Body Hair

Watching the podcasts from The Wanted Project has been incredibly moving and inspiring. Seeing women who are going around with beards and mustaches, not because they took testosterone, but because they have grown naturally, has been really eye-opening. I’ve only seen about 3 or 4 women with beards in my life. (I have never been to Michfest, sadly, due to having no money.)

Women don’t have the same facial hair as men, ours seems to be a bit lighter and softer, but it’s there. Ever since my partner entered peri-menopause, she’s been growing a beard. One of my female friends also has a beard but I’ve never seen it because she keeps it shaved.

I have just a little dark hair on my upper lip and my chin. It causes me distress all the time. I’m not a butch—I do try to be somewhat androgynous but I look like a woman and everyone can identify me as female immediately. So that means the hair on my face looks completely unacceptable. It looks like something that shouldn’t be there. I keep struggling over whether to remove it or not. I sometimes remove it and sometimes I let it grow for a while, but whenever I look in the mirror and see it I feel embarrassed. I know that when other people look at my face they’ll assume I’m neglectful or “letting myself go” (I hate that expression) for not removing the hair. I don’t want to remove it because there is no logical reason why I should—my natural face should be acceptable as is. My appearance shouldn’t be important—what’s important about people is their values and how they behave. If I buy hair removal products to remove hair that isn’t a problem, I’m buying into capitalist patriarchy. I should follow my own ideology, right?

I didn’t shave my legs during the fall, winter, or spring, and my full-grown leg hair wasn’t really bothering me. But of course I started wearing shorts to work recently because it’s summer and guess what, I shaved my legs. I felt like I had betrayed myself and my principles, but I did it. A friend of mine wore hairy legs to work and was suddenly told by her female boss that everyone was allowed to have no nylons on except her, she was supposed to wear nylons. This was a specific move to let her know that her natural leg hair was unacceptable. I think women police each other more than men police women about these things. Women who have bought into femininity, which is a lot of women, are very disturbed if anyone around them breaks the rules. They try to eliminate any nonconformity as fast as possible.

The result of all this conformity to the rules of makeup, shaving, plucking, waxing and hair dyeing is that most of us don’t even know what women look like without all this stuff. If we all stopped doing these things, all sorts of body hair would spring up that nobody even knew was there, grey hair would start appearing, and there would be much less of a difference between women and men’s appearances.

I know how I struggle with deciding how much femininity I want to reject or adhere to, and I know the struggle is much worse for other women. I was out with my partner yesterday and she refused to use a bathroom at all. There were lots of women in the women’s bathroom, so she didn’t want to go in there. She won’t use the men’s bathroom either. I offered to go in with her and stay near her, but she still waited until we got home. I thought about how hard it is for butch and nonconforming women. I can only see a window into it but I haven’t experienced it for myself.

What these women are doing in The Wanted Project is so important. Everyone needs to know that there are many ways of being a woman and that they are all acceptable. The rules of gender need to be smashed. Creating more identities so that women can identify as not being female is not helping, it’s hurting. Women come in all kinds, and those of us who are masculine- or androgynous-looking are women, too. We all have the right to be seen and heard and respected.

44 thoughts on “Body Hair

  1. I have a ton of facial hair and have been plucking or shaving it since it started up when I was about 19. It’s quite coarse and has partly turned white/grey. It’s obvious even after I shave it and I have learned not to much think about it. Growing it out here wouldn’t fly, what would be the point? Also it itches. It bothers me enough when it’s not shaved that I really can’t tell whether it’s cultural or whether it bothers me the same way some men who shave are bothered by theirs. But I was not pleased when it turned up.

    I’ve only shaved my legs a few times in my life. It stopped growing after menopause. It never got very coarse. But I never was all that comfortable with it.

    Never have been willing to shave armpit or pubic hair. Really pisses me off that this is expected of women.

