Bank Holiday Tuesday- 20th November ‘Being a hairy woman’

Bank Holiday Tuesday, originally published on The Student Standard.  In it, I try to get people to stop discussing body hair, ironically by discussing body hair.  

The Student Standard is NUI Maynooth’s independent News site

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Much has been said about hair and women.  Much of it, my friends, is bullshit.  Even my icon and all around hilarious person Caitlin Moran gets a bit… weird about the subject of hair and what you do with it.  It’s a debate up there with ‘what do you do when a man holds open the door’ in terms of silly things us white middle class feminists have to worry about.  So what’s the deal with hair?  Women shave, wax, veet, bleach and outright burn that shit off with electrolysis. What’s the right standpoint to take on all this grooming and pruning? What am I as a strident young feminist and empowered lady to do about leg, underarm, and facial hair?  In honour of Movember, a month-long love letter to dodgy facial hair, I examine this topic.

Some will tell you you must exorcise ALL HAIR from any place it might crop up that is not held exclusively on your scalp.  These are, to use the polite term, complete nutters.  They are your lasering-the-nethers, bleaching-the-upper-lip, red-rash-of-death people that police their bodily hair vigilantly.  They’ here meaning women’s magazines, beauty tips websites and that monolith of neurotic ironic feminist porn, COSMO.  This is one end of the extreme and yeah, it’s pretty bizarre to me.  That anyone could expect me to maintain that level of grooming all over my body is a bit… nuts.  I mean, The height of ‘making an effort’ for me is putting on a bit of eyeshadow and maybe painting my nails.  I’m just not bothered doing it.  I personally feel more comfortable with a curl of arm hair here, a shock of fur there.  That’s just me though.

On the other end of the scale, you get people who say never get rid of hair ANYWHERE.  DON’T TOUCH THOSE ARMPITS.  LEAVE YOUR LEGS ALONE.  I can see the validity of this.  I like the defiant middle finger getting stuck to normative ideas of what a woman should look like.  I myself mightily enjoy not having to spend money waxing my vagina and I’m perfectly happy to let a forest cultivate there.  But in the end is telling a woman ‘don’t do this to your body’ liberating her in any way?  This is the difficulty I have with it.  I think piercings are weird and freaky, I wouldn’t get one myself.  But am I really going to approach another woman and tell her ‘do not do this thing you have decided as an adult to do’?  No!

When I asked Facebook the question of body hair, a friend commented that body hair and what she does with it is an area ‘I most wish popular culture would keep out of.’ that’s the bottom line here, I think.  Magazines, stop shaming ladies for being hairy.  Hairy ladies, don’t shame your sisters if they want to be not hairy.  Do men have to worry about this shit?  Certainly not- they just shave every morning and be done with it.  It’s cool if they want to have a beard or be clean shaven.  I wax my facial hair – a layer of white blond bristly hairs that cover my chin and get itchy and annoying.  So I get rid of them because I want to and they annoy me.  Nobody in the last 8 or so years has commented on my facial hair; it is entirely for me and my grooming.  I don’t shave my legs because black tights hide all sins and who is honestly bothered but on the other paw, my other friend said of waxing her downstairs ‘sometimes it’s nice to have a breeze down there.’

I once got word of a woman who, in solidarity with her partner’s Movember ‘stache, stopped shaving altogether for the duration of the month.  After posting this on Facebook, a man commented that he’d rather get testicular cancer than sleep with a hairy woman.  That’s bullshit.  It is also bullshit for Caitlin Moran to call out women for waxing their nethers.  Much as I admire CatMo, you can’t tell women waxing down there is ‘wrong’ somehow.  All that’s ‘wrong’ is someone telling a woman how what she has to do to herself to feel ‘normal.’ Caitlin Moran (if you happen to be reading this CatMo, I love you, I respect you as a writer) slagging off women for waxing down there is as bad as a jerk slagging off women for being hairy.  In both cases it’s imposing what you think is right on someone’s body.  That don’t fly with me.

This is totally one of those issues we just need not talk about.  It’s nobody’s business what you do with your body.  A mean boyfriend shouldn’t tell you to wax yourself when you don’t want to and a friend shouldn’t feel entitled to shame you when you want to get waxed.  It’s all what you want to do.  There are plenty of places I love having hair- I am immensely proud of my magnificent sideburns.  They are a better effort than most men could muster.  When I tie back my hair they are a sight to behold.  I like have bushy eyebrows, and hairy legs.  I don’t like having hair under my arms or on my chin.  It’s my decision to remove the hair from these places.  Having autonomy over your own body works both ways.  Nobody tells you what to do.  It’s the bias seems to tip in favour of non-hairy ladies in pop culture, but women, take solace in this.  Do whatever you like.  Pierce your ear and ring a charm bracelet through that sucker, shave your hair off and get ‘CUNT LIFE’ tattooed on your scalp, be skinny, be curvy, have hair, don’t have hair – do what YOU want to do to feel comfortable and good looking.  And everyone else can just get out of your pants about it.

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Niamh ‘Everyone shut up now please’ Keoghan

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One response

  1. Loved it Niamh. As usual I know that I could tell you absolutely anything and you’d react neutrally about it.

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