Girly Thoughts

April 17, 2008

Hairy-legged feminists

Filed under: Gender,LGBTQ,Race,Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 8:36 pm

I have worn pants every single day since I’ve been in Paris, because it’s cold and I don’t have boots (which help if you wear a skirt). I don’t shave my legs when I’m not going to be exposing them, so I haven’t shaved the entire time. That’s like 3 months. It’s not a feminist statement, it’s just that I’m not motivated enough to shave unless I have to do so for other people.

Sometimes, when you mention feminism, people say something about hairy legs, and we feminists go “No! It’s not about that! We shave! Feminism is just about…” and so on with a much more accurate definition of feminism that ‘an ideology that requires women to be hairy’. “I don’t hate men” and “I shave my legs” are put in the same category of things you have to make sure people know in order to be taken seriously.

That is ridiculous.

I have no desire to shame people who shave. Next time I wear a skirt, I’m pretty sure I will. We have to deal with patriarchy, and if I ignored everything patriarchy wanted of me, no one would take me seriously, and I’d be a feminist pretty much all by myself. That may work for some people, and that’s great, but it won’t work for me, neither for my life as a woman nor for my attempts to get my friends to be more egalitarian. It’s a compromise.

However. The people who pointed out that the leg-shaving expectation is sexist were right. I haven’t done my feminist homework so I don’t know who they were, but I agree with them on that much. It is indeed quite sexist. It tells me that I can’t be pretty unless I change the way I look first. (Something to keep in mind next time someone who likes to benefit from the exploitation and objectification of women tries to spin it as just sex-positive or artistic: “Really, you just admire the beauty of the female body? Including its hair?” Because if he says hair or any other natural things about the female body are gross and only admires the beauty of the plastic surgeried made up shaven female body, no Enlightened Award for him. Not that true sex-positivity doesn’t exist.) It tells me that a part of my body that is natural and not dirty, is dirty. I should not have to shave if I don’t want to, and clearly, I don’t. Maybe I would every once in a while for my own sake, as it does feel nice, when I don’t get razor burn. But mostly, no.

The fact that we are so accepting of people’s horror at the thought of hairy-legged feminists is disturbing. Do we think they’re right? Do we think there’s any defense for someone who would throw out a person’s argument based on the fact that they choose not to remove harmless hair from their legs? That’s insane, not to mention an ad hominem feminam argument, a fallacy.

Why do people freak out at the idea of a woman who doesn’t shave her legs? Shouldn’t it only matter to her and maybe her partner? Are all the people who talk about hairy-legged feminists talking about their partners or women they want to date? I don’t think so. I think if I chose not to shave my legs and let them show, I would get comments, maybe just behind my back, from people, male and female, who had no interest in dating me. Why is it any of their business? How could my leg hair possibly offend someone who has no reason to be anywhere near it?

It’s sexist

They would consider it their business because it would be me refusing to be put in my place. It’s related to what I talked about in “thinking through a personal experience” where I said that guys have no right to judge me just because I’m there. People have no business standing in judgment over the attractiveness of my legs unless they’re my boyfriend, who is indifferent to leg hair. But men in patriarchy require that I try to live up to their standards, to impress them, to please them with my appearance, regardless of whether we’re in any sort of relationship. If I don’t, I face harsh criticism – not just them saying “I don’t want to date you” but them attacking my credibility and denying me respect as a person. That’s not ok.

It’s heterosexist and cissexist

Also, since men are NOT supposed to shave their legs in patriarchy (which makes the hairy-legged feminist stuff even funnier, because feminist men exist), women not shaving transgresses the rule that men and women must be opposites. It’s kind of hilarious that we can convince ourselves we’re so opposite when we have to make ourselves different by changing our appearance.  But it’s one example of a whole spectrum of things people can do that don’t conform with gender roles (eg, cross-dressing, sex changes, homosexual relationships) and the vicious responses they get from people who are completely unaffected by gender non-conforming behavior except insofar as it challenges the notion that humans only come in two opposite flavors, which is a big component of patriarchy.

Yep, it’s even racist (ethnicity-ist?)

