Monday, June 16, 2008

It might not necessarily be a sign of equality, but I wish we treat could treat our legs like men's faces

A friend in the pub said to me 'we should just treat leg/pit hair like men treat their facial hair, and have real freedom of choice'.

Now I don't think that all men are completely free to have facial hair if they want, after-all Gillette markets clean shaven as the 'professional' kind of look. Having a beard is not without connotations either, people may think you are a wise, a leftie vegetarian or very religious depending on your racialised group, and what kind of shoes you wear. Nor do I think the comparison between men's facial hair and women's body hair is really a true analogy - if we were really talking about equality we would be comparing body with body, but seen as we are so far away from the freedom to be hairy, I think it is an analogy worth pursuing.

In my experience as a hetero who likes to discuss and admire the faces of men, it transpires that women tend to like a variety of levels of shaving. I know one woman who is mad for beards, and considers facial hair long enough to braid as the pinnacle of sex. I also know women for whom clean shaven is the only acceptable option, I have even met someone who thinks that handlebar moustaches are actually cool.

Personally I am down with anything up to light beard, and think that stubble ( though itchy) can be attractive in a 'rugged' kind of way, that on the right person a beard can hide a weird chin, and that not having the hormonal requirements to grow much hair can equally be very attractive.

Having said that I would suspect that someone with a handlebar moustache is either very pretentious, or very evil or both.

I think it would be fantastic if women's bodily hair could be viewed the same way, that when I am stubbly a man might go 'mmm rugged, she didn't shave for a few days, she must be a bit wild'
or 'that armpit hair looks really natural and smooth I would like to stroke it'
Or even - 'she wears her legs hairy with those square glasses, how indie...'

I know a lot of women who consider their own hairiness to be deeply unattractive, but I think that is wholly due to the fact that it is constructed to be so. I mean if every man in every film was shown clean shaven, if literally no public figures had beards, if beards were seen as repulsive by the public at large and mocked in magazines, I doubt there would be many beards.

From personal experience ( which is not completely de-constructed, and I acknowledge that I too am a product of this beastly patriarchy) the two most comfortable states of leg/pit hair are totally shaved, or 4 days growth minimum. Anything in between is really annoying - and considering option A requires shaving every day and option B requires no shaving ever - I think I know what I will be doing if we ever get post patriarchy.

At present I like to dabble with option A and option B, but I do feel wary of showing my body when I am in option B.

This is a lot like being a hairy man who lives in a world without beards. A world where everyone seems to shave every day just to look normal, where all women everywhere are apparently repulsed by facial hair. One day the hairy man says 'no, this is stupid, I can't be bothered to spend money on razors any more. This hair grows naturally on my face, I am going to let it grow. I know I am hetero, and women are supposed to be repulsed by beards, but the right woman should just like me anyway damnit.' So he doesn't shave and he feels liberated at first - but when he goes out of his house the idea that he is repulsive and weird to everyone he sees, and has no hope of ever going out with a woman, plays on his mind so much that he has to buy a balaclava*, and eventually decides to shave.

I have a list of other hair based demands for women....
  • twiddling armpit hair to be the same as twiddling a beard, a sign of wisdom and being deep in thought.
  • leg hair to be seen as quite cool if you are in a band.
  • leg hair to be essential if you want to make folksy music.
  • armpit hair growing competitions along the lines of the world beard and moustache
  • armpit and leg hair to be desirable necessary for the ageing academic woman.
  • some sort of fad centred around shaving words or patterns into our leg hair ( good for teenagers)
Alix Olson does quite a funny song on the subject, (from a queer perspective, I know plenty of lesbians shave and all, but it is slightly different for hetero women)

Anyway I know there are more pressing issues for the modern feminist, but these are my thoughts for today.

