Hairy Leg Superiority

Sometimes I talk to women about why they shave their legs or their pits. They say things to me like, “I tried not shaving, and after two weeks it was driving me crazy. I shave now because -I- like it.”

Which is complete and utter bullshit.

Here’s how I know:

It took me ten years to like my hairy legs.

Ten. Years.

I started out not shaving in the winter because pants, but I still shaved in the summer. Then I stayed hairy in the summer, but still shaved on days I went swimming. Then I stayed hairy all summer, but I shaved for dates and parties. Then I stayed hairy full time, but I disliked the hair the whole time. And then sometime after THAT I finally got used to my hairy legs. Each of these stages took 2-3 years.

Your two weeks are a joke….

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I’m a Terrible Female Consumer – YAY!

profit1 “Stealing your self-esteem and then selling it back you you.”

I can’t track down the origin of this phrase, but hot damn does it accurately describe a particular evil of our consumer culture!!

Not hating my body is pretty awesome.

For one thing, I’m bad for the economy. (Thank goodness!) I’m specifically a terrible female consumer!

I don’t buy razors, face creams, lotions, makeup, shampoo, antiperspirant, or hair spray. I don’t shave, pluck, straighten, curl, or shape anything. I don’t smooth, conceal, even out, condition, exfoliate, or blend anything.

I buy hardly any menstrual products because I use a reusable cup.

I don’t buy jewelry, dress shoes (or more than one pair of shoes at a time), or dress clothes.

I don’t buy a single weight loss product.

profit3My little anti-capitalist hearts jumps for joy at the sheer amount of dollars I have not spent on this crap.

And it’s definitely crap. My own self-esteem stolen by night and sold back to me advertisement by advertisement. Time, energy, and money, stolen right out from under us.

Once they steal it, you can never get your self-esteem back, even if you pay top dollar for it. The beauty industry and the kyriarchy and civilization whisper to you “your hairy legs are ugly and they make you unloveable”. They steal your confidence and your sense of ownership over yourself. But shaving your legs doesn’t give that back to you. Shaving your legs doesn’t make you confident. It doesn’t prove that you’re the boss of you. You can never buy yourself back to a state where no one ever whispered away your self-esteem in the first place.

profit2Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some better person because I don’t buy all those products. Frankly, it was as much laziness as it was political ideology that got me started chucking that part of our culture in the trash bin.

And I don’t get my confidence back, either. I still get all the messages, and I’m not even trying to succeed at the game. So I’m aware of being a certain kind of failure in our culture, and I can never, ever become unaware of these ways in which I’m failing.

BUT!

I am at least not spending that money!

Glancing around for some quick stats, I came up with women spending an average of $300 a year on makeup alone, and as much as $2000 a year for all general health-and-beauty stuff related to being female and performing femininity.

The bottom line is that we spend A LOT.

We spend the cash.

We spend the time it takes to do all this shaving, slathering, and pruning.

We spend the mental energy monitoring how well we’re living up to expectations.

I started rejecting mainstream culture around age 19. I’m now 39, and I estimate that I spend about $150 a year on appearance maintenance. That means I’ve “saved” as much as $37,000. Wowowow! I win!

 

The Hairy Side of Body Acceptance

Body hair - the hairy side of body acceptance

{Image modified from Peter Gabriel goat by Dan McKay/ CC BY 2.0}

I recently browsed a comment thread devoted to complaining about me.

I noticed something a few comments had in common:

So she doesn’t want to diet or exercise, fine, whatever, but…do something about those eyebrows!

Hey now! I kind of love my eyebrows!

Another comment mocked the thinning hair on my head.

Here’s another:

Apparently she’s also ingrown belly hair positive…EWWWWW

That’s a lot of focus on my body hair.

The belly hair comment comes from a picture I shared on my post Big Bare Beautiful Baby Belly which I made to help add to the available images of fat pregnant people. My belly hairs are just like that. There’s nothing I can do about it.

When someone mocks me and says I’m “ingrown belly hair positive” presumably they aren’t bothered that my belly hairs are like that. What they are bothered by is that I dare to show them in public. Of course, I choose to display myself online, but many people have bodies like mine. Those critical words are also out there in public, and they affect everyone who reads them.

My eyebrows I cannot hide as easily as my belly hairs. Am I expected to pluck and shape them to suit the needs of the body hating world? Well, yes, I am in fact expected to do so.

