Monday, August 06, 2012

I can't stand that pink thing about shaving

Unfortunately, i can't seem to find it through Google, so i'll have to describe the thing from memory: a scanned image of a drawing and writing in black on pink paper. The drawing is of a hairy leg being shaved, and i guess it's meant to be seen as female because the nails are put in as a detail. The writing, of which i can no longer remember the actual phrasing, went something along the lines of how shaving is "slightly mutilating" one's body.

There is so much wrong with this that i don't even know where to start, except that i'm glad i haven't seen the thing in over a year.

Let's start with the language, because it's the first thing that can strike someone has being not just problematic, but frankly disgusting. When you remove hair, however you do it, you are simply removing hair. You can't hurt hair. Equating the removal of hair with mutilation, specifically with self-mutilation, is thoughtless and hurtful. Do you know what self-mutilation is? It's not hair removal. It's not even nicking yourself when you shave. If shaving is mutilation, then what's a hair cut? What's getting a tattoo? Piercings? All things that people who don't shave can and still do. But seriously, this is beyond unfortunate language use, it's plain ignorant. It's ignorant of the truth of self-harm, of the emotions involved in it, of the stigma surrounding it. It paradoxically plays it down by trying to elevate shaving to a hyperbolic level. Hair removal is not self-harm. You degrade & downplay the experiences of all self-harmers when you trivialize them like this. Removing one's hair is not the same as cutting, and it is outright disgusting to see someone try to claim it is.

And the fact of the matter is that it plays right into shaming. It's already problematic enough that mutilation is regarded as shameful, as "What the fuck is wrong with you?" which doesn't help people at all, but for this supposedly feminist "don't shave" image, it's made doubly disgusting that they should fall back on this fact.

Which leads into more of the issues with this image. Because, at its heart, it's not actually changing anything. It still is relying on shame and shaming, the same as everything in society that tells women "This is who you should be, this is how you should look." Society relies on shaming women to get them to shave, by telling them their hair is gross at its worst and worthy of frat-boy humor at best. This is clearly wrong and harmful and something should be done, yes, but this pink drawing isn't doing it. The paradigm remains the same: it still relies on shame. It relies on the view that mutilation is shameful, which leaves many people to suffer in silence; it relies on the shaming of someone who decides what to do with their own body. It relies on telling you that you are wrong if you don't do X. It doesn't matter that now they're saying "shaving is bad; don't shave," the message is still the same, the structure is still the same.

It's one thing to be aware that, when one chooses to remove one's hair, that messages from society-- and even family and friends-- play into that decision, that there is still an element of societal shame at work. But for some people, they make more of a choice because they want to do this thing, the same way as someone may make the choice to not shave. The same goes for wearing dresses, or makeup, or high heels. Yes, there is always society's patriarchal ideas of "this is what a woman is," but there are also those women who say, "I want to do this thing." That doesn't make them any less of a person, or any less of a feminist (if they are one). Hairy legs do not a feminist make.

I was under the impression that feminism meant "I believe that you can be who you are and that you should still be treated as a human being and an equal, no matter what." That no matter whether you shave or not, that you should still be treated as a person, as an equal, with dignity.

This image is not revolutionary. All it's doing is flipping who says what is "beautiful." It switches A for B and vice versa. If society says "Shave your legs because your hair is gross," this image says, "Don't shave your legs because that's mutilation". How is that any better? Both play on shame that has been ingrained into certain acts by our society. Now instead of following society's idea of beauty, you're expected to follow a new one, while putting down anyone who opts for the former. That's not any better. It's actually really petty, when you consider the actual issues that feminism faces, and the issues that people have with it, such as excluding transwomen (and i'd guess many other gender-queer/-fluid people) and women of color. But no, let's instead fixate on telling women not to shave!

What would really be a change is actually so obvious that it should be embarrassing that it has to be pointed out: Telling women that whichever they choose, they can, and that it's okay. Shock! It's fine if you want to shave! It's fine if you don't want to shave! How hard is that to say?

These are the kind of people who go on and on about the patriarchy, and yet fall back on the same tools used by the patriarchy. That isn't feminism, it's internalized misogyny. To shame other women who do shave, or wear makeup, or like the color pink, isn't being feminist or ~*revolutionary*~, it's called being just as sexist as anyone who would shame a woman who doesn't shave or wear makeup. The paradigm remains the same, the terms just change.

Telling women (cis, trans*, and everyone in between) not to shave by making the act shameful is not the same as pointing out the issues with telling women they have to shave, and then connecting that to the broad, overarching issues. It's one thing to say, "Let's talk about how society shames women into altering the natural state of their bodies and what that can do to a person." That's something that ought to be discussed. But not by shaming, and not by making it out that, if you don't shave, that makes you a better person and feminist. Isn't there enough shaming of women already? People get it from society as it is, do they really need any more from so-called "feminists"?

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