Thursday, April 14, 2011

Supatra Sasuphan

Who doesn't love the Golden Girls?  As a life long fan, I have learned a lot about modern womanhood from this show. It's silly and dated at times, but the posted clip proves just how timeless the dialog between the gals really can be. Kelly and I had MANY chats, just like the GGs, about hair removal when we lived together. (Post about my depression from Kelly's LA departure to come, do not worry.) 

We both had completely different experiences with body hair as kids. My mom was similar to Rose's mom, not as extreme of course, but she didn't really encourage my sisters and me to get into shaving until we were teenagers. Kelly believes this is because I'm 100% Swedish and, according to her, have no hair. She might be right. Comparatively my hair is much lighter and finer, but still existent. Kelly was encouraged/forced, to not only shave but also to make sure she was regularly waxed. Especially her arms. I would always righteously exclaim "You are insane! You do not need to wax your arms! Are you kidding me?" As if I had no body image/hair removal issues of my own. I have a knack for speaking as if nothing ever penetrates my self image. So the following paragraph is my public declaration, a gift for Kel so to speak, aiming to eliminate this myth and knock me down a peg. 

Kelly and Julia party!!!
Kelly and I loved hosting parties when we lived together. Sometimes, to keep myself from making “poor choices” at co-ed events, I don't finish grooming. Hairy legs and other areas seem to be a fool proof way to keep from waking up the next day with something other than my blankie. Despite my shaggiest attempts, fool proofing doesn't really work when knocking back beers while dancing the night away in the comfort of one's own home. Having an opportunity with a poor choice has, on more than one occasion, sent me into insane shave mode to get the stubble off. One friend, who was forced to look at my bare assed self after I hap hazardously hacked away hair, was horrified by what she called the most violent act she'd ever seen. This particular incident left me cut up and gross. It made me realize how crazy obsessed I am with hair removal to gain boy approval (that should be my first rap). Smartly, I sent my bloody self to bed alone to think about my insecurity fueled actions.

Ridding ourselves of body hair is drilled into us at a young age. My mom used to shave her legs with an electric razor and my sister and I would watch. We thought it was really cool how smooth they were afterwards. I'm sure it's the same for little boys looking up to their dad's face shaving rituals. Secretly,  I started shaving in 7th grade. I was always very embarrassed about wanting to do "girl" things. Talking about that stuff with my mom and even my friends was something I loathed. I'm starting to believe that was a symptom of shame and confusion about what being female actually entails and fearing I wouldn't be able to meet the expectations. 

At Soap Box Derby Champ Camp, (do not expect SBD mentions to go away; it was a major event in my life) I was the only girl in my cabin of 16 preteen/teen girls, from all around the country, to not yet shave. I was 11. Everyone looked at me like I was a lunatic. It really didn't bother me. My closest friend Ashley didn't care that I didn't know what dry shaving meant and I felt pity for the other girls. They were boy OBSESSED. Insecurity seemed to ooze out of every inch of their being. 

"Champ" Julia at Derby Downs

We had a dance at the end of the week before the big race, and all the other lady champs wore cute dresses and straightened their hair. I wore khaki shorts and a polo shirt. No, I was not a lesbian, as the other girls suggested, I was just a little girl. I just shrugged off the teasing. Who cared, right? Well, despite my lack of female fashion sense, I had caught the attention of a 14 year old boy. He was something of a stud at the camp. All the girls, including myself, thought he was super cute. He asked me to dance but suddenly the only thing I could think was "OMG! MY HAIRY LEGS!" We did dance. He asked for my address and gave me his champ button (we all had them to exchange). Ashley and I went back to our cabin and a profound change had occurred. Even though I was the envy of all the other smooth legged ladies, I could not wait to get the hair off my own gams. 

Before we lament the death of my innocent, carefree hairiness, I should say it's had a very slow demise. Sometimes, I even think my rejection of the need for hair removal exists in a Voldemort like state; not totally dead, but not totally alive. I have no problem going weeks without shaving, especially in the winter and I've never been professionally waxed. Or waxed at all actually. There are two reasons for this: I'm lazy number 1 and number 2, which sure, why not publicly proclaim this, I have a mild form of trichotillomania. I rip out my eyebrows when I'm anxious. Needless to say, a common brow wax really isn't enough to help that situation. Sort of an ironic problem to have when one is so concerned with getting rid of hair in other places. 

Wax remnants, 5+ years and counting
Once, I did try to give myself a Brazilian wax at home. Yes, you read that right. My former roommate Amy will tell you that failed experiment can still be evidenced by the purple wax which remains on her bathroom wall. Of course it was a disaster and of course I spilled the wax everywhere. That might be the moment when Kelly first saw me as slightly insane. "Why would you even try to do that?" she justly questioned. Only a person ignorant to the excruciating pain of ripping thousands of hairs out by the root with hot wax would think they could attempt an at home version of the procedure. Actually, if one wants to avoid a poor choice, self waxing is the way to go since I had lavender goo clinging to my skin for about three weeks. (Warning: the goo only goes away when it decides it is ready to go away; scrubbing will not help.)