The hair on my head also cannot be so easily hidden. It grows out of my head that way. It grows the same way my mother’s hair does. I will not cower to criticism and be bothered that I look the way I look.

I stopped plucking my eyebrows 17 years ago.

I stopped shaving my underarms 13 years ago.

I stopped shaving my legs 13 years ago, but I still did it for special occasions. I only stopped for good about 3 years ago.

3 years is about how long ago I got over my mustache. I used to plucked it. I even bleached it once, but that just meant I was walking around with a blonde mustache.

I have still been plucking my chin hairs. I thought I only had two or three of them. A few months ago I stopped plucking them, and I discovered that it might be 2-3 at a time, but there are more in total. It’s quite scraggly down there. I had one more panicked plucking session, and now I think I’m done.

So I understand what’s expected of me by the people who write mean things about my body hair, because I’ve done most of these things before.

  • I’m supposed to be medicated to help with my thinning head hair.
  • I’m supposed to be medicated to help with my “excess” of other hair.
  • I’m supposed to shave my legs.
  • I’m supposed to shave my arm pits.
  • I’m supposed to “trim” my pubic hairs.
  • I’m supposed to pluck or shave or whatever my upper lip hairs.
  • I’m supposed to call them “upper lip hairs” instead of calling them my mustache.
  • I’m supposed to pluck my eyebrows.
  • I’m supposed to pluck or shave my chin hairs.
  • With my remaining head hair, I’m supposed to wash and condition it just so, then heat it this way or that, and style it with a bunch of products.
  • With my remaining eyebrow hairs, I’m supposed to shape them.
  • With my eyelashes I’m supposed to thicken them and curl them with various products.
  • With my remaining pubic hairs, I’m supposed to shape them in one way or another.

That’s an awful lot of control. That’s an awful lot of time, money, and struggle on my part to fit into someone else’s mold.

Where will I be if I comply?

Who will I be?

Who will I be if I DON’T comply? If I continue to try as hard as I can to NOT comply as far as I can?

One of the things I will be is a woman. The deep control of hair is something our culture particularly forces onto women. But I will be a woman no matter what I do with my hair.

One of the things I will be is an animal. Guess what? We’re mammals! We have hair!

I recently heard a friend refer to her chin hairs as goat hairs. I’m going to take that up. It’s kind of cute, and it reminds me that I’m an animal. I will continue getting comfortable being the person – the animal – that I am. Chin hairs and all.

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Women Are Powerful (Natural Resources)

By Joshua Bardwell, originally posted in March 2010 at Jack-Booted Liberal.

This ad, seen in an airport, illustrates the complexity of attempting to support women in a culture that is steeped in female objectification.

On the one hand, the ad is explicitly pro-woman. On the other hand, it represents women as a “natural resource” to be “tapped.” If we are to support women, it should be for the same reasons that we support any person, and those reasons start with basic respect for human dignity. Saying that we should help them so as to “tap” them reduces them to the value that we can extract from them, which is, granted, totally consistent with our culture’s treatment of many people the world over, but is probably not reflective of the progressive values that this charity attempts to represent.

Surrounding Myself With Fat Images

From here:

From here:

From here (porn):

From here:

From here:

This last image is from a Pinterest board full of pictures of fat women.

I have a Pinterest board of my own called Fat Body Love where I collect pictures of fat women, articles, books, quotes, and anything else that gives me inspiration to love myself and the beautifully subversive fat bodies of others.

You will never hear me claim that it is easy to love your own fat body when surrounded by this toxic culture that’s at war with us. You won’t hear me claim that it’s easy to love the fat bodies of others when we are taught day in and day out to hate them.

But inasmuch as I’m in control of what I see, I choose to refuse to hide fatness from my view. I look and look and look and look again, because what I like to see necessarily must arise from what I see.

How Do You Know These Legs Are Male?

Check out this post card from Post Secret:

Aside from the postcard’s message, I find the drawing interesting. This person is wearing a short skirt and high heels. So what is supposed to tell us that it’s a man? The hairy legs, of course, even though women naturally have similar hair on their legs.

Why can’t this drawing be of a woman? I am a woman, and my legs look like this. Well, my legs are a lot bigger. And I would never wear heels with an ankle strap. And red doesn’t match my hair. But anyway. I have hairy legs. And I wear skirts and high heels with my hairy legs.

