And now for something a little different...
On the "References" page of K's blog, there are a few posts about feminism and body hair. It seems like a relevant thing to post about now, since it's the season of shorts, swim suits, and increased hair removal (at least in my hemisphere). If you search for "Body hair and feminism" on the internet, you come up with even more interesting posts. So while I may not be the first feminist to discuss body hair, I think it's a pretty fascinating issue, one that is under-discussed for all the time we spend trying to get rid of the hair in question.
First, let's get one thing straight-- Although seeing it on other people doesn't bother me, I've long had angst towards my own body hair. Even the words themselves give me the creeps. As a child, I was extremely upset about going through puberty. Yes, it's true that I'm not a big fan of major changes that I have no control over. But looking back, I think part of my fear had to do with being a young asexual. We're always told that puberty is our first step towards becoming full-fledged sexual beings. Being told "You're a woman now" can be frightening for the pubescent asexual, since in most people's minds, adulthood is linked with sexual rites of passage. And I was definitely pissed off that suddenly, I had to shave my legs and armpits. It was time-consuming, I often cut myself, and I was always self-conscious that I had missed spots (which in fact, I usually did). However, if I hadn't shaved, I would have been horribly ridiculed.
While my views on body hair have relaxed a lot since then (missed a spot? Who cares?), I have mixed feelings about putting down the razor. My fear isn't looking like a "natural, adult woman", but like a Hobbit. In truth, I only consistently shave when the parts in question will be visible-- and in usually-chilly Northern California where "layering" rules, that's not often. However, this proves the oft-made point that shaving isn't really my choice. I do it so people won't look at me funny, not because it makes me feel "cleaner" or "sexier". It's something I do not for myself, but for the public gaze. Obviously I don't feel pleased with this. Maybe I can put myself on a gradual plan...becoming more comfortable with stubble, perhaps, before I embark on a full quest to Middle Earth.
Here is an article about how harrowing life can be as a hairy female, complete with $10,000 electrolysis, risky medications, and bacterial infections from waxing. The conclusion of the article is basically: "Tough shit. If you don't want to be ridiculed and live a life of shame, torture yourself through hair removal". (Lest you think this is a woman-only issue, even men, who were long able to be hairy in peace, are facing increasing pressure to remove their body hair.) In the article, interviewees express hurt, shame, and fatigue. But working to change the social standards that led them there was never mentioned as a possible solution. To me, it looks like the only one that will actually empower people, rather than making them feel continually worse.
For comments, all I ask is that people don't criticize the appearance of others. I've seen it happen way too much in discussions on similar topics. (For instance: "Body hair is okay, as long as it's not dark! EWWW!" Uh...what? If we're accepting body hair, let's do away with arbitrary, Eurocentric beauty standards at the same time, shall we?) This blog is supposed to be a safe space, and body-related issues can be sensitive. Let's make it easier on each other, yes?