That was the title of a show I watched last night on channel nine, staying up way past my bedtime because I was so curious after seeing the promos. It was a documentary-style look about the cultural perceptions of women and their body hair. It looked at all types of situations: women who went to great lengths (and expense) to remove hair from all over their bodies (except for eyebrows and scalp), men who were obsessed with dark thick body hair on women (one somewhat humorous segment involved a man who was searching for his perfect "hirstute" bride-to-be in Europe, disappointed to find that they all pretty much shaved, tweezed, plucked and waxed as frequently as most American women). They introduced a woman whose high testosterone level caused her to grow a small but noticeable moustache and beard. She had spent most of her life shaving the hair off, but consciously made the decision to grow it out and "be herself," because she wanted to see how she'd be treated.
The show was good in the sense that it got me to thinking about my own notions of beauty and body hair and cultural convention. I have quite dark hair, and have always been a bit on the hairy side. I remember sometime around 6th or 7th grade, sitting on the bus, quietly minding my own business when a boy began to taunt me about having "gorilla arms." I remember when I first started to hit puberty and my mom lectured me about the faintly noticeable hair on my upper lip, that I needed to start bleaching it. I remember how much that bothered me, because in so many other ways my parents encouraged me to just be who I was. Wasn't that hair on my lip just part of me, my body, who I was?
I've shaved, tweezed, plucked, waxed, and done the whole routine. I put up with shaving my underarms and legs because I like the feeling of smooth skin there-- no other reason, particularly, and I often let my leg hair grow long in the winter when I keep my legs covered up anyway. I tweeze away my unibrow. But I think of one of my favorite artists, Frida Kahlo, and how she exaggerated her own facial hair in her self portraits. She identified her body hair as a part of who she was, and unashamedly, or maybe defiantly? portrayed it. I'll have to think more about it. Why has body hair on women become so taboo?