Mother Culture whispers to us from everywhere, including Post Secret postcards. Mother Culture whispers many things in this image, messages about gender, beauty, and our bodies.

My voice cannot counter all of that, but I will try anyway: High heels and short skirts go perfectly with hairy legs. Your body is just fine the way it is. You do not have to shave bits of it off.

Big Bare Beautiful Baby Belly

Kmom at The Well-Rounded Mama has proposed a blog carnival for documenting photographs of fat women pregnant, birthing, and parenting. She states:

It’s SO important that there be pregnancy and parenting images of women of size out there, showing that we do have babies, we do give birth, we do breastfeed, and we do parent.

As I’ve educated myself about birthing over the last few years, I’ve benefited from The Well-Rounded Mama site as a resource for information on the intersection of being fat and being pregnant. I agree with her that it’s valuable to see photos of people like yourself, and it can be really hard to find good photos of fat pregnant and birthing women. I love photos of myself and I love my pregnant body, so I wanted to participate in this carnival and in adding to the store of available images. All of the photos in this post were taken in the last couple of days, right at 33 weeks.

While I’ve spent a lot of my life really concerned about my size, unhappy with my body, and desperate to change it, over the last two or three years I’ve completely gotten over that. I’m really glad that I made that mental shift prior to getting pregnant. So many women, fat or otherwise, feel insecure about their growing pregnant bodies, and I’m glad that hasn’t been a factor for me. I did have a long period of time in the 2nd trimester where I was afraid I wasn’t getting big enough. I was having trouble eating enough calories with the carb restrictions, and I wasn’t gaining much weight. But, my fundal height is right on target, and I know I’m just the right size. I’m glad to have never worried about my body being too big. In fact, I can’t wait to see how big it gets! Honestly, I think my growing belly is so cool! I touch it and look at it all the time.

This photo’s a bit crooked, but here’s the view I get from above:

Here’s what I had to say about my belly at week 19:

I really like rubbing, playing with, measuring, and cradling my growing belly. While I touch my belly lovingly as if there were a treasured child in there, I don’t have a sense that there is. I’m not really interacting with a baby, because I have no connection to what’s going on in there as an actual baby. Maybe I will when I can feel movement, but so far, it doesn’t really feel like anything inside. And yet I’m paying all this attention to my belly. And I realized that what I was feeling and protecting and enjoying is actually just my belly, which is kind of cool. I’m loving and connecting with a body part of mine, with an aspect of myself, falling in love with myself, and that’s really special all on its own! I can’t wait to get bigger!

I’ve definitely had lots of other physical complaints (like reflux, OMG!), but being fat isn’t one of them. I have sought out the images and experiences of other fat women online, because it’s nice to compare notes from a similar starting place. For example, while the middle and top parts of my growing belly are very firm, all my squishiness has fallen down to the bottom of my belly. Joshua calls it my wattle, like the squishy-hangy bit under the chin of a chicken:

I found it enjoyable to find pictures of other women online (rare!) with the same drooping squishiness, although I haven’t yet run across anyone else who loves theirs.

Everyone says my boobs are bigger, too, but I don’t really notice. Seriously, they’re so big already that percentage-wise, they just don’t seem much bigger. I notice the huge areolae, though!

I’ve always loved my shape when I’m laying on my side. The feel of boob, waist, hips, butt, thighs is just such a nice curvy track, and now there’s a ginormous belly there, too, so I love to trace around the lines even more.

In any case, for all the complaining I’ve had this pregnancy (mostly in the 2nd trimester – the 3rd is going really well), the growing size of my body isn’t one of my complaints. It’s actually probably my favorite thing. I simply love my big beautiful baby belly!

Feminism, Children, and What Women Are Supposed to Talk About

Over at Slate, Katie Roiphe has an article called Get Your Kid Off Your Facebook Page, subtitled “Why do women hide behind their children?” In it, she takes a subject I’m sure we’re all familiar with (sometimes previously interesting friends get obsessed over a new topic and turn into boring drones), applies it to a certain topic guaranteed to rile people up (children), and then slaps an insulting feminist rant down on top of it. I’m not amused.

The article starts out talking about women who use photos of their children as their own Facebook profile picture. I’m vaguely on board at this point, not because I mind pictures of children in general but because I prefer people’s icons to not be cartoon characters, movie stars, and other people-who-are-not-them, which includes their children. Roiphe says these women have other interests – careers, books, causes – but they choose their children as their image, which we’re supposed to derive some greater critique from. She asks, “Where have all these women gone?”