The thing is, I bet I could get away with it if I told my friends that my soft, faintly strawberry-blond leg hair really wasn’t all that bad.  But I’d like to see someone with coarse black leg hair try that.  People will say that’s just because mine shows up less and can be felt less and so is more like it’s not there, it’s not that they just prefer the hair of people with my coloring.  That may be true, but the results are the same.  If you believe that leg hair is unfeminine, and that more noticeable leg hair is more unfeminine, and that the less feminine a woman is the less acceptable she is, and that women of certain ethnicities have more noticeable leg hair, you’re going to be prejudiced against those women.  And this hair texture and color is not confined to the hair on their legs, so these hirsutially (made that up) challenged women either have to spend a considerable amount of time and money making themselves “acceptable”, or resign themselves to being criticized.  Better option: we all stop coding body hair as masculine and stop requiring people to fit gender roles.

I know that making fun of hairy women is very socially acceptable in the US, but doing so is built on a foundation of pure assholery. Point that out to people who do so; they may not realize their “argument” is based on assholery, they’re just used to it, so don’t tell them they’re the worst person in the world.  But it’s just stupid for us to accept it as if it’s in any way legitimate.

“Actually, I’m a feminist and I do shave my legs, but are you really saying you wouldn’t think my ideas were worth listening to if I chose not to shave? And what’s so bad about a woman not shaving? Does that cause breast cancer or something?”

“It’s just gross.”

“Then don’t touch their legs. It doesn’t make them gross as people.”

You can’t get every point across to people who don’t get that things like leg-shaving are cultural constructs or to people who think the gender binary is self-evident but can’t explain why. But you can say something. And we can and should support women who exercise their right not to shave, rather than implying that we, too, think they’re crazy.

Advertisements

26 Comments »

  1. Hi. I’m a first time reader here and I have to say that this is the best post I have read in a very long time. It’s like a breath of fresh air to read this. I am a woman who chooses to not shave her legs or under her arms. For a long time (especially in high school) I received comments and criticisms about it. It really got to me then, and to a certain extent the whole idea of anyone having a negative opinion of me because I choose not to be ‘feminine’ according to society’s rules still gets to me. Although now it really is like water off a duck’s back. I’m comfortable with who I am and the decisions I make. In saying that though, people are ignorant. And people will always be ignorant and that’s a shame.

    I’m no less of a woman because I choose not to remove my body hair. And again, I’m not more of a woman because of this decision. I am just a woman, exercising her right to making my own personal decisions based on what I want and not on what other people expect of me. It really is time that people pulled their heads out of their arseholes and stopped judging others on something they choose to do (or not do) when it doesn’t affect them. Sure have an opinion on it, but if it’s an ignorant opinion….don’t tell me about it. And if you’re not touching my legs (or under my arms), then fuck off and don’t tell me I’m less of a woman or not feminine enough because of this decision.

    Lucy

    Ps- I used to hide my hair under my clothes, now is a different story. No, I don’t advertise that I’m a hairy woman and shove it in people’s faces but I do wear skirts with my hairy legs (going on almost 12 months now) and I do wear singlet tops with my hairy underarms. I don’t shove it in your face that this is my choice; you should remember that. And I don’t want you to shove it in my face that I don’t meet your socially constructed views of how women should look. I’m not ignorant to the fact that people don’t like it, but is there really a need to make comments about it? I mean do you really think that pointing out that my legs are hairy changes anything? I know they’re hairy, and if I didn’t want them that way I would do something to change that. Sheesh!

    Comment by Lucy — April 17, 2008 @ 10:45 pm | Reply

  2. Welcome Lucy! I’m so glad you liked it. You know what would be fun? To pretend you think it’s a compliment when someone mentions the hair. I might have to try that.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — April 17, 2008 @ 10:48 pm | Reply

  3. Yeah that would be good. Sorry I went on such a rant…it’s (obviously) a topic that I have a strong opinion on. And wouldn’t you be able to get away with it over there? I mean couldn’t you just be like “I’m a tourist.” or “I’m not from around here, that’s why you think I’m different”. That could be kinda cool. Anyways, have a good one.

