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.