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!!!


  1. I was peeing my pants laughing and then stomping up and down cheering. awesome.

  2. Great article! I hate shaving, my man doesn't care if I don't, we need more of him in this world. All hail women who just prefer to be just as they are, I think we all know a little more something than the ones who can't take themselves as they are!

  3. This was such a joy to read :) I laughed out loud and smiled many times.