See my related posts on; chauvinist pigs, American Apparel double standards, and my first ever 'feminist' post on this blog, feminism, equal rights, double standards.
Disclaimer: This is not about shaming women who do decide to shave their body hair.
I am a feminist, I am an equalist and I am a humanitarian. So, it comes as no surprise that I am disgusted in the ideology that we as a generation are still faced with a patriarchal society. This post is dedicated to one of the many aspects of sexism that we as a civilisation are practically immune to - the body hair double standard.
The misconceptions linked to the word "feminist" are typically negative, which is something I doubt I will ever understand. "Misandrists" are completely different to a feminist. The literal definition for feminism is simply "the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities". Shouldn't that be celebrated rather than oppressed?
As any of you who read my blog on a regular basis know, I am an equalist in all senses of the word. Be it for gender equality, race equality, sexuality equality, religious equality - whatever it may be - as I am under the impression that we, as humans, should be given the same rights. Surely that makes more sense than degrading those with pure human differences. One of these topics that I feel affects me personally is sexism, due to the fact that I have been oppressed, personally. And so have you. Females, for example, are typically shunned for natural things like going topless like a man in public (despite the fact that the only difference between a man's breast and a woman's breast is size and one being able to literally produce food), smaller pay for the same job, and even facing arrest for breastfeeding in public. Men also need feminism, for reasons like being given longer prison sentences than women for the same crime, and being subdued if he is a victim of abuse and assault from a female. But you know all this.
However, two years ago, my stance on feminism was completely different (and obscured). Nay, I didn't even have a stance on feminism. Until one day, I went to my sociology class, only for the teacher to say, "who's a feminist in here? Raise your hands". Did I put up my hand? No. And neither did anyone else. And why? Because the term "feminist" is considered to be a "dirty" word, suitable for only those who take vivid extremes to get their misandrist points across. No lie, I thought this was all there was to feminism. The question that I had burning in my brain was, "why does my teacher care? Feminism is pointless. And, you know, he's male". But, thankfully, then and there I was taught that feminism is simply for equal rights. No man-hating chauvinists, just people who want to end the oppression. Quickly, I raised my hand. So did 50% of the class. But the males of the class just sat there, twiddling their thumbs. My teacher had to explain that feminism is for everyone, of all genders, and that likewise it benefits everyone, all genders. So my male peers sat there until they were informed that feminism is for equal prison sentences, because objectification is never okay, because stereotypes also hurt men, because chivalry > subjugation, and because males can be subjected to physical abuse. The males raised their hands.
Body-shaming is all around us, all the time. It feels, though, as if it’s particularly acute in the summer. Your body has to be thin, tanned, hairless, free of cellulite, and your face must be impeccably made-up even in sweltering heat via specially-purchased summer beauty products. And you definitely aren’t allowed to sweat. For anyone who knows the tyranny of summertime body-shaming is entirely socially constructed. You can't have body hair and be attractive
Although it shouldn’t be, every time you subvert cultural norms about how a body should look in public, that’s a victory. (Credit)
Imagine a man walking out on the street, perhaps mid-summer time. His armpits are unshaved, along with his legs, because why should he shave? Body hair protects the skin, providing ventilation and defending the skin from bacteria and others things our pores don't want swimming inside them. Body hair is good for us. Shaving, not shockingly, isn't. Now, imagine that person is a female. Are they allowed to show even the blondest of armpit hair, or leg hair? No, of course not. That obviously means that they have "let themselves go" and "don't care about their appearance". It has nothing to do with the fact that body hair is better for them and they actually don't want to rip the hairs out of their arms and legs or glide a razor over their delicate skin. Obviously.
Why should society dictate what I do with my body hair, and make me feel bad about myself if I make the "wrong" choice? I want it to be an option, not a requirement, to remove my body hair.
During winter I decided to back off the razor whilst I was hidden behind my baggy jumpers and long-sleeved shirts, and yet the snide comments from whomever caught a glimpse of my underarms were designed to make me feel bad about myself until I conformed to society once again and shaved. Now I don't know about you guys but I personally think that that was awful behaviour for someone to have towards a fellow human. I don't want to shave, but I feel pressured into doing so when the treatment towards me from family to strangers changes dramatically from "oh aren't you a lovely well-educated young lady" to "ew, you dirty hippy feminazi"*.
Many women and girls grow up believing that body hair is unattractive and gross and should be removed from as many places as humanly possible at the first sign of its existence. Indeed, being hair-free is often seen as a sign of cisgender heterosexuality in women.
At the time, not shaving felt like telling the patriarchy to get off my body. (Credit)
I would stop shaving in the summer too, but peoples view of me would, to be frank, terrify me. I know I'd be facing names like "dirty hippy", and any other names that signify a stereotypical someone who doesn't shave, suggesting things that I also don't wash, or wear deodorant. I feel like I have to shave, like it's my obligation to be a respected member of society.
This is another typical case to which I can retort that "it would be different if I were a guy". Other examples include wearing make-up, dress codes that state you have to wear "girl clothing" like dresses and skirts and keep your shoulders covered because it "distracts the boys" (most ridiculous rule I've ever found to be in the American education system), to simple things like "you can't go to France on your own, you will get raped and murdered".
Of course, it's a woman's choice as to whether or not she wants to shave, and I support whatever option she chooses, however, now it has gotten to the point where we are blatantly ridiculed for having body hair. And that is just not right. The negative connotations that go with "hairy" women, are that they are extremely masculine and unclean. Men can shave, and sure they do, but when they decide to put the razor down, there are no adverse side effects, and they certainly won't be made fun of.
In all honesty, I just don't want people, let alone people I have never met before, judge me and have a negative opinion of me just because of what I want to do with my body hair. Why should I be embarrassed if I don't coat my body in chemicals and pull all he hairs out of my flesh, if I don't stain my skin with orange dye, if I don't eliminate any cellulite before I step out in bikini? Why can't I, like a man go topless when it's 30 degrees out? Spot the injustice.
The inequality infuriates me when it comes to body image.
There is, unquestionably, plenty of sense here. There is no reason at all, really, why women should be expected to shave their legs and under their arms and men not. Yet the link between femininity and hairlessness is so strong that even the most well-intentioned feminist can flinch a little at seeing photos of hairy gams and pits.(Credit)
Not too long ago there was a woman on British TV morning show, This Morning, who was being interviewed because of how "abnormal" she was for not shaving her armpits. What did my family think of this? "gross", "weird" and, get this, "unnatural", were just a few of the comments thrown about that morning.
Why can't we, as a society, just believe that body hair is natural, beautiful even, as there's nothing more pure than going au natural? And if you want to shave, go ahead, do it. Just don't shame others when they decide to break the norm.
So, because of this, when May rolls along I am going to force myself to wander around with unshaven pits for a total of 10 weeks, and record my experiences on this here blog - inspired by Arizona State University professor Breanne Fahs. Maybe one day in the future we will be desensitised to this sexism, or even discuss the blatant inequality in the history books. Let's hope that one day they think the abnormal thing is shaming women for their body hair, not the women being attacked for their personal decisions about their bodies.
*An actual comment I have been subjected to