Monday, January 31, 2005

Hair Today

When I first got to college in early 1977, a lot of the women around me didn't shave their legs or underarms, and I read Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch. Greer argued (more or less--I haven't reread the book since then) that shaving made women look like children, not least because one of the biological signs of adulthood is body hair, especially pubic and underarm hair. Shaving off these markers was a bit like shaving off one's adulthood. When I first started shaving my legs, it was kind of a thrill--the way anything that smacks a little of adulthood and adult-like sexuality does when you're 13 or 14, especially if it's something that's safe. But by the time I got to college, I found it tedious--I cut myself often enough, and it was a pain and a chore. Reading Greer, and meeting all of these other women who didn't shave, made me ask why I was doing it, and I had no good answer for it. So I stopped.

The more I read and thought, the less inclined I became to resume the practice, even after I graduated from college and moved into the world outside of crunchy-granola land. One of the arguments that has resonated most with me is that, if "society" requires a woman to spend a tremendous amount of time on personal grooming, it reduces the amount of time that woman has available for things like, say, running a business or writing a book. It works best, obviously, if you can get women to enforce these rules themselves by internalizing them. Thus, when I've asked women why they shave, they say that it "just feels better," or "just looks better," or they're "used to it that way." (And I wasn't being confrontational--I was truly curious.)

Increasingly, though, women are having their pubic hair removed, too--which brings to mind Greer's original argument. And I so don't get this. Why on earth would you pay someone to rip your pubic hair out by the roots? What is so offensive about body hair that it must be removed? Can someone explain this to me?

(This was all brought to mind by a post from Mithras , who references a video that Amanda found.)

14 Comments:

Blogger kStyle said...

I can't explain the public hair removal, but I do shave. Seriously, I have thick, curly, dark hair. It's not just a matter of "femininity", it's a matter of not looking like an ape!!

9:44 AM  
Blogger kStyle said...

PS It doesn't take that long, for me. I even grow hair on my toes and fingers. Ape.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

Yeah, I know other women (and men) who feel that way. I think it would be much harder for me if I were a lot hairier and/or it was dark. On the other hand, we ARE all apes, after all . . . ! I really don't know any other women who don't shave, and, especially given the shit that I've taken for it, i completely understand if other women decide to do it. I wear makeup more often than many women do--in part because I'm so fair, my eyelashes just disappear. I think we all make compromises so we appear "acceptable." but that's another post.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate the fact that so many women feel the "need" to shave because that's what women are supposed to do. If everyone, including men, did what felt right, when it felt right, we'd have more variety and be more comfortable in our skin.

Personally, I shave sometimes. I like the way it feels and looks, but I also like being natural. Since I have dry skin and never wear skirts, I can go months without shaving in the winter.

I think we should remember that men face peer pressure too. They don't naturally come with no facial hair, but a lot of women prefer them that way.

10:31 AM  
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