Even though I don't religiously remove hair like some other women, I do spend my fair share of time and money on shaving, plucking, and generally battling away anything that pops up below my head's hairline. I'm not embarrassed to talk about all of this stuff because I know I'm not alone in the fight. The fight not only against female body hair but coming to terms with what makes me a "good" woman. Contemporary culture has placed hair removal high up on the list in determining a lady's value, solidifying ourselves as desirable creatures, worthy of male affection. Are we right to have collectively bought into the appeal of glabrousness? (biological term for “without hair”; learning new words together, you are welcome.)  

Maybe. Idk. Obviously, I'm not one to go au naturale. This bothers me because I feel it's not a choice I'm making on my own accord. SATC Reference: Remember when Carrie goes in for a simple bikini wax and comes out with nothing?
The Ladies are HORRIFIED by Miranda's untrimmed vaca bush.
That scene introduced women not only to the Brazilian, but to the idea that any type of vaginal hair could (should?) be removed in order to achieve maximum sex appeal. Carrie wasn’t so sure about it either but it still became all the rage. Back in middle school health, the school nurse awkwardly told our class full of prepubescents, still anxiously awaiting pubic hair of their own, that some people chose to shave it all off. At the time, going hairless seemed so odd to me. Cut to my "Sex and the City" influenced generation and the female bush is practically an endangered species.   

"I love being part of a generation that associates bald vaginas with porn stars and not children." - Lauren Vino

A lot of women's cultural sexual sense is influenced typically by good ol' fashioned porn.  This is important to understand and not brush off. Whether we like it or not, porn affects our day to day more than we care to admit. This is nothing new. You don't see a lot of hair down there on the great sculptures or paintings of the female form from days gone by. And we started shaving our legs because it was popularized by prostitutes. This wasn't the way it was sold to us, however. In the early 1900's, women were targeted by advertising companies hawking hair removal products with promises of refinement and the warning that objectionable hair leads to becoming a social outcast. By the start of the 21st century it's no wonder we were doing everything possible, from ripping to lasering, to rid ourselves of body hair forever.    

And, it's starting to infiltrate the mind's of our male counterparts. More and more men are waxing and shaving areas outside of their faces. Men aren't expected to be clean shaven everywhere like women, so it's a bit different, however, "an eye for an eye" is not the direction we should be headed regarding sexual politics. Imagining my guy friends worrying as much as my girl friends about what their bodies naturally produce makes me sick to my stomach and seems regressive.

So what is the solution? Well, maybe it could be the acceptance of our natural selves? Take Supatra Sasuphan for instance. She is one of 50 people (in the history of the entire world) known to suffer from Ambras Syndrome, which causes extreme hair growth on her face, arms, back, and legs. She has been making news not only for becoming the Guinness World Record's Hairiest Girl but for her sunny outlook on her condition and life. Just a regular kid. Sure, she and her parents would love to have her disease cured one day. It does affect her health and is uncomfortable. But she takes her condition in stride and hasn't allowed it to ruin her life.
Supatra with some of her friends.
OK, OK, I will be the first to admit Supatra is not going to make me throw away my razors and "Bikini Zone" (a miracle in a tube if you don't already know about it) any time soon. Her extreme condition is just that, extreme. Hard to really relate. However, her outlook makes me wish I could have a bit of her uniqueness and bravery. 

All is not lost in this war between smooth hairlessness and the rejection of unreasonable societal expectations for beauty. In fact, new fronts aimed at defeating the "An empty follicle is a better follicle!" mindset are gaining popularity. An article in the sex issue of BUST magazine, taught me pubic hair actually serves not only as a barrier against disease but also has a natural compound called indole. Perfume companies add it to their potions but it naturally can be found in the roots of pubic hair, releasing a scent that is a primitive human sexual stimulant. Very interesting!

Again, looking to porn (ha!), some female adult film stars have developed products for pubic hair. Not to suggest we need to be sold anything else as far as beauty care is concerned, but I am much more interested in something that keeps the hair there than let's say, "The Foxy Bikini". (My brain can't even almost wrap itself around the appeal of having REAL fox fur glued to my vag.)