At this point, I took a quick glance at my own Facebook friends’ choices of icons. I found photos of people’s artwork, graphic icons for projects the person was involved in, religious symbols, movie stars, food, plants, animals, and other random objects, including one of a stapler. Has my artist friend who displays his artwork in his icon “gone” somewhere? Or is he simply displaying something that’s relevant to his life, that he’s proud of, that he’s interested in, that he thinks looks cool…? And is that any different from someone who displays a photo of their child? If a woman in question displayed photos related to the examples Roiphe gives of her other presumed interests – her favorite author, for example – will that mean she has “gone” somewhere?

Moving away from Facebook, Roiphe criticizes a hypothetical friend who rambles all through the dinner party about her children:

Think about how throughout the entire dinner party, from olives to chocolate mousse, she talks about nothing but her kids. You waited, and because you love this woman, you want her to talk about…what?…a book? A movie? A news story? True, her talk about her children is very detailed, very impressive in the rigor and analytical depth she brings to the subject; she could, you couldn’t help but think, be writing an entire dissertation on the precise effect of a certain teacher’s pedagogical style on her 4-year-old. But still. You notice at another, livelier corner of the table that the men are not talking about models of strollers.

The examples given here and the switch at the end are very telling. You want to talk about a book or a movie, perhaps, which arguably wouldn’t be that detailed or nuanced a conversation in itself. Your friend wants to talk about pedagogical styles. You notice that the men aren’t talking about strollers. Wait a minute. Your friend wasn’t talking about strollers, either. She was talking about teaching strategies with, by your judgment, dissertation level detail. Yet you reduce the characterization of that to the level of importance of stroller models. This sounds an awful lot like because it’s a woman talking and because it’s about children, it’s apparently trivial and not nearly as important as what the men are talking about.

This sounds like the opposite of feminism, which is odd, since the article makes fun of the hypothetical friend’s dusty feminist cred. The woman has read femininist theory and knows about different waves of feminism. She went to college, dammit! Yet somehow, her current conversational interests don’t stack up with Roiphe’s image of what a middle-aged feminist should look like.

I’ll toss in a disclaimer of sorts: I think it is relevant from a feminist perspective to talk about trends in women’s behavior and what they mean sociologically. Are more women more focused on their children these days than in years past? Are women as a group abandoning other interests in favor of their children when they might prefer to do otherwise? What kinds of social pressures are in place that lead women towards focusing on childcare-related topics and away from other topics? These – and a gazillion others – might be good questions to ask and answer. But those questions are different than attacking and belittling the actions of individual women. Roiphe mocks a real-life, non-hypothetical friend who lets her daughter wear annoyingly squeaky shoes because the daughter likes them. Huh? What does that have to do with whether or not your friend read The Feminine Mystique in college? How does that promote a cause or advance feminist theory? It doesn’t. It’s just petty.

In my experience, the people who talk on and on about their kids have young children. This means that the period of time where they’re “obsessed” is a few years long. Is it strange for a person to fall in love with or begin spending time on something new and then talk about it a lot for months or years? I don’t think so. Friends of mine who are in college talk about college a lot. The people who garden or sew talk about gardening or sewing a lot. Some people talk about their jobs in infinite detail. Some of my friends mix DJ sets, and I’m astounded at how much they manage to talk about this. It’s much, much rarer to hear anyone complain about these one-note-tunes, though. Somehow when the topic is children – which usually means the speaker is a woman – there’s a special hatred attached to the topic. If I have a hypothetical friend on Facebook who has a flame-effect as their user icon, talks about Burning Man and regional BM events a lot, talks about the money they’re saving for the event, the costumes they’re making, the art they’re working on, etc, should I be concerned about where my friend’s identity has “gone” and what it means to society? Should I start pointing and laughing and muster up confusion as to why my friend isn’t talking about the same things ou talked about 10 years ago? Is ou “hiding behind Burning Man on Facebook”? No? Then why would that be anymore true when the topic is children?

Also, there looms the giant possibility that if you think your friend’s chatter about her children is inane babble, you’re not listening. Sure, sometimes she is talking about stroller models, which will probably bore anyone else who hasn’t been in the market for a stroller lately. But she’s probably also talking about say, pedagogical models, or how politics affect her ability to find decent childcare, the effects of advertising in her home, or the research on the benefits of organic foods in the lunch box. Your smart friend is still probably your smart friend.

