Femininity and the Hairless Norm

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From an early age, I knew that women shaved their legs and armpits and that men grew their hair long and that those were the gender constructs I would eventually be placed into. As a child with hair on my legs, it was acceptable because I did not have to worry about being suitable for the male gaze yet. One summer, I was eight and I remember swimming in the lake at a cottage we rented with my family, seeing my aunt with unshaven armpits and being disgusted. This is such an insignificant event but out of all my childhood memories, it sticks clear as day. Even at age eight, I had been conditioned to hate the hair on a woman’s body and view it as untamed, gross and unfeminine.

As I grew into adolescence, I was a late bloomer, hence I didn’t have hair under my armpits for a very long time but I did have hairy legs. I was one of the last ones to shave because I wasn’t really sure how to do it properly, and I thought that I could just hide my legs from my classmates to avoid being ridiculed. I still remember feeling the shame of having hair there and pulling up my socks to cover any trace of my ignorance regarding “femininity”.

I eventually realized that life would be very stressful and that hiding my legs would not work in the sweltering heat. I started waxing my legs, and then was taught by my sister how to shave. Through reflecting on these feelings that have been with me almost my whole life and noticing other women’s relationship to their body hair, I find myself wondering why something that is naturally on our bodies for warmth and protection has become something that women spend hours laboriously trying to remove in order to achieve this unattainable ideal of a hairless neotenic female. The media constantly shows women with no body hair in ads for shaving products and waxes, and those in the public eye who try to excuse themselves from this construct are ostracized or punished in one way or another.

A close friend of mine, Petra Collins, is a feminist artist and photographer. She posted a photo of her bottom half in a bikini with pubic hair sticking out of her panties on Instagram. This image did not violate any of the rules and regulations of the website, yet it was reported and her account was deleted. This sickens me, because although some may say it is only an Instagram account, it is so much more than that.  How can we love our bodies and ourselves when a website that is supposed to be a place to share artistic photos with friends and give artists a platform to display their photography, is taking away a young woman’s freedom to display herself proudly, in her natural form?

The feminine ideal that has been created is out of hand and is causing subconscious damage on women’s feelings towards their bodies. A completely hairless body is not attainable for any woman who passed puberty, and even if attained for a short period of time, the hair will grow back, and with it the shame and disgust with one’s body.

Although I do believe that the disgust with female body hair is ridiculous, I am not saying that I always let all of my body hair grow naturally in protest: I do feel more sexual and beautiful with shaved legs, whether because I have been conditioned by society to feel that way, or that I naturally like the feeling of smooth skin. At other times, I’m lazy and I don’t care about being shaved: I feel fine with the hair on my legs. I don’t think that it needs to be a black or white situation where you must either fully shave and submit to the feminine ideal, or be completely natural in order to be a feminist.  I am not saying that a woman covered in body hair should be the ideal, but rather that  it should be the choice of each woman to be hairy or hairless, much like men with facial hair. Some women do really enjoy having smooth legs, but some women prefer to have hair, and our constructs for “femininity” should honour both of these choices.

Photo: Petra Collins
Sophie grew up in Toronto, Ontario, where her love for creating and performing subsequently pushed her to attend an arts high school. She then moved to Montreal to undertake a Major in Theatre at Concordia University, where she will graduate in 2015 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

I Got 99 Regrets, But My Hair Ain’t One

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“My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.”
~ Woody Allen

Regret is a word I hate. It’s too formal. It leads to too many bad things. “We regret to inform you…”

That word always leaves me pissed off.  Yet, I experience this emotion every single day.

I regret virtually every decision I ever make: from my daily appearance, to choosing my activities, or reactions to events. No single detail escapes my doubts. I wish I was joking, but truthfully, there is always a little uncertainty in all of my choices. Every path I use, I always think it’s the wrong one; doesn’t matter how far down it I’ve gone.

I always think of the path I didn’t take, the boys I didn’t date, the food I didn’t make. Regret is my Jiminy Cricket, the voice telling me I’m wrong. Sometimes it’s instantaneous, like leaving the convenience store full of crap food when I just went in for milk. Other times it just pops out of nowhere, like maybe if I hadn’t been so fucking clingy with that guy from a few years ago… or maybe I shouldn’t have bought that expensive purse I wanted so badly.

I can’t tell you when this started; it just seems to always be a part of my life. It’s not that I’m too critical of myself or that I am unhappy with myself, it’s just something I can’t help thinking. Like right now, at this very moment, I’m having strong regrets writing this article. I’m telling myself “Man, people are going to think you are out of your damn mind. Just SHUT UP! You’re coming off as a self-absorbed whiney brat!”

There is a silver lining, a light between the dark clouds. How I cope is recognizing that I’m going to have this feeling and ignoring it. I mean completely IGNORING it. By forcing myself move on from the decision, and continue on, it’s really shown me that I am doing alright. It’s opened me up to so many new experiences and takes away some of my fears; because I’m going to regret the decision anyway, so I just go for it!

Sure, I may look back at pictures of myself and wonder what the hell I was thinking wearing that or wishing I hadn’t drank that new alcoholic concoction that sounded great at the time, or maybe I shouldn’t have wasted my weekend watching Netflix. Then I remember all the decisions I wasn’t sure about that have paid off a million times.

Erin Fahy purple

One time it was the four days I spent plotting out how to frame and hang some of my favorite pictures. Every measurement was done five times, I cleaned the frames twice and put several holes in the wall, but now I have an awesome picture wall that inspires me every time I see it.

Still, the biggest decision that has never disappointed me is my purple hair. I’d always wanted purple streaks in my hair, and even once tried to achieve this feat with a boxed kit (which was a decision I really regretted, along with my pseudo bowl cut). I grew up, worked in offices and forgot about it, and then I saw my hairstylist with awesome purple hair. I debated back and forth for a few months, would this affect my job or dating life? Even knowing that it can be fixed or its semi-temporary didn’t help. I was really worried I was screwing up my life; putting a label on myself I wasn’t sure I was ready to live up to.

Then finally, I just sucked it up, shut up that nagging voice and I just went for it on my 25th birthday. I haven’t looked back since. I get so many compliments; my boss thinks it’s cool and just recently was called “Purple Hair” all night. This decision has become an integral part of my identity and even with those doubts, I know that I made the right choice.

Erin Fahy is a corporate drone by day and a Blonde Mag contributor by night. You can follow her on Twitter @rockurworld16