Natalia and her hairy hotness!!
There are actually a lot of women out there bucking the hair less trend. More and more women are showing up on red carpets, actresses, models, etc., with exposed leg and pit hair. And sure they are getting crap for it. But at the end of the day it's a who cares, shoulder shrug situation. Natalia Vodianova caused a stir with her unshaven self at an event last fall. Fashion, including hair removal, are always trickle down. If one of the top super models doesn't feel like shaving, it won't be long before the rest of us feel comfortable and encouraged to have a hairy, carefree night out on the town. 
Frida Frida vs. Fake Frida

In this "what if" photo of Frida Kahlo, you can see her facial hair has been airbrushed off her face. Kahlo's acceptance of herself is what made her so significant. It's odd to envision her just like the rest of us; manicured and manipulated.

A recent article in BITCH magazine, got into the new trend of female facial hair popping up in certain queer circles. Says the article:

"When queer heartthrob Cindy Crabb decided, at age 19, to stop shaving her upper lip, it was a feminist response before it was ever specifically a queer one."

She goes on to say she isn't a Barbie and it was draining to be in a constant state of shame, worried about getting caught shaving.  

Clawdeen Wolf
Draining is exactly the way I would sum up this whole issue. We worry about so much as far as appearance is concerned and it seems like the marathon we are running in order to keep up with perfection is never ending.  If the whole point of my life is to leave the world in better shape for future generations, I want to put an end to the nonsense responsible for creating a doll like Clawdeen Wolf. (She's the Mattel Monster High Doll encouraging girls to pluck and shave.) Certainly not allow this burden to be transferred to males as well or let it keep manifesting itself in more extreme, potentially damaging ways. 

So Kelly, please stop being so hard on yourself and your "hairy" arms. In exchange I promise to never again drunk shave or at home wax. We're all in this together right? "Thank you for being a friend! Traveled down the road and back again. Oh your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidant. Thank you for being a friend!" (Thank you, Golden Girls theme song.)

Let's take a minute to appreciate how awesome these body hair embroderies are byNicole Monjeau. Beautiful!!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Magan Hebert

Many of you who regularly read CalistaJones will notice a shift in format with this post. I'm starting to focus more on ideas than specific women. Each new entry will still highlight someone who has influenced me, however, their accomplishments won't be the main subject. Hopefully, this won't be off-putting. 

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people make jokes about about my "poor" dad and all the girls he had to live with.  I know it's meant to be cute and that yes, he was for sure outnumbered at times as the only male in our family, but still, SO annoying.  

Mim and I had an avid ice skating obsession when we were little and one of my favorite memories of the two of us is "skating" in the living room while my dad watched the evening news.  This happened a lot and he would put up with it for a while and then would inevitably wave his arm at us from the couch and exclaim "Quit it!  Do that back there!"  It just makes me laugh to think about this because our "skating" consisted of donning leotards and tights while running in circles backwards.  That's the extent of "putting up" he had to do; two little girls jumping around during the nightly news.   

He would watch skating with us all the time.  He'd pop popcorn (a treat he is known for) and we would hangout together watching Kristi Yamaguchi (my fav) twist and jump her way to gold.  My dad isn't a skating fan but he loves us so much that he did things in order to spend time with us regardless of his own personal interests.  Midori Ito, a Japanese skater, accidentally crashed into the cameras during an attempt at a jump and for years my dad would bring us to tears laughing when he would recount the incident as a "sports commentator".  It was always a fun family activity. 
Nancy Kerrigan, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Midori Ito
Check out the bangs!
Loving one another is a two way street.  My sisters and I all did things that my dad liked because we wanted to share interests with him.  As I've mentioned, we did the Soap Box Derby, we launched rockets, and camped.  We loved all of these things because it was stuff he liked to do.  My musical taste was heavily influenced by my dad's preferences as well.  On long road trips to Florida, we would listen to Johnny Cash, John Denver, The Beatles, and The Highwaymen.  Music, that to this day, remains my favorite because of the memories it evokes.  

Mim, Randy (dad), Cat, and Me
I am quite sure that my dad never wished us to be boys and never felt that his daughters were anything to put up with.  Sure, we didn't get into some of his interests, but I don't think that was a gender thing.  That's just part of being a free thinking individual. Afterall, we don't like all the same things my mom does either.  And on that note, my sisters and I couldn't be more different than each other.  Even with our differences however, we all have certain interests in common, that vary with each relationship.  It's just what makes us a family, which would still be true if we had a brother/s or if we were all boys. 

One activity that just never took off with any of us is my dad's love of hunting.  He hunts deer and wild turkey.  Sometimes he goes with friends, but mostly, he enjoys being outside alone in the woods.  It was always exciting whenever he would get a deer.  He would gut it after shooting it, then would hang it in the garage before bringing it to the butcher.  I've never been a big meat eater, so venison wasn't my favorite, but I would at the very least try it.  And, it is pretty good!  He never tried to force any of us to go with him, but we knew that if we wanted to, the offer was open.
 Pellet Gun my Dad Bought Me

We never wanted to.  But, I did go shoot the gun that he bought me for Christmas with him, once (lol), and I liked it!  It was pretty fun and I was a decent shot.  He also bought my sisters and I a Red Ryder BB gun but we never even took it out of the box.  We're just not gun girls.