    Lucy

    Comment by Lucy — April 18, 2008 @ 6:09 am | Reply

  4. Rants are always welcome : ).

    Comment by judgesnineteen — April 18, 2008 @ 8:21 am | Reply

  5. Wow, all so true. I think someone who shows unshaved legs in late grade school or high school is brave. There is such pressure to shave legs. But then there is pressure in other ways too. It would drive me nuts when peers with short blond hair on their legs would “brag” about how they have to shave their legs. If I had ever shown my black leg hair and said I have to shave my legs the reaction would’ve more like, “uh, yeah! you do!” It was like some great thing to be able to be accepted for not shaving but still do it. I generally wore pants for gym class because I hate shaving. In summer I will shave if the hair gets too long and I’m wearing shorts but I do see hair as a lot less gross than I used to. Now it’s more like no hair can feel nice rather than hair is gross. I do generally shave armpits because of the sweat there but that’s much easier. And all this isn’t even touching on other areas people shave because of “grossness”.

    Comment by Lyndsay — April 18, 2008 @ 5:35 pm | Reply

  6. Yet…no comments about how men are expected to drag a sharp blade across our faces, every single day, whether it’s cold outside or not, regardless of what we wear, or we’re not considered “handsome”.

    Huh. Always wondered about that.

    Especially ironic because I once, many years ago, dated a woman that refused to shave her legs…yet demanded I keep a clean-shaven face.

    Comment by D — May 14, 2008 @ 4:10 pm | Reply

  7. 1. This is a post about women shaving their legs. Nowhere did I claim to cover all oppressive social rules on shaving. Your implication that your issue was wrongly left out smacks of entitlement.

    2. Where is this, that men are shunned for having beards? My boyfriend has a beard. My last boyfriend had a beard. My boyfriend before that didn’t try to actually grow a beard, he just didn’t shave often because he didn’t feel like it. I never found it un-handsome on any of them, in fact I usually found it quite attractive, and no one ever made fun of them for their beards, to my knowledge. I’m sorry you met an unfair woman once in your life, but I’m not her, and from my experience, most women aren’t. Nor are people in general, in fact; men with facial hair seem to succeed and be accepted just fine in life. I do think it affects people’s view of them, but often just to make people think they’re more manly, which, given current gender roles, usually makes people respect them more. There may be other negative consequences that I’m not aware of, and if you’d like to point them out and join us in denouncing rigid social rules for such inconsequential grooming practices, you’re welcome to, but save the anti-feminist tone for someone who’s stupid enough to believe that you growing facial hair would harm you as much socially as a dark-haired woman refusing to shave anywhere and refusing to cover her unshaven legs and armpits.

    Regular readers, you may want to bookmark this page for the next time someone asks you what it means to pull a “what about the menz.”

    Comment by judgesnineteen — May 14, 2008 @ 11:19 pm | Reply

  8. “1. This is a post about women shaving their legs. Nowhere did I claim to cover all oppressive social rules on shaving. Your implication that your issue was wrongly left out smacks of entitlement.”

    1. Acting like women are the only ones expected to shave to meet a societal standard smacks of self-absorption.

    2. We’re treated, often, as “less handsome”, or “creepy”, or many other things. Acting like it isn’t true, because you have two pieces of HIGHLY anecdotal evidence won’t change that.

    In fact, we have to deal with the fact that many places of employment can and will demand we have no facial hair, in order to be employed there.

    “I’m sorry you met an unfair woman once in your life, but I’m not her, and from my experience, most women aren’t. ”

    I don’t know where you’re coming off with that statement, so this is the only response you’ll get to it.

    “Regular readers, you may want to bookmark this page for the next time someone asks you what it means to pull a “what about the menz.””

    I’ll remember that, and any time someone brings up a woman’s issue, I’ll just dismiss it out of hand as a “what about the wimmenz?”.

    Comment by D — May 14, 2008 @ 11:45 pm | Reply

  9. “Acting like women are the only ones…”
    Choosing to talk about women does not mean acting like women are the only ones it happens to. It was a pretty specific topic – how feminists wrongly give people the impression that they’re against leg-shaving. That makes no claim to covering every shaving issue there is. And since I’m not every woman in the world, and specifically mentioned how it’s harder for women who have darker hair than I do, the self-absorption bit was just immature.