    I remember seeing a young woman with a beard and a moustache in a shop in Venice, CA maybe around 1990. Might have been a bit earlier. I was *very* impressed.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. CB posted something on one of her blogs a few years back, either GIW or You Think I Don’t Understand, that comprised a series of black and white images of beautiful GNC women from I think Mich Fest, many of whom had a fair amount of facial hair. I’m not sure whether that was associated with this project, but it was a great piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hear you, comrade. I’m in a similar situation with facial hair. I don’t know if it’s even visible to other people, and don’t consciously think “Oh no, randoms can see my lip hair”, but damn am I ready to pluck it out. Not leg hair (which has taken to growing only on one side of each leg – weird) or armpits and never, never pubes. But those blasted chin spikes and dark lip hairs and that random one on my THROAT annoy the crap out of me. Socialisation is such fun.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. One of the reasons why I love fantasy literature. It is (almost) universally accepted that female dwarves have beards. They toned it down to human-woman standard facial hair in some concept drawings for The Hobbit (like, what human women could grow if we were allowed to), but the idea is that it’s a full beard.

    Live Action Roleplaying is about the only “place” accessible to the general public where you can meet a woman who not only has a beard, but is damn proud of it, too. (Haven’t met any who integrated natural beard growth into their character, but even with fake beards it is just … a nice break from reality)

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, there are downsides to fake beards.

        I wonder whether one could get away with a real beard. (Perhaps not. I read about a woman who had fake nipples as part of her costume. The idea was that they weren’t her real nipples, so showing them was okay. Thing was, they didn’t really look different from real ones at first glance. Maybe the same idea applies to beards? Like, pretending to be gender non conforming is okay, but actually letting your actual beard grow as a woman, is not?)

        Maybe a woman can get away with a real beard at a roleplaying or reenactment (I assume you did reenactment?) event if she complains about problems with the glue every once in a while?

        There was this Discworld novel where the wizards wanted to go somewhere incognito, and in order to look less like wizards, they attached little pieces of wire to their beards to make them look like fake beards …

        Liked by 2 people

        • I remember that scene! 😀 Was it in Moving Pictures? It was one of the rare occasions when a whole group of them left Unseen University.

          I wasn’t role playing as such, just dressing up for the heck of it. Nobody else was involved. It was a looong time ago , I was still in my teens.

          Wearing fake nipples seems extraordinarily strange. 😶

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I wonder if men are allowed to wear shorts at your friend’s workplace. If so, I’d think she could point out discrimination in that demand for nylons. I also wonder if she could walk around freely with leg hair if she told them she identified as non-binary. 😉

    The female body hair taboo is such a stubborn pain in the ass. I have a good number of black hairs on my chin and a few slightly lighter mustache hairs, plus some strays on my cheeks and yes, those throat ones. For the longest time I had INTENSE fear of people noticing them and diligently plucked any that dared peep forth, including a regular landscaping of my eyebrows every night. I used to have these terrible visions accompanying my hypochondria where I’d end up in a hospital, incapacitated for days, and oh god my chin hairs would grow out and be seen by all. The horror. Once I noticed one getting showy while out shopping and made a detour to a drug store to buy tweezers and remove that thing before anyone else could see it.

    Last year during the height of my trans thing, though, I couldn’t have been more excited about those chin hairs. Like I actually ended up staying up too late looking at goatee styles, fingers crossed my little garden would grow enough to do something with. I went to an airshow with everything grown out to at least 1/4″, shorts on so the leg hair was blowing free in the wind, hoping to “pass” as some weird little dude taking pictures of airplanes. It all did give me the guts to wedge right up to the flight line between the men and their cameras, I have to say. I don’t know if I would have if I had been in clean-shaven “I’m just a girl and hardly even belong here” mode.

    If anything, that experience taught me I’ve got a right to do what I want to do, facial hair or no, male or female or whatever.

    Since then I’ve gone back to plucking but I’m not as diligent anymore. If there’s some hairs on my chin there’s some hairs. Watching the Wanted videos I admit I’m a little jealous of the goatees. I’d love a goatee. But would I have the courage to wear it??

