There’s no shame in body hair
Angry. Hairy. Man-hating. Feminist. For one of my earlier articles for this column, I received a lot of hate, most of which contained a combination of those terms. As I watched the comments pop up underneath the article, I was filled with a strange mix of disgust and happiness. How dare these people who clearly know nothing of feminism accuse me of such things? It would’ve been more upsetting had the hate comments not put the article in the popular section for days, which they did. I felt vindicated and tried to move on with my life. However, being the anal-retentive person that I am, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I am a feminist. I am angry. Man-hating? Never, except for the occasional ironic misandry and my Male Tears mug. As for hairy? Hell. Yeah. Let me explain why.
This past weekend, the Museum of Contemporary Art hosted the Los Angeles Art Book Fair. Hundreds of people were packed into the cavernous space, peering at subversive art and generally enjoying the air of anti-establishment that pervaded the scene. Everyone seemed to be high on the somewhat secret thrill that came with rebelling against life through art. There was really good coffee, too, as most hipster scenes tend to have.
Rather than be a responsible quasi-adult and control myself, I bought more zines than anyone could possibly need, and put my name down for every mailing list I came across. There were many, many feminist artists present. I noticed a pattern. Several tables had at least one zine, magazine, pamphlet or other medium expressing their dissatisfaction with the popular construct of the hairless woman. Even artists who were not necessarily hardcore feminists had addressed the issue, whether seriously or satirically.
Girls grow up being told that body hair is disgusting. Television ads show women shaving or waxing their already hairless legs. In stores, epilators and shavers are always tucked besides the tampons and pads — that dead zone which walking up to almost feels like being a soldier marching into battle. Mothers make appointments for their 12-year-old daughters to have their eyebrows plucked and barely there mustaches removed.
It’s almost as though the world is not allowed to know that women do in fact grow hair on places other than their heads. The truth is, body hair on females is not shameful.
Selfish Magazine, which is a self described “mostly memoir magazine” based in Los Angeles and Brooklyn, tackles body image and hair in its second issue, “Just One More.”
“Mom allowed me to tend to my eyebrows, maybe because they were part of the way I presented myself to the world. They should be well-groomed. Clean eyebrows could influence anyone I meet,” writes Kelsey Nolan in her piece, “From the Eyebrows Down for Selfish.” Nolan continues, “Everything else is for the consumption of those I choose.”
Isn’t that the crux of things? Social conditioning of women dictates that everything a woman does with her body is for the general public.
“Get in the shower. Wash, squeeze, exfoliate, massage. Tack the long, wet loose hairs from your head to the shower wall, lest they clog your drain. Shave. [Once you start, you can never stop],” writes Nolan, perfectly depicting the arduous routine of making oneself presentable according to society’s standards.
In “Let’s Talk About Body Hair,” a collaboration zine directed by Glamour Girl, artists such as Mia Lucci and Shahrnaz Javid combine striking images of female body hair with quotes about shaving.
Underneath a picture of two girls with pubic hair, Lucci writes, “I still get comments from guys that say things like, ‘Ew, you don’t shave, that’s gross,’ … It’s like damn, why would you ever think what I do with my body has anything to do with what you like?”
In “Female Fuzz: A Rant” by Shahrnaz Javid, she writes, “I don’t think growing out armpit, leg or pubic hair needs to be a feminist statement by any means at all … Female fuzz shouldn’t be progressive or forward thinking, it’s biology, organic, natural.”
Some feminists choose to dye their armpit hair pastel pink. Some revel in showing off their hairy legs in shorts, others prefer to be smooth like a baby’s bottom. I believe it is important to recognize that all these choices are valid because they’re choices made by women who refuse to succumb to societal pressure.
P.S. The pink tax is totally real. At CVS, a set of three men’s shavers cost $7.49. In comparison, a set of three women’s shavers (so-called because of their pink and purple colours) cost $13.99. Both are the same brand, but somehow women end up paying more!
P.P.S. Women derive no joy from the process of removing hair. Waxing hurts and a day or two after shaving, the cactus-leg effect comes into play when stubble starts growing underneath the skin. Ouch!
For more readings about why female body hair shouldn’t be an issue, I recommend the zines mentioned in this article, as well as “Static Zine Issue #11” by StaticCloud on Etsy, “Girls Don’t Do That” by Girls Don’t Zine, as well as “Ripley Zine” and “Grrrl Asylum,” both of which can be found on tumblr.com.
Noorhan Maamoon is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “The Hijabi Monologues,” runs on Thursdays.