Today I would like to talk about women and hair. I know some of you just clicked off and went screaming for the hills… whatever! In all seriousness though, it’s a conversation that needs to be had. When did the women in our society become all but hairless and why? Even some men are shaving their arms and legs and nether regions. I find it not only weird but disturbing.
I remember well the slick marketing of pretty pastel shavers that promised being hair free would make me more desirable, more feminine, I was 12. It was all the rage! Images of hairless silky (touchable) skin were everywhere. I was too young to process the insidious message that in order to be desirable and touchable that I needed to alter myself into something that I wasn’t naturally, or that those that would have me do so, were not people I would want to be desiring and touching me in the first place. No that would come later, much much later after all the conditioning had set in and done its damage.
It was a coming of age thing for me and my friends. I remember fondly being away at summer camp the first time I shaved my legs with the other girls and what a thrill that was. I felt so girly, so grown up. I remember with less fondness the ingrown hairs, rashes, stinging, and nicks and cuts that were inevitable in the coming months as I perfected the art of shaving. I didn’t understand what a chore shaving would become. If someone had told me then that I would one day participate in the insane process of pouring hot wax on my legs in order to then rip said undesirable hair from it’s very follicles, I am quite certain I would have laughed. I guess the jokes on me. I have very fine hair and when I did decide to wax it failed to remove all of the leg hair and I had to shave anyway. Sighs… shakes head…giggles a little at the irony.
I certainly did not understand the stigma I would face by daring to enter a public domain visibly unshaven. Have you ever gone to get a pedicure with unshaven legs (the horror)! I’m not kidding…the ladies look at you barely able to mask their complete disgust. They will vehemently encourage an immediate wax, not just because it’s a sale, but because they truly are ashamed for you and they think they are doing you a favor.
I recall with photographic memory the first time I saw a woman in a nude love scene with armpit hair. The shock nearly killed me. I think I was 15, but I was already so conditioned that hair on a woman was socially unacceptable that seeing it horrified me. Now it makes me angry! When did femininity become synonymous with hairlessness? Yes I know that’s not a word..but it should be, and I’m on a roll so I’m choosing to use it anyway. Don’t even get me started on waxing and shaving women’s hoohas. Now that’s total insanity. I once had a guy tell me and I quote ” I don’t like a lot of hair”. I said well I don’t mind if you want to shave yourself. He said “no… I don’t like a lot of hair on women down there”. I will refrain here from recounting the vitriol I spewed at him. Suffice it to say that hook up never happened! Wtf!? His sense of entitlement to tell me what I should do with my private area in order to please him was not only astounding but appalling, and sadly, not uncommon.
Even in period shows where women clearly would not have been hairless they are appearing hairless on our tv screens (Game of Thrones) History being misrepresented is nothing new, but it is interesting if not somewhat alarming that even authenticity doesn’t stand up to society’s hair-free demands. The swords, wardrobe, and decor must match the period but our female characters can have prepubescent shaved hoohas because we are pandering to our male audience!
The bottom infuriating line is that women are taught from the time they are very small to alter themselves in various ways in order to be desired, loved and cherished by men. Men are not brought up with these same values in regards to women. Society’s standards for women reinforce the narrative that our value is still largely based on our looks and on whether or not we are desired by the opposite sex. Case in point… there has been wild speculation on whether or not Hillary Clinton will make a 2016 presidential run. Let me tell you why I think she will. She just had a face-lift. Sadly, despite her education, her political service record, she, like all female candidates, must still meet the public demand to be aesthetically palatable.
Not to get off point here… and back to hair and women…
I still do not like armpit hair on women, and truly I am not that fond of leg hair either, however, I am doing my level best to get over it! I am attempting to get over the conditioning that is still so prevalent today. It is difficult to erase images of beauty that have plagued you all your life and replace those images with natural beauty especially when it is so hard to find and view. In an act of rebellion I have decided to let my hair grow. I am refusing society’s definition of beauty in favor of being naturally authentic. I may give in at some point and shave. There are other aesthetic things I am not willing to give up. If I do though, it will be my choice, not because I had to meet someone else’s standard of what is acceptable. There is nothing wrong with us at birth. Our bodies are designed to look and work just exactly how they are supposed to. There is something wrong with a society that conditions us to be otherwise in order to be desired, loved, and accepted.