    “Acting like it isn’t true…” What I said wasn’t true was the implication that I must not care about men because I chose to talk about women and the implication that shaving is just as much of a problem for men as it is for women. I acknowledged the possibility that there may be negative consequences of having facial hair and invited you to bring them up, which you did. I’m not sold on the “less handsome” one, ie, I have no reason thus far to believe that more people find shaven men more attractive than unshaven men, but you’re right about the creepy thing (that some people say that, not that bearded men actually are creepy). If you could just say that in a respectful way we’d be fine.

    “…any time someone brings up a woman’s issue, I’ll just dismiss it…”
    No, see, if you had just brought up a men’s issue, that would have been cool. The creepy thing is a valid point that we could have discussed. Now that I think about it, there’s also the discrimination against facial hair as “rebellious”, although that may have passed, but I know my dad’s Catholic high school forbade facial hair, and I think there’s a Bible college that does too (which is funny ’cause people generally believe Jesus had a beard, if they believe he existed). But you brought up a men’s issue as if I had done something wrong by leaving it out in a discussion to women about women, and implied that it’s just as hard for men to go without shaving as it is for women. It’s a way of trying to delegitimize feminist conversations and it creates the illusion that men’s and women’s issues have to be at odds with each other, when in fact you could have just said, you’re right, that leg shaving stuff is unfair, so is this face-shaving stuff.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — May 15, 2008 @ 12:33 am | Reply

  10. “I’m not sold on the “less handsome””

    That comes from more personal experience. Though I’ve heard it from other males.

    “I think there’s a Bible college that does too ”

    Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC. 🙂 I’m not certain if they still forbid facial hair. Probably, considering they forbid the use of the internet through means other than their filtered computers, and ban DVD players and DVDs and going to movie theaters.

    “But you brought up a men’s issue as if I had done something wrong by leaving it out in a discussion to women about women, and implied that it’s just as hard for men to go without shaving as it is for women.”

    In the context of equality, you can’t address one unbalanced situation without addressing the other, at least in my mind.

    “It’s a way of trying to delegitimize feminist conversations and it creates the illusion that men’s and women’s issues have to be at odds with each other, when in fact you could have just said, you’re right, that leg shaving stuff is unfair, so is this face-shaving stuff.”

    Actually, the intent was to say both of us have problems with shaving, not just you. Saying one, without even hinting at the other, in my mind, does more towards separating the issues than joining them together.

    Comment by D — May 15, 2008 @ 1:06 am | Reply

  11. on less handsome – people have all kinds of preferences. I don’t yet have any reason to believe that more people find beards unhandsome than handsome. And if they did, I would find that odd given that having a beard is more natural for a man who can grow one, but I don’t have any knowledge of how dislike of beards would come from some sort of injustice. I grant that there are some bad interpretations of beards (creepy, rebellious), but I still don’t know if those are widespread enough to put bearded men at a disadvantage relative to clean-shaven men. Especially because I can imagine that some people see bearded men as more masculine, more adult, etc, and that might even it out or even have more of an effect than the opposite. I just don’t know. I’ll point out how stupid it is next time someone applies one of those interpretations to male facial hair, but I’m still not convinced that men have the same kind of pressure to shave that women do (and even if it is the same kind, the degree is obviously different).

    As for why I did not address male shaving in this post: the point of the post was not “making women shave their legs is wrong.” That was the argument used to back up the point. The point of this post was “feminists are wrong to distance themselves from women who don’t shave their legs.” Using the argument that making men shave their faces is wrong to back up the point that feminists are wrong to distance themselves from hairy-legged women wouldn’t make sense, and to my knowledge, feminists don’t try to make feminism more appealing by explaining that male feminists shave their faces.

