Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hair Apparent

They used to say that fat was a feminist issue, and perhaps it was before medical discourse put an end to that political statement with all its talk of obesity and heart failure. I remember reading somewhere that ‘hair’ was also proposed as a site of feminist activism. The writer in question was not talking about the decision by some feminists to refrain from using depilatory products, but cases of extreme hirsuteness in women. I can see why, with such a narrow focus, that the suggested action did not become more widespread. Beyond not shaving your underarms, excessive hair, or hypertrichosis, would seem to be something that affects a limited number of people—women and men—who would not necessarily frame their experience in the terms put forward in the article. From a feminist perspective it would seem more pertinent to focus on the subject of socially prescribed hair removal by women.

When I was thirteen and on the way home from high school one day, a boy said to me, as I sat down on the bus, ‘You should shave your legs’. It was one of those moments in my life when I felt paralysed by the feelings that consumed me. Although I recognised the unjust nature of his words, the way they (unconsciously?) sought to control me, at the same time I felt his words as an insult that went to the core of my burgeoning femininity and found it wanting.

I often recall that boy’s statement when I struggle to remove the hair from my legs. I also recall the response of a writing tutor about my attempts to write through my younger feminist quandary on the subject of hair removal as ‘paranoid’. I was a little taken aback by the description at the time. Before that I was sure I was going to transform the world with my deep insights into female oppression.

At the beginning of March I was quite excited when the temperature dropped heralding the change of the season—at least as much as we have seasons in Brisbane. It meant that I could begin wearing jeans (no ironing, yay!). The timing was perfect. I was due to use the depilatory gel again, since my leg hairs were becoming visible from ten paces, but I just didn’t feel like enduring the mess, the standing around waiting for it to take effect. Snore. But then the weather changed and I was left wearing jeans in 30°C heat, trying to convince myself, after more days than I care to reveal, that the student’s uniform, les jeans delavé, were très chic.

Today I removed the hair from my legs, which really only took 5 minutes of standing around, staring at the ceiling and thinking all of the above thoughts. I am now looking forward to wearing a different skirt everyday next week.

I just have to do some ironing.

Oh, I forgot to do my underarms so I can only wear shirts with sleeves. (I was just reminded of the time a man came up to me at a bus stop and stuck his finger in my arm pit to touch my underarm hair. Ewww! Gross! Shudder. It was on Christmas Day for gawd’s sake.)

Perhaps people will not notice my underarms. Perhaps they will be dazzled by my shiny new hair colour—light copper brown—that I also attended to today.


Lucy said...

I guess that's one good thing about it being so cold here for so frickin' long...
I think your bus stop story is one of the freakiest things I've heard in a while. Ick!

Galaxy said...

Hi Lucy, Yes, it's amazing what people will do to complete strangers on the street. There's a blog called Hollaback NYC that encourages women who've been the recipients of unwelcome attention like this to take a photo of the perpetrator and out them online as sleaze bags. Some of the stories on that blog are just too much.