November 18, 2012

Telling Women What To Do With Their Bodies Is Getting Old. Let’s Tell Them What To Do About Their Hygiene, Instead!

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What is the issue?

No-Shave November (or “Movember”) is upon us again. For those of you who don’t know, Movember is a worldwide movement that promotes awareness of prostate cancer. To participate, men across the globe go unshaven for one month (don’t ask me how overgrown facial hair and prostate cancer correlate, I’m no Miss Cleo and I don’t have all the answers). Prostate cancer is a sexist cancer, meaning it’s for men only — kinda like Al Bundy’s basement. But that doesn’t mean women (who sometimes marry, love, and give birth to men) can’t participate!

Should they chose to participate, though — that is, should they choose to cease shaving like their male counterparts — they’re likely to be chastised for hijacking Movember for their own feminist agenda. I mean, yeah. That’s one way of looking at it. A completely pessimistic way of looking at it, but I can acknowledge that some women maybe are participating just to flex their feminist muscle. To which I say, so what? What’s more likely to get someone’s attention: a bearded man, or a mustachioed woman? (Spoiler alert: I live in Williamsburg and can say with a certain conviction that a man with facial hair isn’t gonna make any jaws drop). Even if a woman is using Movember as an excuse to promote the idea that women, too, have body hair, she’s bound to draw more attention to herself (and to prostate cancer) than some dude rocking a handlebar ‘stache and a fixed-gear bike. Attention = awareness. Awareness = Movember’s goal. What exactly is the problem here? Why shame people for spreading the word? “Girls who participate in No Shave November will also participate in No D December,” a tweet gone famous by Will Ferrel’s parody account, is so LOL to me because it’s like, sorry for trying to bring awareness to that cancer issue that only affects you, brah. Also, vibrators.

Either way, women have the right to rock facial hair every month of the year, like that even needs to be said. I repeat: we can do what we want with our bodies. Our bodies. You don’t run this shit, bitch. We don’t need a specific month or a handwritten invitation to do what we want with our appearance.

This idea is pervasive, that women adhere to a certain ideal, that anything deviating from the ideal is wrong. This really beautiful moment happened on reddit last month in which a photograph of a Sikh woman with facial hair was uploaded and then ridiculed. The woman, Balpreet Kaur, became aware of the post and decided to (SO GRACEFULLY) inform the reddit community about her choice to go natural (FYI — this did not happen during Movember and was certainly not an attempt to be like “HAY GIRL I’M A FEMINIST EXERCISING MY WOMANLY RIGHTS.”)

Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn’t know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I’m not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am. Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I’ve gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.

I’m not telling people they need to be attracted to women with facial hair or body hair, at all. Everyone has the right to their preferences. What I am saying though, is that voting democratic and being pro-choice does not give you a free Judge Women card. Whether a woman grows her hair in the name of activism or to adhere to a religious tradition, a woman’s right to choose extends beyond abortion. And if her aesthetic decision so happens to bring awareness to a medical condition that only affects men? Be thankful, not judgmental. TC mark

Stephanie Georgopulos

Steph is a former editor at Thought Catalog and a current writer at Studio@Gawker. Her work has appeared on Glamour, …

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