    Yesterday some old family friends dropped by. It was a hot day so I’d had my pants rolled up almost to my knees. When they came I unrolled them, but not all the way. So it was less Here Are My Hairy Legs! and more Do You Notice My Hairy Ankle?? The wife has always disapproved of me and disliked me, and as much as I was fearing further disapproval part of me wanted to wave my leg hairs in her face, all spiteful-like.

    At the same time, I’m not wearing shorts out to lunch today.

    *shakes fist at the world*

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thissoftspace, and any one else concerned about prolonged hospitalization,

    Any good nurse and/or nursing assistant will keep your face ‘clean’ as part of the daily care. Sometimes, women get shaved more often than men. Some women got ‘cleaned up’ to the point that their families didn’t recognize them. I once had a couple of fellows come in to visit their mother and I heard them talking. One whispered, “That’s not momma.” The other said, “Yeah, it is, man, they just shaved off her beard.”

    Did you know that some women, especially if they’re dark-haired, shave the hair on their forearms? That’s something that I discovered a few years ago…

    Personally, I would have a full salt-and-pepper goatee, coarse and bristly if I were to let it grow out, and I’ve had it for years–no obvious lip hair, though. I used to pluck it out, a ritual that would take nearly forty-five minutes each time, and the benefit was the time it took to grow back was fairly good. Finally, I just said ‘Eff this’ and started shaving. It’s not daily, but if I go more than three days, it’s fairly obvious.


    Liked by 5 people

  7. I don’t think women should agonize over shaving or not-shaving. Do what you find comfortable. I shave my legs so I can moisturize them, being hypothyroid and having very dry skin and it being much easier to put lotion on my legs if they don’t have hair on them.

    The facial hair thing is interesting. Obviously, there is simply genetic difference. A silly woman told me her “pangender” husband hated his stubble; he is apparently unaware that women have stubble as well if they shave. But another reason women can end up with facial hair is that as we age our livers do not process testosterone as well (in men this translates into nose and ear and back hair, and I have yet to meet a man who loves having hair growing out of his ears). I have found that if I take my thyroid medication spread out instead of all at once I get less facial hair (that old liver is having to process the natural thyroid as well as the testosterone). So the message isn’t shaving or not shaving, it’s LOVE (take care of) your liver!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I didn’t start shaving till eighth grade, a few months before my 14th birthday. Until I was basically shamed on the bus home, I hadn’t even thought about shaving my legs. My parents had never brought it up, so I assumed I wasn’t old enough yet. From then on, I was full of shame about my body hair, and took it to a scary extreme. I secretly used Nair, too ashamed and scared to ask for razors, and shaved everything, even the few fine hairs on my fingers and hands. For years, even after I snapped out of that unhealthy, obsessive craziness, I still shaved my arms. I’m naturally not very hairy, but I still felt it had to go. Now, for the last few years, I only Nair my legs in the warmer months (though still not regularly). Otherwise, I enjoy my natural fur coat.

    One of my more popular blog posts is called “Historical Fiction and Body Hair,” which unsurprisingly has garnered a number of really creepy, porny search terms. I wish I could’ve seen the looks on these perverts’ faces when they clicked on the link and saw a serious post about the history of shaving body hair. As I mentioned in that post, the average woman in a historical romance (in Western settings, at least) would’ve had full body hair, pubic hair, underarm hair, and leg hair. That was regarded as normal and natural, not nasty and dirty. My ex once actually told me it’s not natural for a woman to have pubic hair, after I finally stopped shaving mine. I’m sure he picked that attitude up from all the porn he watches.

    Liked by 1 person

      • When men express ideas about ways women should behave differently than men we should tell them we do not GAF about their controlling opinions. It is a complete waste of time to put up with male BS if you don’t have to in order to survive, pay the bills. It is simply not worth it. It amazes me no end how many men take it for granted that women will tolerate them jerking us around simply for the pleasure of their company.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Christ, yes! I’m out on the dating scene again – widowed, boys grown – and if any of my partners said anything at all about my pubic hair or waxing I’d tell them that if they felt they could make such a demand they were talking to the wrong woman entirely. It’s grossly entitled and porny.