    Nevertheless, I reserve the right to write about how an issue affects one group without writing about how it affects every other group, although I will always be happy to have such parallels pointed out in comments. For instance, in my last post, on anger, I wrote about it in general, and then specifically as it works with sexism. I didn’t talk about how it might work for any other specific groups of people, because I don’t know, but I invited readers to tell me. Let it be known that I never intend to imply that what I write is exhaustive on the subject.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — May 15, 2008 @ 2:36 pm | Reply

  12. “but I’m still not convinced that men have the same kind of pressure to shave that women do”

    Admittedly, I don’t watch a lot of television, but I see so many more commercials for male razors than female, when I do watch it. I’ve been inundated with razor ads for as long as I can remember.

    I grew up with a toy razor as a child, and used to pretend to shave with my dad.

    I don’t think they have toy lady razors for little girls. 😛

    Comment by D — May 15, 2008 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  13. Yeah, our culture makes a big deal out of it as a rite of passage for boys. It’s a rite of passage for girls, too, but for girls it’s just, ok, you’re old enough to shave your legs because your parents decided, whereas for guys, the pride in shaving is that you’re now growing facial hair. Yes, shaving it is the response people have to it, but the hair is celebrated as a sign of manhood. Nothing positive is said about female leg hair. Anyway, to determine who has more pressure to shave we have to look at how hard it is for each to get away with not shaving, and it seems painfully obvious to me that people accept beards on men more than leg hair on women, in the US, at least. As for the commercial thing, that could be due to the shows you watch when you do watch TV, as advertisers try to target their audiences. And even if it’s not, there could be other reasons for one to be advertised more.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — May 15, 2008 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  14. See, I’d think in general public, it’s easier for a woman to go without shaving, because her legs aren’t 24/7 exposed.

    My face always is. If I skip shaving, inevitably, someone will refer to me as “scruffy”, tell me I really need to “clean up”, and things like that.

    I also get more positive female glances when I’m clean shaven.

    When I used to date, I had never dated a woman that wanted me to grow facial hair. I was always expected to shave.

    Comment by D — May 15, 2008 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

  15. There’s a difference between having an actual beard, and just skipping a day of shaving. Skipping a day of shaving looks scruffy because you know it’s not “supposed” to be like that, it shows that you skipped part of your usual grooming. It’s still kinda stupid, but it’s not evidence of hatred of facial hair itself.

    Yes, if beard discrimination is what you say it is, you’re more often exposed to it than women are exposed to leg hair discrimination, but that doesn’t mean the discrimination itself is stronger when it does occur. The choice to grow a beard is much more respected than the choice to grow female leg hair. I just googled beards and found this; do you honestly think results would be anywhere near so positive if this were about female leg hair? I’m not saying there are never bad impressions of beards or that this study says everything we need to know, just that there are *sometimes* very positive impressions of beards while there are really hardly ever positive impressions of female leg hair in American culture, unless you’re only asking certain types of feminists.

    I kinda think I’m done arguing about this.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — May 15, 2008 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

  16. Hey folks! Looks like a nice little discussion going here, kudos. I just wanted to chime in because, you guessed it, I’m about to do a blog-entry on sex-discrimination against men regarding the issue of beards.

    The first thing I noticed was that the author of this post is defending it for not including mens issues. I agree with the author that it is perfectly alright for her to a) blog about anything she likes, and b) I don’t always consider women’s perspective when I write about mens’ issues. So, tit-for-tat, as far as I’m concerned. As we explore issues that face our own gender, it’s not always practical to couch every discussion so that it includes the perspectives of both sexes. The author is clearly talking about personal issues that face her as she sees it.

    With that, I’d like to point out the issue of policy, and law. I’ve researched this quite extensively and there are so very few policies that require women to be clean shaven, while a significant body of policy is present requiring men to be so. When was the last time an employer touched your legs to make sure you shaved? When was the last time you were refused employment, because you were not clean shaven? The military’s grooming policy is written in law, and strictly forbids beards on men.

    This also, the issue of public perception. I whole-heartedly disagree that there is significant pressure on women to shave their under-arms, or their legs. Much like breast-augmentation, I find this issue to be entirely a women’s issue. I would agree that women place a lot of pressure on each other to shave, and that this pressure is blamed on men; but I would not agree that the average guy has this expectation. I assert that you only think there is because other women, not men, have told you that.