If her topics do lack overarching social importance, they’re still the details of her actual life – the things she finds funny, the things she finds gross, the stuff that delights her or bothers her or wears her out or makes her day. If you thought she was such a wonderful person before having kids – a wonderful feminist, even – maybe you should listen instead of rolling your eyes. Maybe there’s something important in there. At the very least, it’s important to her, and believing her when she says so is itself a powerful feminist act.

Pretty – Katie Makkai

Joshua posted this video awhile back, and since that post has gotten a couple of comments lately, I’ve been watching it again. I’ve seen it several times, and it still makes me cry. If you can’t see the embedded video, click here. At the bottom of this post, I also included a transcript.

Besides the general cultural messages about attractiveness, the part about her mother wanting to fix her really hits home for me, as I’m sure it does for a lot of people.

Transcript (taken from here and then slightly modified):

When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother “What will I be? Will I be pretty?” Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? What comes next? Oh right, will I be rich which is almost pretty depending on where you shop. And the pretty question infects from conception passing blood and breath into cells. The word hangs from our mothers’ hearts in a shrill of fluorescent floodlight of worry. Will I be wanted? Worthy? Pretty?

But puberty left me this funhouse mirror dryad: teeth set at science fiction angles, crooked nose, face donkey-long, and pockmarked where the hormones went finger-painting my poor mother. “How could this happen?! You’ll have porcelain skin as soon as we can see a dermatologist. You sucked your thumb. That’s why your teeth look like that! You were hit in the face with a Frisbee when you were six, otherwise your nose would have been just fine! Don’t worry; we will get it all fixed,” she would say, grasping my face, twisting it this way then that as though it were a cabbage she might buy. But, this is not about her. Not her fault she, too, was raised to believe the greatest asset she could bestow upon her awkward little girl was a marketable facade.

By sixteen I was pickled by ointments, medications, peroxides. Teeth corralled into steel prongs, laying in a hospital bed. Face packed with gauze, cushioning the brand new nose the surgeon had carved. Belly gorged on two pints of my own blood I had swallowed under anesthesia, and every convulsive twist of my gut, like my body screaming at me from the inside out “What did you let them do to you?” All the while, this never ending chorus droning on and on like the IV needle dripping liquid beauty into my blood. “Will I be pretty?” Will I be pretty like my mother, unwrapping the gift wrap to reveal the bouquet of daughter her $10,000 bought her? Pretty? Pretty.

And now I have not seen my own face in ten years. I have not seen my own face in ten years, but this is not about me! This is about the self-mutilating circus we have painted ourselves clowns in. About women who will prowl thirty stores in six malls to find the right cocktail dress, but who haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy, wandering through life shackled to a shopping bag, beneath the tyranny of those two pretty syllables. About men wallowing on bar stools drearily practicing attraction and everyone who will drift home tonight crestfallen because not enough strangers found you suitably fuckable.

This, this is about my own some-day daughter. When you approach me, already stung-stained with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty? Will I be pretty?” I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer NO. The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained in five letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing, but you will never be merely “pretty.”

Hairy Legs Cause Tragedy!

It’s been over 10 years since I first stopped shaving, with the times between shaves gradually growing until it was almost permanent. I still shaved once or twice a year for parties and burns where I was likely to be naked around people or wearing short skirts. It’s been about a year now since I gave that up, too. I really just do not ever shave now. This means I’m pretty much over shaving pressure. I’m not concerned with anyone’s reactions to my hairy legs. That means things like this advertisement (via) don’t have any pressure or condemnation, they’re simply downright funny to me  (click here if you can’t see embedded video):

Apparently, even if your legs look pretty smooth, if you’re not completely shaved, you’re a walking tragedy waiting to happen! Chaos! People falling all over! Choking! Bus crash!

Obviously, it’s meant to be humorous, but really, that’s not so far from the message that’s actually received by women. The idea is that if you don’t shave your legs, your boyfriend will recoil and furthermore, everyone around you will know that you’re a horrible, horrible person. Not because they choked on an apple, but because they’ll see your awful hairy legs and know the horrible truth about you.

Eh, fuck that. I get that not everyone can throw off that message, but I’m really glad I did. It transforms ads like this from propaganda to the humorous escapades of people from another world. Laughing at it feels almost as good as having left shaving far behind.