issues, Sally McCraw wrote an interesting article which encourages women to ask themselves why they want to look younger. She muses that the marketing campaigns of anti-ageing products and botox encourage women to feel dissatisfied with their body image whilst ignoring the positive aspects of ageing.

The media presents an extremely unrealistic image of the female body and results in an array of feminine beauty products that often do more harm than good. Lips Unsealed offers a funny, open and honest perspective on topics that many people do their best to avoid and opens up important conversations around female body hair, ageing and menstruation.

Lips Unsealed is out now

Illustrated image of Yonic by Amy Bright. Image is a cartoon image of Yonic snarling while holding her elbow aloft to reveal her arm pit hair

Photo of Yonic by Bryony Jade Throup. Image is a head and torso shot of Yonic, who is looking directly at the camera