    One other angle I don’t see presented here, is that of sexuality. I am personally convinced this all has to do with the human-mammal’s predisposition toward preferring the nubile, to that of a more seasoned human-type-being, with regard to sexual attractiveness. I’m just rendering opinion here, not really interested in backing up any of my speculation. I think that shaving anything, for either sex, is an issue of maintaining that hairless, androgynous, look we all start out with.

    Plus, a man’s beard hides facial features, especially bone-structure. Women being the more sensitive to appearance of the two sexes, I feel that a beard is much more of an issue to women, than leg-hair is to a man. Grotesque generalization, I realize, I’m just trying to discuss. Researchers have found that one of the most intense, and resource-demanding processes our brains deal with every day, is that of facial-recognition. Is it any wonder then that a beard short-circuits this process, and is therefore taboo?

    My points are this. In both policy, and law, a man’s beard is discriminated against. The same is not true for women, and their leg, and under-arm hair. Socially, a man’s beard is every bit as, “frowned upon”, as female body-hair, if not more-so; and also can not be hidden. Lastly, this is a gender issue because men and women are treated differently. As a woman, when was the last time you were required to shave your face? Policies that distinguish between the sexes, and provide separate policy to be administered, is a clear example of a double-standard.

    I’ve been keeping a journal for fourteen years now, regarding work. To date, I’ve been denied 346 job applications because of my beard. How many job-applications has the author of this entry been denied because of leg-hair?

    Anyway, I mean no disrespect. You are perfectly entitled to your opinion, and your stance. I certainly am not here to tell you how to feel about your own personal issues, and resent a little that you are being pressured in such a manner. I would also reiterate that many of the social-pressures women claim to feel coming from men, are often not and are coming from within your own groups.

    Comment by Vance Longwell — May 29, 2008 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

  17. I think your points on law, policy, and the journal on job applications make for much better support of this argument than the anecdotal evidence used earlier in this conversation, and in light of these I have no problem agreeing with you that there is real discrimination against beards. However, I have some problems. First, I don’t find any of your speculation on the reasons for discrimination against beards to be convincing. That’s fine, it can exist without us being able to pinpoint why, but I currently can’t see it stemming from some deep injustice. Second, I don’t like your idea that women think men are making demands on them but it’s really just other women. It’s true that women help enforce these demands, definitely, but men play a part in it too, even if not every single man, and more important to me than that is the recognition that it’s a part of patriarchy. I think female genital mutilation is a part of patriarchy, and women do that to each other. Third, I don’t like your definition of sex-based discrimination, because according to that line of thought, having any policies for pregnancy would be sex-based discrimination too, since pregnancy is generally just something that happens to women. (I’m not just looking for a way to argue; I originally came to this conclusion while thinking about policies on pregnancy and I think it actually matters.) But there are women (post-menopausal or on male hormones) who grow facial hair and there are people who are legally men (transmen) who get pregnant, so I think it is perfectly legitimate to first ask the question, ‘would this rule apply to all people who have facial/are pregnant, or just those of one sex?’ before declaring sex-based discrimination. But of course, any policies regarding beards, even if they do apply to all bearded people, could be inappropriate or unfair on other grounds.

    After my previous comment, I started to wonder if I had handled this the right way, because I’m against trying to weigh one type of oppression against another to see which is worse. So if I’m going to look at discrimination against beards as a real problem, I don’t want to try to figure out who it’s worse for. It’s clearly different. For instance, beards are more noticeable and considered more “public” and therefore easier to discriminate against, but beards CAN be seen positively, whereas female leg hair is pretty much NEVER seen positively except in a “yay you’re a feminist” way in limited groups. Apples and oranges, but both real problems.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — May 29, 2008 @ 6:19 pm | Reply

  18. I really like that you pointed out the pity-party in my comment. That was pretty sharp, I hadn’t noticed. Sorry to be a smelly boy in here messing up the works, too. But this is fascinating. The reality, whether I’d like to believe it or not, is that you are right, and this is fairly well spread around condition. Some advice, from me as a man, I wouldn’t let what guys think about body hair limit you as a person. And you can’t say genital mutilation without saying circumcision, and that’s done to helpless infants for the most part.

