I left off with my success story in finding sugar lady Sara and becoming a hairless meerkat. This hairless state lasted for several years, throughout most of my university experience. I never missed a hair removal appointment, and shaved arms and legs almost daily. By the time I reached my last year of university I was getting fed up. I had taken ton of courses on criminology, inequality, and societal norms that were allowing me to question many things I had previously accepted and thought just ‘were’. Pair that with a particularly sexist boss and an unhealthy relationship and I had decided I was a feminist. I thought to myself that if I was really going to do this whole feminist thing, I ought to go all out and let my body hair grow. What better way to take down the patriarchy than to embrace my hairiness, am I right? Hence the razer went in the garbage pail and I lost touch with Sara.
When I graduated university I immediately signed up for an international volunteering experience focusing on gender roles. For about half a year I travelled, volunteered, and forgot about western culture. Body hair norms included. Although at times I was hot and itchy, it was mostly comfortable and definitely pain free. Nobody that I saw on a daily basis was bothered about my body hair, in fact many of my friends praised me for not caring and letting it be. (International volunteer travel experiences tend to attract a certain ‘alternative’ type of person). Anybody I ran into in the developing world already looked at me like I had five heads; leg and underarm hair didn’t make the slightest difference. Very covered up swim wear was the norm and it was way too hot outside to have anything going on with my sex life, so I never thought twice about my hair down there. It was very easy to not think about hair at all.
When I finally made it back to my hometown, I felt good and planned on sticking to my commitment to not shave. How hard could it be if I I’d already done it for nearly 6 months? This was my mistake. Being home with no job and no school to entertain me was part of the problem. Also, all of my amazingly spectacularly non-judgemental hippie friends from my volunteer time were far far away. My friends at home were used to hairless meerkat me, not Duck Dynasty me (I have no facial hair, but the image of hairiness is useful). People looked, correction – stared, at my armpit hair when I went to the gym. I started to get self conscious. The pressure from society was much greater in Western culture with few people who “got” the hair thing. I also had an awful lot of time to myself. I had been constantly surrounded by people and busy with things to do for months. Now I had time to be alone and actually think. I started to actually think about the reasons why I wasn’t shaving and how I really felt about it.
After a heck of a lot of (but not quite enough) thinking I caved and shaved my arm pits. I felt like I had failed as a feminist. I told myself I was a disappointment to all the people who had commended me for sticking to my values. I was upset with myself for caring about what mass society thought. I let myself, my hippie friends, and feminists down. I could not win. I was always trying to figure out how small societal pressures were connected to and causing me to conform to body hair norms. No matter what I did, the hair situation on my personal and private body was going to offend someone. I was basing my body hair decisions on how other people would react. That’s about when I got it. It’s my body, and my hair. Whether I have hair or not is 100% my choice and something that I should not have to validate to anyone. About time I figured it out eh?
So where do I stand now? What is the concluding state of this body hair epic? Check back next week!