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...


Christian Feminist said...

Nice post! I haven't shaved for a few years now and have just about reached the point where I really don't care if people can see it. It took about 2 years to get there though! Its been really interesting talking to people about it Obviously lots of people think its gross, but quite a lot of women I've spoken to are secretly a bit jealous and say that they wish they could stop but they just aren't brave enough. Obviously I totally understand why they don't feel able to stop, its just a bit sad that people are so indoctrinated into what is acceptable that they can't stop shaving because otherwise they would be judged.

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