* In 'this 'world without beards' there was never any connection between the balaclava and terrorism...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Edinburgh Dungeons- another childhood memory shattered

I went to the Edinburgh dungeons today on a 'staff development outing' ( I know sounds scarily like something that actual proper grown ups do, but I mostly went for the free lunch)

I didn't know what to think about the dungeons. I had previously been a bit of a fan, I went to the York dungeons for my 10th birthday and thought it was just about the best thing ever. This was during my 'outbreak/horrible history' phase, very much into infectious diseases and gruesome things in general. I was fascinated by every disgusting symptom of the plague and found torture disconcerting but intreguing. I have since visited all the dungeon franchise in the uk, though not for quite a while.

Before today I had a vague notion that feminists don't like the dungeons, and thinking about it I can understand why. The glorification ( or perhaps gorification) of violence against women in the form of the horrific treatment of women accused of witchery/prostitution, seems like simple enough anti-feminism - but still it is part of our past, and it can be good to leave the gory bits in history if it's done properly.
Unfortuntely the Edinburgh dungeons does not manage this, mostly as a result of their heavy reliance on attention seeking twerpy students who shout a lot and make humourless lewd innuendos.

I mean most of the acting was bad, that's ok, I expect that - these are not ex RADA they are a tourist attraction; the first guy though was not just a bad actor, but a complete jerk. Now I know that his role was supposed to be that of the complete jerk, but there are ways if pretending to be a nasty judge ( he was supposed to be a nasty judge - judge mental I think was his character, hmm clever) without resorting to racism and sexual harassment.

It was the bit where you are supposed to be at a trial, and he calls a member of our group up to the dock, who happens to come from India. He says ' Where are you from' she says 'India' to which he replies 'Well that's enough for me, go home - you're guilty, go back to where you came from'.

I think that counts as racism, and I think he sort of realised as he said after 'well that would have been more funny if you had come from Glasgow'. Perhaps, it certainly would have been less racist ( though you know quite regionalist/classist - but that's a whole other minefield).

Throughout his act he made lewd sexual comments to the women in the audience, accused women of being skanks - kept saying 'you love it don't you, you love it' over and over and over to various different women and girls. He looked in my direction at one point and said 'you love it don't you' to which I replied 'love what?'. Funnily enough at that point he started picking on someone else.The one man he called to the dock he accused of being gay and made loads of intensely homophobic comments(before ending with some Wales sheep shagging hilarity), and he called up a pre-teen girl and called her ugly. Good work.

I know these things are supposed to be mean, but it would be possible to do this without being hideously offensive (yes I do realise the contradiction in demanding that someone offends people in a non offensive manner, but you know what I mean, nastiness that doesn't emphasise or reflect societal opression)

He could have stuck to the surreal - like ' you have really smelly elbows' general weirdness, or witchcraft and the supernatural:-

'You are a witch' ' you like to eat pies made out of poo' 'you have been stealing other people's flowers and shoving them up your nostrils' etc etc....

Still at least acting the part of 'unpleasant human being number 01' wasn't much of a challenge for him.

Most of the actors were like this, and they were all, with only 1 exception - white men. The only female actor lead us from the boat bit into another room, and didn't do much performing. I remember the dungeons used to have some historical content but that seems to have almost totally disappeared.
As with much history there was 100% male narration, with women only featuring as vampires or victims of violence.There was a bit in the anatomy part where a guy tried to force one of the other women in our group to kiss this heart thing (I tried to touch it, but he wouldn't let me, would have perhaps de-mystified the whole thing if everyone had found out it was just a bit of brown rubber) whilst repeating 'I bet you've had worse on a Friday night'.
To top this off the blackboard it said 'women's brains are scientifically proven to be smaller than human brains'.
Now I know the past is sexist, damnit I know the present is sexist - but this wasn't about showing how unfair the past was - it was about yet another unfunny joke. It may have been more acceptable if there were female actors but the only women there seemed to work behind the reception or in the gift shop.

Anyway the whole thing is a pile of crap, and I am sad to add it to the 'list of things that I actually quite enjoyed as a child but will unfortunately not be letting my children experience*' along with Disneyland, MacDonalds food and caravan sites in Hornsea.

* should I ever have any, that is one ridiculously grown up thing that will not be happening for a long while