          Given that, by the time the issue arose, I’d be in bed with them and therefore naked, I might not feel able to shout at them: they’re men and I’m alone, but I would definitely express my contempt as clearly as felt safe to do so.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. I know what you mean about the upper lip hairs and “letting yourself go”, I have the same feeling only I call it “looking unkempt”. I do not want to look unkempt. Otherwise I don’t give a shit about my body hair. Already did being a teenager and expecting to have a perfectly smooth body except for pubic hair. (Because it was the 70s and the porn based idea of women having no pubic hair was not yet broadly known.) I only have a few dark hairs on my upper lip and on one side of my chin. And so I tweeze them. When I remember to so as not to look unkempt.

    Unkemptness Report: I had terrible problems my hair being all scraggly and sticking up weird because it’s pushed forward by the pillows on my daybed. I have quadriparesis, which is partial paralysis in all four limbs. So I’m lying down all the time. But in May I finally got a nice short haircut that doesn’t get messed up by lying down. It kind of looks exactly the same no matter what I’m doing. #HairPerfection 😊 This takes the unkemptness pressure off my upper lip.

    I first removed my leg hair when I was 14 or 15 using Nair which smells like sulfur. Then I used to shave it with an electric razor. And then in a couple months it struck me that I have to fucking keep doing this forever!! So I just stopped. That was in 1978. The other thing about shaving your legs it makes them all prickly. Eew.😖 Being physically unable to work at a normal job of course means I don’t have to try to hide the leg hair.

    I especially liked your point about how if all of the cosmetic stuff that women do to look *that way* disappeared how men and women would look very similar. When our society reaches that day it will be wonderful. Somewhere off in the distant future… 🎉🎈🎈🎉

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I have PCOS and have been removing facial hair for almost two decades, so if I leave it alone, I grow a heavy, dark beard that tops out at two inches long. I know this because I went without removing it for a while, because I hated fussing about it every time I went out, it was trashing my skin doing it, and frankly, because *I shouldn’t have to do it*.

    I was fine with it until a pack of girls followed me home shouting and laughing at me. I’m not strong enough to deal with that shit. But the worst thing a lot of women can imagine is to have visible facial hair.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. I’m not very hairy at all. In the past few years I’ve developed one coarse black hair that grows out of a mole out of my chin. It’s the sort of thing that I find mesmerising in other people – it’s all on its own, like a bristle. I pluck it out when I remember.

    I’m terribly vague about my appearance: live in my head, ignore things that don’t interest me. Like today, it’s bedtime, and I haven’t looked in a mirror all day. I am lucky in that my hair is really, really easy. It’s short, thick and curly and I can style with my hands without a mirror.

    However some days, if I’m feeling festive or particularly extrovert, I put on make up as a sort of flourish – the whole thing: shadows, blusher, mascara… I enjoy it. But then it’s not compulsory in my world. I know from talking online that in some parts of the US women aren’t considered properly groomed, particularly in office jobs, without full make up, nylons, hair “done”. In the UK and, I’m told, in western Europe as well there’s far less pressure on women in this sense. German or English women don’t have to wear make up at work, or nylons, and lots don’t.

    I remember being so impressed as a teenager by the luxuriant underarm hair of French girls my age. In emulation I stopped shaving my pits at 16 or so and I’ve never done it since. Ditto pubes, which straggle where they may. However my grand feminist gesture fell rather flat as I have very little body hair.

    A friend of mine, having overheard a group of 20 something men talking about body hair at a party we attended, went into the most brilliant riff. She was drunk, very fluent, very outspoken. Told them bald pussies were a pornsick male preoccupation and that boys who wanted them that way had clearly never had a long term sexual relationship. Thing is, she said, that the women in porn have pussy stylists to conceal the real life downsides of keeping yourself bald. Bottom line, she announced, is that it’s a choice: it’s bush or rash. And if you don’t know that, you’re still a kid. She had so many people laughing. Even the guys gave in in the end. They were beat, and they knew it.

    Liked by 3 people

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