The Politics of Hair (the kind not on your head)
In my other life I work for a fashion magazine, as I’ve mentioned. One of my newest assignments is to find the best products to remove hair, whether cream, blades, electric shavers, waxes, whatever. I’m going to surprise you all by saying that I jumped on this assignment. Asked for it, even. Because, you see, I don’t shave.
When the topic of shaving comes up (and it does, every now and then), I usually say that I don’t shave for political reasons. That, as a feminist, I am opposed to the notion that beautiful = hairless below the eyebrows. I am annoyed by our culture’s insistence that hair is gross unless it’s coming out the top of the head. It’s gotten so bad that there is now a war on eyebrows that leads some women to go so far as to shave them off completely only to draw them back on. I find this insane.
I also find it insane that women voluntarily put themselves through something as painful and damaging as waxing for the sake of beauty. Beauty should never, ever cause one pain. No, really.
But beyond all that, I just can’t be bothered to shave random areas of my body. Who would I be doing it for? Not myself, certainly. And not for anyone who might be seeing me naked. I will not be naked in front of a person who fears hair. Because they will probably freak out when they find my hair in the shower, and they always will. It’s a tedious, time-consuming process that has few merits, so I don’t shave.
But every now and then I wonder if there is some product out there that will remove my hair, if not permanently, then for long enough that I don’t have to worry about it much. But hey, home permanent removal will work, too. Why? Because, as much as I rail against our culture for disliking hair and raise that old bugaboo, patriarchy, as the source of this evil, I have to admit: I don’t like hair below the eyebrows much myself.
This makes me feel like a hypocrite, though a very smart friend of mine says not. Still…
As you read this, I am embarking on a quest to find a hair removal solution that keeps hair away for a long time and isn’t painful in any way. (Though I must say i am extremely disturbed by the epilator that just arrived int he mail.)
When I mentioned this over on my LJ, my friend veejane asked some very interesting questions:
How do other women feel about hair on different parts of their bodies? Do other women have differential opinions about kinds of hairiness? How do the products on the market conform to these opinions? How do the politics/anxieties of hairiness on each body part play into the products made available to combat hair?
Almost nobody I know does bikini waxing. (I don’t know any swimsuit models, alas.)
Most women I know shave their legs, daily or weekly or for a special occasion, but it’s something they’ll let go and not feel too bad about one way or the other. People talk about unshaved legs, as a political statement.
Armpit hair is more like talking about farts: everybody knows about it but it’s vaguely embarrassing so we all pretend it never existed.
And stray hairs on your face are, like, not even a question.
I’m intensely interested in having a conversation about these issues. Though it’s all a bit TMI, I feel like it’s something that should be discussed in a group of mature adults, such as most of us are here. As I get and try more products, read more press, and do more research, I’ll have more to contribute to the market aspect of it.
So, ABW readers, what is your opinion on different kinds of hairiness?