Just because this blog is about pubic hair doesn’t preclude me from writing about other kinds of body hair, right? After all, the forces that encourage women to remove their leg and armpit hair are more-or-less the same as those that are, increasingly, marketing pubic hair as unkempt and dirty. We’ve constructed body hair as masculine — which means that women are required to remove that hair in order to define themselves as feminine (ie. in contrast to men).
One of the things I’m interested in is how young women learn what is required of them when it comes to partaking of these body practices. Obviously, a young woman doesn’t start her depilation practice with her pubic hair. Presumably, she crosses over from girl to woman with each newly adopted body practice. She learns from her mother, her peers, and from the media (where she is bombarded with hundreds of images of ‘perfect’-looking women every day) about what is expected from her.
I remember the day one of my friends showed me her newly shorn legs. I was in grade seven and, at the time, hung out fairly regularly with a couple of vaguely nerdy girls. One, Eleni, was Greek. As such, the hair on her legs was relatively dark and coarse. At this point, it was still the late 1980s. We didn’t yet have the Internet. In some ways, the way we lived our lives was still relatively sheltered.
But one day, Eleni showed up at school with hair-free legs. We were a little in awe. What had it been like, we asked? How had she known what to do?
Interestingly, rather than making me go out and do the same, Eleni shaving her legs raised all kinds of questions in me, the budding feminist. Before I could shave my own legs, I wanted to know WHY I was supposed to. WHO decided that I needed to shave my legs? Why did I need to shave mine when the boys weren’t expected to do the same?
Back when I was a kid, we didn’t have the Internet to help us answer those kinds of questions. But things are different now.
I recently came upon a fascinating (though kinda horrifying) series of videos geared at helping young women (and their mothers) figure out all the basics around the question of how and when to start shaving. The video series, called Gillette Venus Shaving Tips (there are eight in total), feature an excessively perky young host, Gabby who says things like “shouldn’t I be as hairfree as I am carefree?” about her decision to start shaving.
My “favourite” video (#2) is when Gabby realizes she is “animal hairy” at a slumber party (“It was all I could see. It was all I could think about. I couldn’t think about how great my toenails would look in Pink Taffy nail polish. I couldn’t listen to Kristen talk about how she texted Tom in study hall. All I could see was…that…hair.”) She advises that you’re ready to start shaving “whenever you start to feel uncomfortable about NOT shaving.” (That’s right: start the body obsession stuff ASAP)
Here’s the video: http://www.gillettevenus.com/en_US/goddess_central/videos/when_to_start_shaving/index.jsp
These are merely mini Gillette ads packaged up neatly to sell products by honing in on insecurities (tip #6: Choose a Venus razor). Hello, brand loyalty? Get ‘em while they’re young…