Some girls are gun girls.  Magan Hebert is one of them.   

There are about a million different "issues" I could discuss about hunting, guns, gun rights, gun legislation, animal rights, eating animal products, factory farming, blah blah blah, the list could go on and on. Magan's hobby could fracture into many different tangents, that are relevant and worth discussing in certain contexts, but really just highlight a single, important idea: nothing is one dimensional.

My friends, the Comedians You Should Know, had a release party for their debut album of the same name.  (You should buy it, it's super good and fun, not feminist though ;)  It was a great night, however, a friend tried to piss me off by introducing me to a girl who believes that women cannot equal men because of "science".  Everyone should agree that when your source is simply "science", you probably don't really know what you are talking about.  OK OK, that's a bit catty.  She said that she knew of a study that proved that women focus on 10 things at once and men only focus on 1 thing at a time which makes them better able to concentrate on more challenging tasks.  She didn't say what the exact study was.  I held it together; she's pretty young (that's one thing I say/think when trying to understand someone's WRONG opinion).   Also, I knew the friend who made the introduction was just trying to get a reaction out of me.  She ended up being a really nice person, so whatever, it's fine.

The next day, I Googled for a long time, trying to find what study she could have possibly been referencing.  Turns out, there are MILLIONS of studies claiming to prove the differences between men and women.  This one seemed to be the closest to the one the girl was talking about.  (Maybe?)

Basically, in this study, the conclusion is that women focus on details because in earlier generations, we were predominately gatherers, while men see the bigger picture because they were the hunters.  Hunters find their prey in open spaces, gatherers have to dig and search smaller areas for roots and berries.  So naturally, as we evolved these traits began to manifest themselves into our society in different ways. I guess my disclaimer should be that this study isn't saying one sex is better than the other, but certain minds could use it to make that claim, ex. the girl at the party. Actually, I don't really know what study she was talking about and am still at a loss but this should be proof that I really did try to understand wtf she meant. ;)

Now, I am in no way arguing against science, it's just that with these types of studies there is little account for anyone, male or female, who doesn't fit into the slim perimeters that have been selected. Whenever someone does stand outside of the box, we take notice and marvel at how different they are.  Which is why I know of Magan. NPR wrote an article on her because she is a cheerleader who hunts. 

I liked her story a lot because she doesn't really talk about being different. She is just a girl who likes to hunt. Her dad got her into it, but it's an activity she also shares with her mom. She has been doing it for 4 years and has killed two deer. Hunting requires a lot of patience and persistence. And like the scientific study said, the hunter must focus on a large area, and constantly be aware of, in this instance, her surroundings. 

Magan and her mom.

Magan must be a mutant female because she literally goes against the establishment in regards to what primitive humans determined appropriate for her sex. She even likes hunting more than her brother. Where could she have possibly come from!? (If a sarcasm font existed, it would have been used in that last sentence.)

My main issue with contemporary stereotypes against women is that they paint us in only one way. I understand that this idea can be applied to men as well, however, it doesn't seem to have the same negative affect. Men are allowed to be thoughtful and romantic even if they are macho and aggressive. Women can be feminine or they can be feminist. Many people have a hard time reconciling their idea of those two words when they coexist in one person. I am feminine while feminist, which is why people who know me personally, and don't hold any traditional feminist beliefs themselves, tell me they tolerate my "brand" of feminism. Now, it isn't different. My feminism is exactly the same as all those "male hatin' butch feminists", I just wear short skirts and kiss boys. 

I'm not sure why we (society) need everyone to be one size fits all. Even NPR had Magan's story in their "Hidden World of Girls" series. Her world isn't hidden. She is very open about her affinity for hunting. And she is most certainly not the only female out there who likes to hunt. I can only deduce that we get some type of comfort from thinking we are all alike or that there is only one way to be. It has to be why we put all this effort into scientific research that makes us feel like we know exactly what makes a woman and what makes a man. Everything in this world seems to be multifaceted though. I don't know why we can't apply that to people and gender. Again, nothing is one dimensional. 

Magan certainly isn't and she has no apologies for that which is refreshing. 

Gender is generally a social construct used to establish this need for comfort that we all seem to desperately seek. There isn't one way to be a woman or a man, just like there isn't one way to be a person. Maybe I'm too stereotypically feminine to some and too stereotypically feminist to others. Walking that line is what makes me deeper than any stereotype and Magan's story has reminded me to be proud of that fact. 
Magan (10) with her first deer.