in praise of femmes: hair & shaving
Thanks, all, for your thoughtful responses and life stories about butch hair in the last post.
Here’s a few of my thoughts about femmes and femininity and hair, and then I’ll ask some questions and open it up to whatever you’d like to say about the subject.
I want to distinguish here between options and personal preference – I talk a lot on this site – especially in terms of femmes and femme identity – about what I like, and I want to make it clear that those are usually my personal preferences, and I’m not trying to say that I think that’s what all femmes should be or that femmes who are not like that are not valid or are not “real” femmes or any of that crap. I hope that’s not how it comes across.
So, let me first say this, about my basic philosophies on hair: hair is a personal choice. It is also a major marker on the physical body used to distinguish gender differentiation in contemporary culture. Short hair on men, long hair on women; shaved legs and underarms on women, hairy men. This of course was not always the case; it used to be seen as very masculine for men to grow their hair long. Hair presentation, length, and social conformity are based largely on culture.
In my (unofficial, limited) cultural observation in the recent years, these differences are just getting more pronounced, although with the inclusion of gay male culture in mainstream men’s fashion, the rise of beauty products for men, the addition of “manscaping” and the metrosexualizing of fashion and beauty, beauty standards for men and masculinity are on the rise. It is not unusual for hetero/cis-women to expect their hetero/cis-men to keep their chest hair under control, to get eyebrow waxes, to keep their hair groomed.
But just because the beauty standards for men are raising doesn’t mean it’s okay for us to keep unobtainable beauty standards for women – or for anyone, for that matter. Honestly I believe we’ve got to turn the beauty culture inside out on our own personal journeys into our own gender identities, whatever flavor they may be, whatever area of the gender galaxy, to really examine what the culture dictates and unlearn the compulsory standards that can be exhausting, unobtainable, and even harmful to our bodies.
What the body does is natural, normal, acceptible, sexy – where hair grows, the stretchmarks, the veins that show through the skin, the moles and freckles, the thickness of the muscles or the tendons or the thigh or the waist or the hair. All these things are beautiful, and real.
And, in my humble opinion, are also turn-ons: the celebration of the beauty of the human body.
If you’ve never explored the potential damage and compulsory standards of beauty culture, take a look at:
- The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf – a bit dated now, and well critiqued, but still holds many core concepts that I believe can be very transformational
- Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff – Undoes some of the cultural critiques of the beauty myth and argues for a scientific basis of valuing beauty; interesting counter in the nature-vs-nurture debate
- Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy
- The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
- Killing Me Softly, Jean Kilbourne – This video tends to be shown (over & over) in women studies courses in colleges, and there’s a reason why: it can be really eye-opening to see what the culture of beauty dictates for women through advertising. Kilbourne has other videos that are also wonderfully critical of alcohol, tobacco, and thinness. They’re hard to find since they’re educational films, but your library might have them.
- Any other recommendations?
So: once we start undoing society’s standards, and treating every possible option as valid and valuable for different reasons in order to make a true choice, we can start exploring what it is that we personally prefer. What turns us on, how our bodies feel the most sexy, what the soft animal of our body loves.
My initial thoughts about femme hair always go to the hair on your head, and the ways it’s worn. Being that I am very attracted to femininity, I do like long hair generally, though I know plenty of femmes who totally rock the chin-length cuts or the boycuts, I’ve even known a few with shaved heads.
I wrote once upon a time about how much I love it when femmes wear their hair up, and specifically the idea that “a woman’s hair is for her husband.” I wrote, “I know there are deep problems with this idea of a husband owning a wife’s hair, but I love the idea of it being so sexual, such a turn on, when a femme lets her hair down, that it’s private, saved for me and me alone.” And that’s just it exactly.
About body hair on femmes … honestly, my personal preference is basically bare. Very little hair, everywhere. I find shaving sexy, I find the rituals of beauty sexy (when they are done with intention and sexual connotations especially). I like to shave my lover’s legs, actually. That’s a scene I haven’t played out in a long time, but I find that intensely erotic.
I do have some guilt about liking the reproduction of traditional femininity. I know I could write pages about how it’s not compulsory, it’s resistance, celebratory, and intentional, but still sometimes I wonder if what my block is that I wouldn’t find hair particularly attractive. But I suppose I can attempt to justify this by saying that I absolutely think it should be culturally acceptible – I hate that it’s dictated as necessary by the beauty rules – but that my personal preference is skin, skin, skin. Is that because of the dominant cultural beauty rules? Yeah, probably. I can’t escape it, I was raised in it, I live in it every day. But I recognize that it exists, what it means, how it operates, and I fully support people who reject that rule and who prefer to have their hair wild and free, or trimmed and neat, or completely bare. All options should be valid.
So, now you:
I know you’ve already got a ton of things to say about femme body hair, but here’s some questions to get started:
If you’re in the transfeminine area of the gender galaxy:
- Do you shave, wax, pluck, shape? Underarms, legs, thighs, stomach, chin? Why or why not?
- What was your process in coming to do the hair sculpting and
- How do you make choices about your hair? Based on sexual preferences? Cultural standards?What your lovers like?
- How do you keep your pubes? Trimmed, waxed, shaved, au naturale?
- What comes to mind when you see women who don’t shave?
- Do you sexualize shaving or body hair removal?
If you are someone who tends to date transfeminine folks:
- Do you have personal preferences when it comes to hair on the femmes you date?
- Do you sexualize shaving or body hair removal?
- Do you prefer hair on her head worn a certain way? Do you tend to be attracted to very specific hair cuts, styles, colors?
I’m also very curious about folks who live outside of the US – clearly my perspectives are very US-centric, and I’m not really sure what gets culturally dictated or compulsorily reproduced in other places. I have impressions, but being an outsider to culture in other places, I won’t presume to speak on it.
Please do elaborate however you’d like. And thank you, for reading and for your comments, I really like that we’re conversing here more and more, getting input from all kinds of people who live in all kinds of ways.