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.

How long does it take to unwind the damage the kyriarchy has done to your self-image? How long does it take to throw off the mind control of capitalism?

A lifetime.
Never.
Good luck.

It doesn’t take a sociology mastermind to see that in our culture the women+body hair topic is fucked up beyond belief.

So don’t explain to me that your two week walk on the wild side revealed all the facets of your motivations for shaving. When your “preference” magically aligns with the dominant ideology, it’s fair to be a little suspicious.

In I’m a Terrible Female Consumer I said that I wasn’t a better person for not buying into commercialized beauty crap. I mostly believe that. Everyone has limited energy and has to choose their battles. Oppressive beauty standards might not be your priority. If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing.

So let’s make a deal. You don’t pretend that a choice about shaving is simple, casual, or freely made by women in our culture. And I’ll try not to act like I’m a better person for having all my body hair. What do you say?

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!