    You made me realize with your response that my motivations weren’t exactly what I thought they were. In a sense, I see a human being complaining about things I simply think only exist in your head. But they don’t and you did good to make that clear. I suffer much more because of the way the birth-lottery worked out for me, and the beard only exacerbates this. The thing I would hope that you would take away from that is that neither sex has a lock on suffering, nor does either sex have a lock on oppression. I’m offended by the term Patriarchy coming from a woman living in a society where she has to neither register for the draft, nor endure the expectation of protecting women and children. Furthermore, look at the disparity between the sexes in our prison population. What ruling class in history, has ever imprisoned itself at a 5 to 1 ratio?

    I’m picking at this, because there simply are no such clear cut conditions in the world anymore. For every way you feel oppressed, and made to suffer, as a woman, I can probably parallel that to a male experience. One way in which men and women are eternally equal is that those who have their piece of the pie will surely defend it to the death. Which usually involves pitting average folks, like you and I, against one and other so as to waste our energy.

    Thanks for letting me rant. It’s been kool. Feel free to censor me, I really feel like I’m intruding. But, if you leave this up, that’d be kool too. Peace!

    Comment by Vance Longwell — May 29, 2008 @ 11:52 pm | Reply

  19. First let me just say thanks for being polite throughout this conversation.

    I can say FGM without saying circumcision because FGM is the only one that supported the point I was making. Talking about male circumcision would have been a non sequitur. If I ever decide to talk about all forms of genital mutilation that are wrong, you can be sure I’ll include male circumcision on infants.

    The ruling class here does not imprison itself at that ratio. The ruling class is, among other things, white, and it’s men of color who are imprisoned at ridiculous rates. I’m against that, as well as the draft.

    Regarding patriarchy: first let’s establish that there’s no possible way you’re going to convince me that men and women are equally oppressed. I used to believe that, and I liked believing that, but alas. I’m not going to argue about that, but my blogroll has a few places that might help explain, like Feminism 101 (answers common questions) and Feministing (news on sexist stuff that’s happening). I’m happy to field specific questions, though.

    Second, patriarchy doesn’t mean women are the only ones who suffer. I believe that patriarchy sets up strict gender roles in order to convince us that women and men are different enough to justify sexism. These gender roles are oppressive to both genders, simply because we are all demanded to fit them whether we naturally do or not. They can also be oppressive where the demands made on us are just unfair demands. So yeah, things like “real men don’t cry,” the draft, hyped-up expectations of knights in shining armor, unfairness to fathers in custody, that stuff hurts men and I’m totally against it. But I’m against it as a feminist, because I see their roots in patriarchy rather than in a fair fight with women on one side and men on the other. And patriarchy means that men are viewed more as the “norm” than women and that men have more power than women (before you factor in intersecting oppressions).

    “One way in which men and women are eternally equal is that those who have their piece of the pie will surely defend it to the death.” I agree.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — May 30, 2008 @ 11:21 am | Reply

  20. Excellent. Just excellent. Ya, you caught my poor comparison of elective cosmetic surgery, to that of a procedure that is done for a variety of reasons. My bad. Fairly passionate about this.

    I was born dirt-poor. White. Male. I never did anything to anybody, pretty much ever. Through my own fault(s), and then through a skewed perspective, I’ve always held the world-view that everybody is getting a helping hand out of situations like mine, while I languish in poverty, and despair. The irony is that I often resent people pointing to their status, whatever that may be, and demanding help. This has the appearance of every one benefitting from assistance, while poor, white, males are left to fend for themselves. Notice how I must identify a status in order to even define the observation. Yup. Irony.

    Alright. Back to the drawing board.

    Comment by Vance Longwell — May 30, 2008 @ 11:24 pm | Reply

  21. Funny, after I posted that last comment, I realized I should have mentioned socioeconomic class in addition to race as a factor affecting rates of imprisonment. The ruling class, besides being white and male, is rich. So I can understand your resentment, because you’re not getting a fair deal. But neither are women and people of color.

    Well, I’m not entirely sure what line of thought you ended up on, but if you have any more thoughts related to social justice issues, feel free to bring them up here. I appreciate your open-mindedness, I feel like you really consider what I say instead of just balking like a lot of people do when they disagree online.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — June 1, 2008 @ 1:36 am | Reply

  22. This is a individual perception of leaving the hair on the body. Ideally the society percieves a female to be hair free, but the thoughts of ladies who believe to break away from the society are free to express themselves. Keeping the hairs on would be a statement that they are providing but the fact is how well you hide in places when in has to be now exposed is the matter. one is entitled to their freedom , but at the same time in this society where appearance is vital at that point a free and exposed behaviour is vital. Showing it off is not a bold statement but the so called society would eye you as you are out of the world. personally for me its a person choice and i respect it. I person showing the hairy parts is not looked as a object of sexual feitish for me but i would think that they are different but i would remain curious WHY?

    Comment by Raghavan Vedanthan — December 28, 2008 @ 11:35 am | Reply

  23. This site is very interesting!

    I really appreciated Lucy’s comments. I generally call myself a feminist male. I have a generally low opinion of American society. I disagree with most American values…especially the mainstream standards of beauty. I think they are staunch pillars of sexism and racism in ways both subtle and gross and about as far away from real Christianity as you can get. It also indicates the degree to which we have allowed the pornography industry to dictate to us what we should and shouldn’t like or be attracted to.

    I don’t know if it is an act of rebellion on my part or what but I would never seriously consider dating or marrying a woman who felt compelled to shave her body. Nothing anyone does or chooses is value neutral and I don’t like or espouse to the values that are linked to the practice.

    My history research indicates that most American women didn’t shave themselves much until the turn of the 20th century. Somehow, Nair and Gillette marketers got the bright idea that they should go after women to capitalize on changing swimsuit styles. Someone figured out how to capitalize on female insecurities and the porno-cosmetic industry complex jumped on the bandwagon and the rest is history and unfortunately the present too.

    What is to be done?

    Lucy, I would be honored to meet you some day.

    Comment by G — January 13, 2009 @ 11:22 am | Reply

  24. Hi G, thanks for your comment. I agree with pretty much all of what you said, but I have one issue. Even if nothing is value neutral, you can’t tell what values someone espouses when they shave. They may be shaving because they want to conform to a particular concept of female beauty, or they may be shaving for some totally different reason that you might not object to. And even if they are shaving to be seen as conventionally attractive, that might be an important compromise for them to make in order to make their lives easier; a lot of women depend on various sexist people and institutions and can’t make a feminist statement out of every aspect of their lives. My point in saying this is first that actions which are symbolic do not symbolize the same thing to everyone, and second that I don’t want to look down on women who shave or pressure them to stop any more than I want to look down on women who don’t shave or pressure them to start. What I want to do is remove the influence of porn, as you mentioned, on our ideas of what’s attractive, and to remove the influence of sexism and other prejudices on our ideas of what a woman is supposed to look like. Of course, you’re welcome to make your dating decisions however you like, but I just felt like I needed to say something about that. As for what is to be done…I wish I had a clue.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — January 15, 2009 @ 5:55 am | Reply

  25. Judgesnineteen –

    I understand your point(s). I know that many black women (historically)straightened their hair and lightened their skin originally to appear more European (white) with the possibility of being hired by white (and usually racist) employers. There was an unintended consequence however, many black men began demanding white (European) standards of beauty of black women and now many black women have internalized this type of racism. I agree that the need for employment and social acceptance is very important but, at what point do you start demanding the equality you deserve?

    Comment by G — March 8, 2009 @ 1:02 am | Reply

  26. Do you think black men started demanding white standards of beauty from black women because they had gotten used to black women looking that way, or because they themselves had internalized racism and thought white was more beautiful than black? Just a thought.

    I think each person has to answer your question for themselves. Where is the line that you won’t cross in order to make money, be accepted, whatever? What are you willing to risk in order to further the cause, or in order to defend your dignity? I don’t think those are questions that have one right answer that everyone should follow in order to be ethical.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — March 21, 2009 @ 12:17 am | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: