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July 22, 2012 4:54 PM   Subscribe

Mayim Bialik - once Blossom, now balancing acting and neuroscience - on not shaving.

(And if you remember her as Blossom, you might enjoy her dry take on being What Not To Wear'd.)
posted by mippy (146 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good for her. The modern terror of female body hair is a sickness.
posted by Decani at 4:56 PM on July 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


I have never actually seen What Not To Wear and I am loving this episode. And Mayim. Such a good-humored person.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:05 PM on July 22, 2012


it took a while to get used to it but gosh dang does it feel good knowing that my partner is not spending an extra three hours a week preparing herself for my presence.
posted by rebent at 5:05 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


A very special episode!
posted by Artw at 5:06 PM on July 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I loved Blossom as a kid, and though I'm not familiar with The Big Bang Theory, it's nice she's still acting.
posted by mippy at 5:07 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I have had plenty of women tell me that their feminism is about choosing: whether or not to wear spike heels and push-up bras and bikinis, and whether or not to shave. Well, as a second-wave feminist (think Hilary Rodham Clinton rather than Gwen Stefani feminism), I respectfully disagree. Feminism, to me, is about leveling the field, creating realistic and respectful expectations for all genders, and allowing the natural abilities and properties of all people to be accepted, appreciated, and treasured.

I have to say, I don't totally get what she means by this. Is she saying we don't GET to choose those things? That choosing them is wrong? That we only think we can choose them but we really can't, because if we 'choose' them it means we're brainwashed?

I fully acknowledge that leg-shaving is part of the patriarchy and that the requirement that women shave their legs is shitty and problematic. I also enjoy shaving my legs. I like how it looks, I like how it feels. I'm sure many aboriginal women in New Zealand feel the same way about their lower lip tattoos. I'm sure many Muslim women feel the same way about their head scarves.

Just because something is a product of our culture doesn't AUTOMATICALLY mean that thing is wrong. It can mean we need to examine it, it can mean we need to reconsider it, it may even mean we should get rid of it. But I don't think that having other women tell me I shouldn't shave my legs is any more liberating than having men tell me I should. It's just ONE MORE expectation leveled on women- that they should reject all the trappings of their culture if they want to be enlightened.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:11 PM on July 22, 2012 [67 favorites]


I love Mayim. She's always seemed to be pretty well adjusted for a child actor and seems sharp as a tack in conversation and interviews. I love her character on Big Bang Theory. She shows a lot more tact than I would with that WNTW show because I'd have punched them in the neck.

From the Facebook comments:

"What is the deal with everyone hassling Mayim about her sons and their penises?"

Oh internet, when will you EVER learn?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 5:12 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I loved Blossom as a kid, and though I'm not familiar with The Big Bang Theory, it's nice she's still acting.

It's a theory on the origin of the universe but that's not important right now...
posted by hal9k at 5:12 PM on July 22, 2012 [31 favorites]


OK, she doesn't shave. As she says, "So what?"

It makes me sad that people still feel the need to justify their grooming habits to total strangers, or expect total strangers to justify their grooming habits.

Just because something is a product of our culture doesn't AUTOMATICALLY mean that thing is wrong. It can mean we need to examine it, it can mean we need to reconsider it, it may even mean we should get rid of it. But I don't think that having other women tell me I shouldn't shave my legs is any more liberating than having men tell me I should. It's just ONE MORE expectation leveled on women- that they should reject all the trappings of their culture if they want to be enlightened.

YES. I grow weary of being told I'm a bad feminist because I like dramatic eye make-up, nice bath products, and occasionally clean shaven legs. I can't fathom how I'm contributing to anyone's oppression when I pick up my sparkly eyeliner.
posted by MissySedai at 5:17 PM on July 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


She is great on Twitter and Facebook...
posted by k8t at 5:17 PM on July 22, 2012


The modern terror of female body hair is a sickness.

I don't give a toss one way or the other if women choose to shave their legs/underarms/heads whatever, but I'm always a little puzzled by the claim that this is a specifically feminist issue and that fashions in shaving represent some form of misogynist oppression. I would guess that far more money is spent convincing men to shave their faces than is spent convincing women to shave any other part of their bodies, and facial hair on men is exactly the same kind of secondary sexual characteristic as body hair on women.

I should add that I fully accept that ads that try to persuade women to shave will follow predictably sexist scripts in doing so, and that ads pitched at men follow somewhat different scripts (roughly, to men: do this and you'll be a total chick-magnet; to women, do this or you'll be a disgusting wildebeast that no one will ever love). But that's a separate issue from whether the actual practice, qua practice, is demeaning for women. I can't see why, in some ideal, hypothetical, utopian world of pure sexual equality women would be any more or less likely to shave any or all parts of their bodies than men would be.
posted by yoink at 5:20 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


She's still breastfeeding her 3 year-old.
posted by reiichiroh at 5:21 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think she's great, and more power to her for opting not to shave. I do feel like every woman that is a proud non-shaver (at least those I've personally met) tends to have lighter or fairer hair, or dark hair but dark skin, not the super pale skin + thick black hair combo. It's kind of like someone with pretty standard shaped brows talking about how they don't do anything to them, where I'd be rocking something along the lines of Anthony Davis if I did that.

My preference (for myself) is shaving, which takes me all of 2 minutes to do every few days. I think my husband actually spends more time taking care of his facial hair than I do of my leg hair.
posted by bizzyb at 5:22 PM on July 22, 2012


I really do believe
you have the right to wear a dress
anywhere you darn well please
you don't need to wear no lipstick
don't shave under your arms
be as ugly as you want to be

posted by kafziel at 5:26 PM on July 22, 2012


Someone once accused me of being brainwashed by the patriarchy because I chose to shave my legs. I responded - "So, wait, you're saying that I am not capable of making a decision about my personal appearence independent of any outside force, simply because I am a woman?"

....That stopped the argument.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:30 PM on July 22, 2012 [57 favorites]


Is she saying we don't GET to choose those things? That choosing them is wrong? That we only think we can choose them but we really can't, because if we 'choose' them it means we're brainwashed?

I think what she's saying is that, yes, it's wrong, and that those are false choices - that what you are choosing is to participate in and maintain a beauty standard that applies to all women. Mind you, she has the good fortune of light-colored and light-textured body hair, so appearing in a dress with a slit or a sleeveless dress isn't confronting.

Don't get me wrong - as far as I'm concerned, we all live in a patriarchy, and we all make choices that support the patriarchy because there are no choices that don't - the house fixes the game. No matter how she underscores that her decisions to dress modestly are between her and God, and how she mentions that modesty is central to both men and women in her religion, she's still adhering to a patriarchal appearance standard. It's just a different one than the one that rules the red carpet.
posted by gingerest at 5:30 PM on July 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I cannot listen to anything she says or does without becoming consumed by rage for her anti-vaccination (let parents decide! Lots of evidence against!) position and dubious use of a phd in neuroscience as an authority to bolster it.

Don't care how funny she is on facebook or what she shaves. I feel like she is continuing this destructive, nonsensical meme that is affecting the health of many many children.
posted by smoke at 5:32 PM on July 22, 2012 [98 favorites]


yoink: it seems from my experience and from talking to friends that, while there is certainly pressure for men to shave their facial hair in order to be considered more upper class or erudite or such, no (facial) shaving choice casts much doubt on a guy's masculinity. Whereas women (teenage girls, especially -- people seem to feel more entitled to do body policing on younger folks) who don't shave get a lot of flak about being unfeminine. I've seen teenage boys who have tried to grow facial hair and kind of failed get teased a bit for not being able to grow much by way of facial hair, but the cases I've seen seemed to focus on their age more than lack of masculinity, I think.
posted by eviemath at 5:33 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn't shave for a while as a teenager but I do now. I don't do it on that regular of a basis (mostly when I think about it) but I do it because I want to and I like the way it look and feels. Yeah, I wear skirts every so often, but mostly, the only person who's going to know if I've shaved is me.

And I get her point somewhat -- and more power to her for not shaving and being happy with her body the way it is -- but I do disagree that feeling the opposite way is wrong or less feminist. I still think feminism is about choice -- to shave or not shave, to wear heels or not wear heels or whatever.

For me, it's not about subscribing to what I think men will find attractive. It's about deciding how I feel comfortable looking at that particular moment. I really don't care about what other people think of me, honestly, but I do care about what I think of myself. Sometimes that involves a short skirt and heels and sparkly makeup. Other times, that involves a T-shirt and flip-flops and my hair in a ponytail.
posted by darksong at 5:34 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


i really want to like her for all the reasons she's awesome. but her friendliness with the anti-vax crowd gives me pause.
posted by nadawi at 5:35 PM on July 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


Men and women both: it's your body, do whatever the hell you want to it, if people don't like it, to hell with them. Life's too short.

(although, bathing regularly is a good idea. just saying)
posted by jonmc at 5:36 PM on July 22, 2012 [14 favorites]



She's still breastfeeding her 3 year-old.


I know someone who breastfed her kid until he was, uh, I dunno, three-ish? Older than three? I know a lot of people who do all that new age parenting stuff. The lesson for me has been that something that is OMG-so-bizarre-she's-going-to-mess-up-her-kid when it's a stranger on the internet is just one of those things when it's someone you actually know and you actually see the full complexity of their life. And in general, a lot of these moral panics are that way - about sex, about parenting, about appearance...

To bring this back to leg-shaving: as someone who has always been gender non-conforming with an unacceptable body (to wit, I am fattish, muscular and big-boned; I am hairy; I have a large head, large hands and large feet, I have wide shoulders and flat hips - there is nothing adorably feminine and very little obviously female about me, and that's before you get to any of the being-queer, short hair, chunky glasses stuff)...anyway, as this person, I sometimes have some trouble with women who put a lot into being super-feminine, with the leg shaving and the make-up and the hair and so on. I have suffered so much, been punished so much for not being feminine - even when I wore make-up and dresses and really tried! - that it is very hard for me to see women who have feminine advantages of small bones and little features and relative non-hairiness use make-up and artifice to gain even more of the advantages that I have been punished for lacking. Not shaving my legs - which I don't, why even bother? - is the least of the feminine-failure things about me.

For me, the feminist angle on this has always been "you're working this patriarchal system to obtain advantages that I couldn't get even if I tried really hard, and it's not fair that you get treated better on the street, at work, in every part of life and you get to do these things that get you treated even better because you're extra double-plus feminine".

So anyway, I find it pretty easy to resent theoretical women who don't have to put up with the various kinds of shit about not being feminine, the women who work their advantages. I find it easy to resent women on the internet. But I find it pretty impossible to resent the actual women I know who shave their legs and do a lot with make-up and so on, because I see the complexities of their lives and choices.

(That said, I don't think feminism is "about choice", because we are not all rational actor robots who come into the world perfectly equal, get treated the same and then at some arbitrary point start making "choices" like we're ordering off a menu about how we want to live.)
posted by Frowner at 5:40 PM on July 22, 2012 [21 favorites]


Her marketing has convinced me. I want to try her product, I've Never Shaved™. But apparently it only comes in a pink can and smells fruity. Is there a men's version of this product?
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:41 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I grow weary of being told I'm a bad feminist because I like dramatic eye make-up, nice bath products, and occasionally clean shaven legs. I can't fathom how I'm contributing to anyone's oppression when I pick up my sparkly eyeliner.

Plenty of women grow weary of being called masculine, undesirable, and lesbians or dykes (in a threatening fashion, whether they are straight or gay) for not shaving or wearing makeup, and have violence committed against them and shame directed toward them on a mass scale by society every day for their choices. I agree that we all live under the patriarchy and have to negotiate our lives within it, and I wear makeup and heels too, but I have never in all my life with feminism felt like I'm the one who's taking the hit for it.

I kind of love that her son didn't even realize that most women shaved. The level of outright disgust that I've heard from people (boyfriends, my own family members) over women who don't shave is like, fucking weird.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:44 PM on July 22, 2012 [35 favorites]


it seems from my experience and from talking to friends that, while there is certainly pressure for men to shave their facial hair in order to be considered more upper class or erudite or such, no (facial) shaving choice casts much doubt on a guy's masculinity. Whereas women (teenage girls, especially -- people seem to feel more entitled to do body policing on younger folks) who don't shave get a lot of flak about being unfeminine.

Sure-that was the point I was trying to make when I said that the way these norms are enforced is undeniably sexist. But I definitely hear arguments that there is something inherently demeaning in women shaving their bodies in a way that seems weirdly blind to the fact that there is simply nothing you can say about a woman shaving her body that wouldn't equally apply to a man shaving his face. Especially when you see arguments about how this is infantalizing women and keeping them in a prepubescent state etc. etc. and that this suggests that some deep fear on the part of men of a fully mature woman.
posted by yoink at 5:47 PM on July 22, 2012


I don't really care if women shave or not, but this abhorrence has got to stop:

So I offered it to my husband (he’s got a beard but shaves his neck daily)

Ugh.

I wonder why neck-shaving is so prevalent in the US, i don't think i've ever seen it in other places. Double chin galore.
posted by palbo at 5:49 PM on July 22, 2012


I remember reading an artisle where a woman asked her three-year-old son what breast milk tasted like, and he said 'butter and jam.' She decided to wean him right then and there. FWIW.
posted by jonmc at 5:49 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's still breastfeeding her 3 year-old.

Lord Robert Arryn of the Aerie, Protector of the Vale is the one who decides when he can stop breastfeeding!
posted by thewalrus at 5:52 PM on July 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


i really want to like her for all the reasons she's awesome. but her friendliness with the anti-vax crowd gives me pause.

Holy shit. Had no idea. Dammit. :(
posted by zarq at 5:53 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know someone who breastfed her kid until he was, uh, I dunno, three-ish? Older than three? I know a lot of people who do all that new age parenting stuff. The lesson for me has been that something that is OMG-so-bizarre-she's-going-to-mess-up-her-kid when it's a stranger on the internet is just one of those things when it's someone you actually know and you actually see the full complexity of their life.

There really isn't that much nuance to it. "New Age Parenting" is generally a euphemism for "narcissistic parenting." Her anti-vaccination, "people shouldn't HAVE to do what's in the greater best interest if it feels icky to them" crap confirms this. Hyperparenting equals asshole, anti-vaccination equals laboratory grade asshole.

I don't think that women should feel obligation to shave, but were I a woman, I would be running out to buy a 55 gallon drum of Nair-- if Ms Balik is opposed to it, it's probably the right thing to do.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:54 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree that we all live under the patriarchy and have to negotiate our lives within it, and I wear makeup and heels too, but I have never in all my life with feminism felt like I'm the one who's taking the hit for it.

I think that any of us who are told we're "bad" - either bad feminists or bad at being feminine - are taking the hit. Regardless of what other people think, there is no One True Way to be. I guess what I'm saying is that people need to STFU about other people's bodies and what they do or do not do with them.

The level of outright disgust that I've heard from people (boyfriends, my own family members) over women who don't shave is like, fucking weird.

I know! WTF is up with that nonsense?

Many years ago, I experienced the opposite. I had moved to Germany, and was still shaving my legs daily (hey, I was 16 and hadn't figured out that I didn't have to if I didn't want to). My host sister barged into the bathroom for something, and cracked right the fuck up at my little pink razor. Then she took it and threw it away. "We don't do that here." No one cared! It was awesome! And now, I'm the one who doesn't care, even if someone else recoils in revulsion.
posted by MissySedai at 5:55 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


reiichiroh: "She's still breastfeeding her 3 year-old."

And your point is?
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 5:56 PM on July 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't think that women should feel obligation to shave, but were I a woman, I would be running out to buy a 55 gallon drum of Nair-- if Ms Balik is opposed to it, it's probably the right thing to do.

Luckily I appear to be less impressionable than you are.
posted by liketitanic at 5:56 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


She's still breastfeeding her 3 year-old.

She's neither hurting the child nor you, so I'm not sure why you're so concerned?
posted by MissySedai at 5:58 PM on July 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


[I am neither the OP nor a mod but can we please just talk about the actual article and not go on a crazy breastfeeding derail? There is interesting discussion to be had here!]
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:00 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Correlation doesn't equal causation, but there's a disturbing number of women who refuse to gives their children ANY VACCINES WHATSOEVER and also breastfeed them to ages 3, 4, 5.
posted by thewalrus at 6:00 PM on July 22, 2012


She's still breastfeeding her 3 year-old.

Wanting an address to thank her?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:01 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


My parents are from another country, but I was born and raised in the US. I didn't know I was supposed to shave my legs until I started getting teased for it and then my mom and I kind of figured out what it was all about together.

I can't really think objectively about shaving and its relationship to feminism for that reason. I didn't want to be teased - still really don't.
posted by sweetkid at 6:04 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


She was hilarious in Fat Actress where she played an exaggerated version of herself.
posted by cazoo at 6:04 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Correlation doesn't equal causation, but there's a disturbing number of women who refuse to gives their children ANY VACCINES WHATSOEVER and also breastfeed them to ages 3, 4, 5.

I don't think this is especially shocking, both represent parents who are comfortable with parenting outside current western norms and have probably passing familiarity with many "alternative" parenting paradigms. It is important to remember, however, that not all paradigms are created equal and that one may be totally healthy and really not a big deal (breastfeeding until whenever), and the other, not so much.
posted by smoke at 6:09 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


i think it's important to discuss her (generally weasel-y stated) anti-vax position whenever she comes up. also, that line about gwen stefani is a shitty bit of infighting. the female body hair discussion doesn't really need more nastiness and policing from other women.
posted by nadawi at 6:10 PM on July 22, 2012 [17 favorites]


And this is on The Learning Channel. *facepalm*
posted by WCityMike at 6:11 PM on July 22, 2012


I mean, Jesus, how much does our society hate women with this kind of catty comments? She's fucking fine, for Pete's sake.
posted by WCityMike at 6:12 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


one may be totally healthy and really not a big deal (breastfeeding until whenever), and the other, not so much.

i totally agree, smoke. there is evidence to support her anti-vax position and there's no reason to come at that sideways by critiquing how long she breast feeds. she can breast feed until the kids are 30, i don't much care. that doesn't put other kids in danger, unlike her "personal choice" towards vaccinations.
posted by nadawi at 6:13 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the problem is society basically coercing people into doing stuff like shaving. But it's impossible to make a case that shaving whatever you want to shave--or not doing so--is bad, so long as your decision is autonomous.

So, look. I've known feminists who thought that women shaving their legs and armpits was some kind of crime...blah blah patriarchy and so on. But they thought that shaving their head was just fine. Me, I don't understand how anybody can make a federal case out of something like this either way.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:14 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


zarq: "i really want to like her for all the reasons she's awesome. but her friendliness with the anti-vax crowd gives me pause.

Holy shit. Had no idea. Dammit. :(
"

Ditto. Wow.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:15 PM on July 22, 2012


I'm a feminist and in a few hours I have an appt to have all the hair ripped off my body because I like how it feels afterwards. I don't care what anyone else does though - hair doesn't disgust me on other people.
posted by gomichild at 6:21 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't really think objectively about shaving and its relationship to feminism for that reason. I didn't want to be teased - still really don't.

This is kind of the point. Women don't really have a choice to shave or not. If they don't, it's a BIG DEAL.
posted by Flashman at 6:29 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


If they don't, it's a BIG DEAL.

To be super clear, it can be a big deal either way. I don't shave my legs, generally, and I had a guy stop me on the street to tell me how awesome my leg hair was and how much he liked "natural" women. It doesn't really matter if the attention is positive or negative, the assumption that everything a woman does with her body or appearance is intended for men's consumption is the problem.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:32 PM on July 22, 2012 [53 favorites]


I mean, Jesus, how much does our society hate women with this kind of catty comments? She's fucking fine, for Pete's sake.

Nthing this.

A couple of years ago, I posted a NY Times article on the subject. The conversation here was interesting and educational. The following day, I spotted this article on HuffPost, posted by their senior features editor, Katherine Thomson: Jessica Alba Forgets To Shave Her Armpits (PHOTOS).

So basically, a woman stooped to public shaming tactics against another woman. The only saving grace was the comments on the article were pretty unanimous in calling Ms. Thomson out on it, before the site closed the comment window. What a shame they didn't take the article down, too.
posted by zarq at 6:33 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


sometimes i shave, sometimes i don't. i honestly like the way my legs feel when they're freshly shaved, but i have really long legs and it's sort of a pain in the ass. conversely, i like the way my armpits look with some hair, but during the summer i shave them more because of sweating.

i do find it really sad when i hear women say that they shave out of fear of being teased. they're not wrong - there is absolutely some teasing and some dirty looks. i just wish it weren't so.

on preview - zarq - just the other day the gossip rags were aflame with pixie lott "forgetting" to shave and how awful and embarrassing it is. luckily, there's also women like mo'nique and amanda fucking palmer out there, cruising down red carpets, showing their hair proudly.
posted by nadawi at 6:38 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


during the summer i shave them more because of sweating.

Oh man, I hear you. When I was running a lot, I ended up taking a clipper to my pits because I thought it was exacerbating a chafing issue there. My god - what a revelation! Anti-perspirant became at least double as effective, and neither did I smell as much. An extra bonus for me is that I take a medication that has an unfortunate side-effect of turning my sweat ever so slightly yellow, tumeric stained pits in my clothes= tres irritating.

I will never grow my armpit hair out again now, no way.
posted by smoke at 6:48 PM on July 22, 2012


on preview - zarq - just the other day the gossip rags were aflame with pixie lott "forgetting" to shave and how awful and embarrassing it is.

Ugh.

I googled. Ignore the article. Scroll down and check out the comments. I wonder if that's a consistent response to such shaming / shameful articles. I hope so.

luckily, there's also women like mo'nique and amanda fucking palmer out there, cruising down red carpets, showing their hair proudly.

Amen. :)
posted by zarq at 6:51 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not shaving: no big deal. Lots of women don't shave. But they must have touched up her legs in that WNTW episode.

Nursing a 3 year old: no big deal. Lots of women nurse longer.

Not vaccinating your kids: Huge big deal. Preventable diseases are on the rise because of this. Last I heard, 9 babies died of pertussis in the US last year. That # should be zero.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:57 PM on July 22, 2012 [25 favorites]


Honestly, I stopped shaving initially more for logistical than political reasons. Leg-shaving is awkward in a tiny college dorm shower stall. There's no way to stretch out your leg comfortably like you can do in a tub, and chances are that the floor is kind of gross. Your options are to squat down on the floor and hope it's clean, or lean your leg up against the wall and hope you don't slip. That, and replacement blades for a decent razor are surprisingly expensive. Who has time for shaving when you've got classes to run to and you could be spending that money on textbooks?

Then, after college, I briefly dated this total sexist bro. He looked at my hairy legs and asked me why I kept them that way, because didn't it look more 'professional' to have them shaven?

I regret to say that I shaved my legs for him.

Later, after he asked me whether I thought the whole "gender neutral thing" had "gone too far" and I dumped his ass, all the politics of leg-shaving that had only been theoretical to me suddenly made sense. Who gets to set the standards of what makes a woman look "professional?" MEN LIKE THAT DICK I DATED! Did I really have to spend the rest of my life pleasing the likes of that sort of guy? NO WAY!

Needless to say my leg hair's not going anywhere anytime soon now, and I'm glad to see someone famous making the case for not shaving. Non-shavers about at my tiny women's college, and in the kind of artsy radical circles I run in, but to hear this kind of essay from someone with more mainstream name recognition is huge.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:07 PM on July 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


A couple of years ago, I posted a NY Times article on the subject. The conversation here was interesting and educational. The following day, I spotted this article on HuffPost, posted by their senior features editor, Katherine Thomson: Jessica Alba Forgets To Shave Her Armpits (PHOTOS).

In the super grainy ultra-close-up photo, you can see what, two or three hairs? Who on earth was a) looking at the photos that closely, and b) cared that her apparently quite sparse armpit hair could be seen? Bizarre.

My last girlfriend shaved nothing, ever. My current partner removes everything below her eyebrows. Both of them are kick-ass feminists, as strong and smart and self-confident as anyone. It's not my body -- I'm happy to express an opinion, but it's not something that I worry about controlling. In the grand scheme of things, it's just not very important.

I'm not really a fan of the kind of second wave feminism she is articulating, but I suspect we'd agree that it's crappy how loaded these choices are, and how much better it would be if women's choices about leg shaving carried all the moral weight of choosing between plaids and stripes. It's just an aesthetic thing, and should be something fun to play with, same as braiding your hair or dressing up.

The article she linked in the second paragraph about waxing didn't make all that much sense to me, though. The author kept saying that she was getting waxed for her kids, but do her kids really care how she deals with swimsuit/hair interactions?
posted by Forktine at 7:08 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I groom everything but my legs. Because there is no justifying the time, expense, and itchiness shaving my legs engenders, and I kind of like freaking out the normals.
posted by limeonaire at 7:39 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"What is the deal with everyone hassling Mayim about her sons and their penises?"

"a waste of time, a conformity that disgusted me... and an opportunity for blood where it was just not at all necessary"

( ˘ ³˘)♫
posted by Catch at 7:47 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


She hosted a healthcare-related event I attended and made several references to her PhD and I wanted to stand up and scream HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT THIS FINE CAUSE AND NOT VACCINATIONS??
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:51 PM on July 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


If I only had fair hair on my legs I, too, would not shave them. However, when I go without shaving them, it appears as if two tiny Burt Reynolds are mountain climbing up to my vagina and there is only so much social ridicule I can tolerate.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:16 PM on July 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


two tiny Burt Reynolds are mountain climbing up to my vagina

Yeah, she kind of drops the fair hair thing in there as a "oh, by the way..." but in fact it's totally central to how big a deal this choice is for a person.
posted by Forktine at 8:27 PM on July 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


I have had plenty of women tell me that their feminism is about choosing: whether or not to wear spike heels and push-up bras and bikinis, and whether or not to shave. Well, as a second-wave feminist (think Hilary Rodham Clinton rather than Gwen Stefani feminism), I respectfully disagree. Feminism, to me, is about leveling the field, creating realistic and respectful expectations for all genders, and allowing the natural abilities and properties of all people to be accepted, appreciated, and treasured.

She had me until this part.

I mean, I suppose we all tend to think our choices are the right ones, after all, that's why we make them. And I would assume this is especially true when those choices are pretty well outside the mainstream, and thus, probably very carefully considered.

But I find the whole (very loosely paraphrasing) "everyone who is making a choice other than mine is wrong and/or a slave to the patriarchy and a more superficial form of feminist than me " attitude to be obnoxious.

On the other hand, this is the first female body hair grooming discussion on Metafilter I can recall that didn't contain any sort of "People who like shaved privates on women are perverts who want women to look like little girls" derail, so Bravo, Metafilter!
posted by The Gooch at 8:39 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do feel like every woman that is a proud non-shaver (at least those I've personally met) tends to have lighter or fairer hair, or dark hair but dark skin, not the super pale skin + thick black hair combo.
posted by bizzyb

All right, I'll be your anecdata point. My hair is not light and fair, it's pretty coarse and it's black, and I haven't shaved under my arms in years, and I only recently started shaving my legs again. Do I wish I had fine blonde hair instead? Sure, but not enough to make me want to shave my armpits. For one, it's itchy, and for two? I like it. My boyfriend wasn't scared off by it. He can do what he likes to his very long beard (though I might cry if he shaves it) and I do what I like to my body. Fuck everybody else.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:59 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think Feminism will mean something when women don't have to be judged inadequate for every thing they do or don't do. I can't get behind any brand of Feminism that still deigns to dictate to women what's acceptable for them. The whole point is that for 2,000 years or more women have been denied that right.
posted by bleep at 9:02 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I kinda chuckle to myself when I see chicks on the subway with huge tattoos of birds on their arms, really hairy legs/armpits, and a short cropped haircut, buzzed in the back and heavily styled in the front. Oh yeah.. the legs and armpits really say something.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:23 PM on July 22, 2012


My opinion on what is a good feminist stance on personal choice in matters where societal or patriarchal norms can have such a strong influence on women's choices is kind of similar to Frowner's comment. It's important to recognize that the choices are loaded in general, and to be extra supportive of women who make the less acceptable choice, rather than pretending that they aren't experiencing extra negative consequences as a result of their choice. But it's also important to allow all women agency to make their own choices. Thus: don't shame or blame women who make the choice supported by patriarchal norms, but do go a bit out of your way to support women who make the choice opposed by patriarchal norms.
posted by eviemath at 9:28 PM on July 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I kinda chuckle to myself when I see chicks on the subway with huge tattoos of birds on their arms, really hairy legs/armpits, and a short cropped haircut, buzzed in the back and heavily styled in the front. Oh yeah.. the legs and armpits really say something.

Yes, I have a good chuckle at young queer women myself. Don't they understand that no man will want them if they look that way? My goodness, how ridiculous the fashions of subcultures other than mine are!
posted by Frowner at 9:29 PM on July 22, 2012 [24 favorites]


Thus: don't shame or blame women who make the choice supported by patriarchal norms, but do go a bit out of your way to support women who make the choice opposed by patriarchal norms.

The fact that so many people seem to have a really high comfort level with telling women/fellow women what to support, think, or do is not only way more of a problem than patriarchal norms around appearance, it's at the root of them. Please don't tell me who or what to support.
posted by cairdeas at 9:31 PM on July 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


in high school my dad commented negatively, "nadawi, you look like a dyke!" i beamed for days.
posted by nadawi at 9:31 PM on July 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Body hair is such a weird and personal thing. I never really shaved my legs with any regularity until I was on the swim team in high school -- for a while I even went so far as to shave my arms, to eliminate as much drag as possible and shave (heh) seconds off my time. Now I go through long periods of not shaving, usually during winter because no one is seeing my bare legs, but I doubt that I'll ever completely cease shaving, because one of the finest pleasures known to man or beast is crawling into a freshly made bed with freshly shaven legs. Damn, I love Clean Sheet Night.

That said, I've known a fair number of men who shaved unconventional parts of their bodies because they were ashamed of how hairy they were... like a guy I dated briefly a few years ago, who had the softest feet I've ever encountered on anyone over the age of 5. Except the tops of his feet were a little bristly one time, and I was like, yo, what's up with your feet? Turns out he shaves the tops of his feet, because one time someone called him a Hobbit and he never really got over the embarrassment.

It would be swell if, as a society, we could get past ridiculing and mocking others for not being exactly like us. Women do probably bear the brunt of body hair scrutiny, but men aren't immune.
posted by palomar at 9:40 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


'Course, to add to my previous comment, when you're a young female teenager and your friends one by one succumb to peer pressure to start shaving despite the fact that they don't really want to, so that instead of having a good showing of solidarity, there's just you standing up to patriarchal norms -- there are some parallels between that situation and, say, scabs crossing a picket line.
posted by eviemath at 9:48 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm watching that "What Not To Wear" episode and screaming at my SO in frustration. I feel like I've fallen into the Mirror universe of taste and no one but me has noticed that Spock has a goatee.

Two people who are themselves TERRIBLY dressed are throwing out the clothes of someone who is way cooler - and cooler dressed - than they will ever be. Sure, maybe she'd enjoy a new haircut and some new post-maternity clothes. But her "before" outfits are far, far more cute and/or elegant and attractive than anything they are showing her -- and those shoes look like something someone invented to torture a 1980s Barbie. (As opposed to Bialik's really nice black flats).

I'm watching them throw out her pleated red satin skirt and the skirt with Ella and thinking: I hope they donated all that stuff to Goodwill, because I'm rushing out to see if it fits me.

I've seen people on that show who really are struggling to find flattering and/or appropriate clothing. Of course, I tend to think that the outfits the "fashion people" pick are butt ugly with bad colours, bad prints and bad cuts.

But seriously? Mayim Bialik should have her own fashion show because she has so much more sense of style and what looks good.
posted by jb at 9:49 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


(cairdeas, I'm sorry I used declarative phrasing in a more colloquial manner. Please note the first sentence where I indicated that what followed was my own opinion/interpretation of feminism.)
posted by eviemath at 9:59 PM on July 22, 2012


(er, declarative is the wrong grammatical term. But I need sleep in order to remember the correct term.)
posted by eviemath at 10:09 PM on July 22, 2012


I think she's great, and more power to her for opting not to shave. I do feel like every woman that is a proud non-shaver (at least those I've personally met) tends to have lighter or fairer hair, or dark hair but dark skin, not the super pale skin + thick black hair combo. It's kind of like someone with pretty standard shaped brows talking about how they don't do anything to them, where I'd be rocking something along the lines of Anthony Davis if I did that.

I have white skin and black hair. My leg hair isn't thick (not compared to my male SO's), but even a little is very noticeable.

And I really don't want to have to shave. I don't like to shave, I hate the feeling of stubble, I like my leg hair when it's long and soft. And I go a lot of the time without shaving - for 10 months or more a year.

But I don't feel like I can go out in public with my hairy legs showing without being judged poorly. The last time I went out with hairy legs showing was on my way to the Toronto Gay Pride Parade and people were staring - two girls with lesbian pins were asking each other if they would go out with hairy legs. It was the freaking gay pride! the one place where gender nonconformity should be allowed, if not celebrated.

I used to be braver, maybe one day I'll be again. A friend of a friend still remembers me as "that strange girl who doesn't shave her legs". I'm not "out" in my office about my hairy legs (always covered by trousers, tights or knees socks), as it's actually come up in conversation how "unfeminine" it is not to shave (actually in a rather transphobic conversation about how someone they'd seen could not possibly be a transwoman because she didn't shave her legs and therefore was just a man in a dress).

I don't agree with Bialik - I think women should feel free to embrace shaved legs, if they like them, just as I will happily indulge in heavy make-up one day and none the next, wear men's clothes or ankle-length skirts (and super full ones, if I'm lucky enough to have one).

But I really think that we're not - either in North America or Britain (way worse than here) - at a place of equality re shaving. Women like me aren't free to not shave without a lot of social blow-back - and I work in a supposedly feminist and progressive, and definitely female
dominated, social science research unit.

ironically enough, I do have perfect eyebrows. Or at least I did when I was 12 and flabbergasted when someone asked me where I "had them done". At the time, I wasn't actually aware that eyebrows were "done". It's been 23 years (35 today, yay!) and I think my eyebrows are still awesome - thick and dark and coming together a little in the middle. If people like to have their eyebrows shaped, power to them; I just think strong eyebrows often look great. (I have no idea who Anthony Davis is - did he play C-3PO?)
posted by jb at 10:15 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was once on the beach at the Jersey Shore in all my unshaven glory (I'm female; leg hair is dark and pretty heavy) when I noticed a guy walking by who was giving me a really obvious stink-eye. He said something to the woman he was walking with and she turned to look; then they laughed and kind of made "ick" faces. Since I was wearing a normal bathing suit, it must have been my leg hair that set them off. He, of course, looked like he was wearing a sweater even though he was only wearing a Speedo.

I got tired of the ingrown hairs and the little cuts and the endless attention-paying shaving required. I stopped shaving. And now I live in a place where there are so few days warms enough for shorts that I don't own any anymore. (But even so, I lived in DC for a good number of years after I stopped shaving and I wore shorts. And got shit from total strangers about my leg hair.)
posted by rtha at 10:22 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is nice, but it would ring more true if she didn't have her eyebrows waxed or plucked, which I'm fairly certain she does based on this photo. Which, is exceptionally more painful than shaving in my experience.
posted by fyrebelley at 10:52 PM on July 22, 2012


Yes, she also has her eyebrows plucked in the whatnottowear linked above.

interesting - apparently she doesn't use a stroller because she's worried about attachment. I'm planning on using a sling and avoiding a stroller because I hate the way strollers block the way on buses and streetcars. But then I'm going to make sure that I compensate for too closeness by leaving the kid alone in a playpen for hours. Worked for me - I only have one major mental illness and otherwise everything's dandy. (maybe not hours. but I'm totally pro-playpen. and harnesses - leashed kids are not dead in middle of the road kids, or even annoying everyone else by running around kids).
posted by jb at 11:06 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what if her eyebrows are shaped? Who cares if it's by plucking, or waxing, or threading, or maybe just really good genes and luck? Does that really diminish her feminist stance on shaving? Do we really have to be this nitpicky about the choices of others?
posted by palomar at 11:36 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


(My eyebrows look like that, albeit much lighter in color, when I don't tame them. It is, in fact, possible to have nicely shaped eyebrows without fucking around with them. Just FYI.)
posted by palomar at 11:38 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The vax thing saddens me. Don't care about breastfeeding - I don't actually know when kids tend to ve weaned to be honest, and I grew up at a time when bottle-feeding was normal (I was bottle-fed and vaccinated and was reading by two, so it obviously didn't harm my development too much.) I'm certainly no scientist but the MMR controversy here, the subject if a notorious exposure in Private Eye that I'd link to if not on the phone, makes methink less of those who take that stance, I'm afraid.
posted by mippy at 11:40 PM on July 22, 2012


Yeah, I'm very fair and my eyebrows are fairly sparse - I pluck to tidy them up but there's not enough there to involve waxing or similar. Apparently, kids are now waxing them then painting them back on
posted by mippy at 11:44 PM on July 22, 2012


palomar, the only reason i can see bringing up the eyebrows is the way she weighs in on others who want to shave and suggests it makes them gwen stefani feminists. holding that stance is crappy enough, but holding that stance an also participating in patriarchy driven hair grooming is hypocritical as well.
posted by nadawi at 11:48 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Right, I get that. But we don't actually know what her eyebrow grooming regimen is, or if she even has a grooming regimen, or hey, maybe someone Photoshopped nicer eyebrows onto her. Who knows? Why does it matter? At this point it sounds like petty sniping, to me. Oooh, someone's bowing to the patriarchy! Jeeeeez. Maybe not, let's not be assholes by assuming things about someone's goddamn eyebrows.
posted by palomar at 11:59 PM on July 22, 2012


i guess i feel it's a fair question if she's going to go on record saying to women who shave are bad feminists. but, like her breast feeding practices, i don't personally care.
posted by nadawi at 12:06 AM on July 23, 2012


And I didn't really take her essay to be saying that women who shave are "bad feminists", just that it's the choice she made and the way she practices feminism, so there you go.
posted by palomar at 12:20 AM on July 23, 2012


The last four or five years I lived as a guy, I didn't shave. Not once. I had a pretty decent-sized beard, but it was stable - despite not shaving, it didn't really get any bigger. I didn't get any real stick for it at all (though it did form part of a rather intimidating appearance which got me left alone a lot).

So this 'not shaving' thing, it works for men too. If you think otherwise, you're policing yourself.
posted by Dysk at 12:27 AM on July 23, 2012


well, she certainly says that she disagrees with them -

And I have had plenty of women tell me that their feminism is about choosing: whether or not to wear spike heels and push-up bras and bikinis, and whether or not to shave. Well, as a second-wave feminist (think Hilary Rodham Clinton rather than Gwen Stefani feminism), I respectfully disagree.

posted by nadawi at 12:35 AM on July 23, 2012


I'm going to be lazy and ask for help from the MetaScientists:

body hair keeps glands protected

How does it do this protecting, and why do glands need it?
posted by Several Unnamed Sources at 3:29 AM on July 23, 2012


So this 'not shaving' thing, it works for men too. If you think otherwise, you're policing yourself.

Or work at a job that requires you to shave.
posted by ersatz at 4:05 AM on July 23, 2012


Or work at a job that requires you to shave.

Which might be the case for women too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


And whenever a third-wave feminist makes a choice that a second-wave feminist disagrees with, the second-wave feminist will be there to helpfully explain why it was Wrong.
posted by kyrademon at 5:02 AM on July 23, 2012


And whenever a third-wave feminist makes a choice that a second-wave feminist disagrees with, the second-wave feminist will be there to helpfully explain why it was Wrong.

That's ok, because I am ready to lay down some man-splaining on both of them.
posted by Forktine at 6:45 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I grow weary of being told I'm a bad feminist because I like dramatic eye make-up, nice bath products, and occasionally clean shaven legs. I can't fathom how I'm contributing to anyone's oppression when I pick up my sparkly eyeliner.

I like all those things, too, but choosing them is not making the more feminist choice, and just because someone is a woman and a feminist doesn't mean that every choice they make is A Blow Against The Patriarchy.

About Mayim Bialik: fine, so her body hair is fair and no one notices it and she doesn't wear sleeveless things because people would notice her pits, and she actually doesn't want people to notice that she doesn't shave. That doesn't seem so very groundbreaking.
posted by jeather at 6:47 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


See, she's right that it shouldn't matter, and we should all be on the same playing field when it comes to grooming standards, and she's right that women have a different set of standards to live up to when it comes to body hair.

However: I think there are much bigger fish to fry when it comes to feminist critique of the beauty standard (i.e., let's tackle the weight thing first and THEN we can get around to body hair).

And it's possible that the it-shouldn't-matter state is indeed here, in some circles and for some women. A friend once mentioned in passing, while she was telling me about something else, that "oh, yeah, I don't shave my legs." I just sort of shrugged and said "okay, whatever," and honestly had no other opinion. (Actually, that detail came up in a conversation about how cool the guy she just met was because he didn't care either, and I thought that was cool of HIM. They are now married.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like all those things, too, but choosing them is not making the more feminist choice, and just because someone is a woman and a feminist doesn't mean that every choice they make is A Blow Against The Patriarchy.

Is choosing them the less feminist choice? Because that's what Balik's saying. Is that what you're saying?
posted by kafziel at 7:48 AM on July 23, 2012


I heard that Six had a big fight with her over this but they are still best friends anyway.
posted by orme at 7:51 AM on July 23, 2012


jeather: "she doesn't wear sleeveless things because people would notice her pits"

She also doesn't wear sleeveless things because she's an observant "Conservadox" Jew and follows tznius (Hebrew word for modesty, it's a set of religious guidelines regarding how men and women can comport themselves in a modest way) to a certain degree. She follows tznius more than most Conservative women, but probably not as much as many Orthodox women.

This, by the way. is also why she usually doesn't wear pants and her skirts are long. She has discussed this on both Tablet and her blog on Kveller before.
posted by zarq at 7:55 AM on July 23, 2012


Wait. This "What Not To Wear" show is a thing people watch? There's nothing about those people that isn't worthless. They need a giant dose of SHUT THE FUCK UP and DO SOMETHING MEANINGFUL WITH YOUR LIFE YOU GODDAMN LOSERS.

I say this as a person who pays attention to fashion enough to be considered a little bit of a clothes horse. I know how to wear a suit, and am conversant with different necktie knots. But these people are the WORST.
posted by uberchet at 8:27 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if a woman just shaved one leg and the opposite armpit? It'd be a fashion statement. or something.
posted by jonmc at 8:43 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wait. This "What Not To Wear" show is a thing people watch?

Yep. Kind of love it a lot, though it's not as if I take it terribly seriously. And the British version of old, with Trini and Susannah, is way better.

*shrug* No skin off my ass - or hair off my legs or pits - if other people don't like it.
posted by rtha at 8:46 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


She follows a very patriarchal religion and yet speaks no-so-flatteringly about women who make choices based on patriarchal society "norms." I cry foul.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:49 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not really sure how picking the normal, socially-rewarded option - the option that does not get you hostility and mockery and make every job interview an even more vexed situation (even if you're wearing pants, ankle slippage is always a possibility, and then there's the whole "I don't shave my legs regularly so when I do shave for an interview I'm usually trickling blood" angle), make doctor visits extra fun (nothing like feeling extra judged!)....anyway, I'm not entirely sure how the mere act of "choosing", assuming you choose the easier path, is particularly feminist. You're not acting as a role model, because even if you're thinking "I'm choosing!", you are indistinguishable from the legions of women who think that not-shaving is so gross as to be inconceivable.

But honestly, I don't leave my legs unshaven as a particularly feminist gesture. I don't shave because extremely feminine gender performance isn't me. I don't shave because I hate wasting time on boring beauty tasks that have to be done all the time (although I'm glad to spend hours looking at shoes or haircuts, because those are interesting).

I'd say that for me it's no more "feminist" than being queer is feminist, or being non-gender-conforming. I can crumple under social pressure and act all fake and everything, or I can default to my natural state.

I don't "choose" to be myself as some kind of crazy feminist statement - that's insulting. I am myself, for a mixture of socialization, genetics, whatever.

I do resent women who default to "choice", like their lives as gender-conforming women with a lot of body privilege are exactly equal to mine as non-gender-conforming and undesired-by-straight-dudes. No, sorry, I have to put up with shit that you don't and never will; I get a lot of negative social messages that you don't and never will; my body is public in ways that yours is not. We share some lousy experiences because we're both read as "women" which means that our bodies are open to criticism and control but you don't get queer-bashed and hiring managers don't assume that you're an "authority problem" because you aren't sweetly feminine. Your "choice" or your naturally feminine personality or whatever the hell it is happens to accord with society's vision for women; mine does not. I don't care what you choose, but I wish you'd stop banging on about how feminist it is not to have strangers pull their car over and shout "look, it's a dyke! It's a fucking dyke!" as you walk down the street with your parents.
posted by Frowner at 9:39 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


No one is saying that choosing to shave your legs is some kind of massive feminist statement about choice.

We are saying that there is a big difference between the following two statements:

1) No one should feel like they have to shave their legs.

2) No one should shave their legs.

And that there most certainly are people who make the second statement, and that it is not hard to see it lurking in the FPP essay in the little false-dichotomy comment about how feminism isn't about choices.
posted by kyrademon at 10:03 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not really sure how picking the normal, socially-rewarded option ... anyway, I'm not entirely sure how the mere act of "choosing", assuming you choose the easier path, is particularly feminist.

Very simply, because you're making your own decisions about your own motherfucking personal hygiene as if it is nobody's business but your own. I am honestly stunned to see "feminist" argument around what women should and shouldn't do around this. Talk about missing the point.
posted by cairdeas at 10:10 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


kyrademon: " And that there most certainly are people who make the second statement, and that it is not hard to see it lurking in the FPP essay in the little false-dichotomy comment about how feminism isn't about choices."

I'm really not taking the same thing away from the essay that you are. Granted, (and in all seriousness,) this may be my invisible backpack showing, as a white guy who has the option of shaving his face without being shunned by anyone. Other than my wife and kids who don't like "pricklies."

Last couple of graphs of the Bialik essay, she says feminism should be about accepting all people as equals, no matter what they look like and whether or not they conform to societal ideals of beauty and femininity. Why is that a bad thing?
posted by zarq at 10:10 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


We share some lousy experiences because we're both read as "women" which means that our bodies are open to criticism and control but you don't get queer-bashed and hiring managers don't assume that you're an "authority problem" because you aren't sweetly feminine.

But we get other women telling us we're "not feminist enough" based solely on a personal choice about a single aspect of our appearance.

And who says it's fair to make that kind of value judgement on someone's personal appearance SIMPLY because they're a woman? I mean, would you feel it was appropriate to make this kind of value judgement about a man if he wanted to grow a beard, or would you just assume he liked beards?

No? So why do women get subject to that kind of scruitiny and projection but men don't? That sounds kind of sexist.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:11 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Last couple of graphs of the Bialik essay, she says feminism should be about accepting all people as equals, no matter what they look like and whether or not they conform to societal ideals of beauty and femininity. Why is that a bad thing?

It's not. But that's also not what she's doing anyway. She may be SAYING "we should accept all people as equals whether they conform to an ideal or not," but she's not actually accepting the people who DO conform to that ideal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:15 AM on July 23, 2012


I identify more with second-wave than third-wave feminism, but I also understand the former very differently, it seems, than most people in this thread do. And the following is not about Mayim Bialik and what she thinks at all, except in the sense that it is prompted by the responses to the original post.

Second wave feminism pointed out that people's choices are limited by their perceived gender, in a way that maintains certain power structures, often to the detriment of those who are non-normative. The question of shaving or not is not important in itself, just as the choice about whether to eat an apple or an orange is not important in itself. But when I get heckled for being unfeminine (as I was in grade school), told I wasn't allowed to attend professional events (as I was in college), and intimidated into making choices that cost money and cause me persistent discomfort (as I am as a grown-up), then I have to conclude that the "choice" about shaving or not is a choice that will have a direct impact on my ability to command respect, participate fully in my field/career, and have control over my financial future. In other words, this is not a personal choice -- or rather, as the saying goes, the personal is political.

And the choices made by other women matter, too, whether I like it or not. I do not think that all women need to make the same choices -- and obviously, if you bother to read any second-wave feminist writing, neither do other feminists. But we do need to be open to the complete range of choices people might make, and we need to be willing to deconstruct the larger cultural symbolism of those choices, and to acknowledge that there's no such thing as a culturally meaningless choice.

And this is true for men as well as women -- my dad used to tell me he became a scientist because it was the only career in which a beard was acceptable for men. He was not lying, and he was observing a specific cultural power structure (the UK in the 1960s). We all negotiate cultural norms all the time, and feminism simply points out that some of those negotiations are colored by our experience of gender and it would behoove us to pay attention to those negotiations and challenge them when necessary.

Also, on a personal note, I don't think it's a coincidence that all the people I know who are third-wave feminist are super-cute, super-feminine people who are choosing of their own free will to embrace sparkly eyeshadow and leg-shaving in themselves and others, whereas the people I know who identify as/with second-wave feminist ideas are incredibly diverse and I'm struggling to generalize about their self-presentations in any way (and they include many people who embrace sparkly eyeshadow and leg-shaving -- because the best part of second-wave feminism isn't about the individual choices we each make, it's about our attitude towards the choices made by others).
posted by obliquicity at 10:23 AM on July 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


Mayim Bialik - I find you even sexier now. Not because I find unshaven women sexy, but because I find women who refuse to be told what defines their womanhood sexy. I'm goy, but a goy boy can dream...

reiichiroh: She's still breastfeeding her 3 year-old.
I hear she also looks both ways at pedestrian crossings, even on one-way streets.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:25 AM on July 23, 2012


EmpressCallipygos: " It's not. But that's also not what she's doing anyway. She may be SAYING "we should accept all people as equals whether they conform to an ideal or not," but she's not actually accepting the people who DO conform to that ideal."

I don't get it. I mean, I understand why and acknowledge that would be a huge problem and totally hypocritical of her, but I'm not seeing her do it? I feel like I'm missing something obvious.

Could I trouble you to point out where she's being unaccepting of the people who do conform to societal expectations and shave their legs and armpits? What am I missing here?
posted by zarq at 10:26 AM on July 23, 2012


What if a woman just shaved one leg and the opposite armpit?

I will occasionally select one Lucky Hair, usually in either the knee or ankle region, and while all others are eradicated that one is spared the blade for as long as possible so as to cultivate a long fluttering pendant of lols. When it gets too long, though, I tend to accidentally yank it out in my sleep because it's too tickly.
posted by elizardbits at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Could I trouble you to point out where she's being unaccepting of the people who do conform to societal expectations and shave their legs and armpits?

It's this quote:
And I have had plenty of women tell me that their feminism is about choosing: whether or not to wear spike heels and push-up bras and bikinis, and whether or not to shave. Well, as a second-wave feminist (think Hilary Rodham Clinton rather than Gwen Stefani feminism), I respectfully disagree.
There's some unpacking to do there, really ("second-wave feminism" encompasses a fairly large set of beliefs) but what she's basically saying is "you don't get to choose to shave and say you're a feminist."
posted by restless_nomad at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't get it. I mean, I understand why and acknowledge that would be a huge problem and totally hypocritical of her, but I'm not seeing her do it? I feel like I'm missing something obvious.

Could I trouble you to point out where she's being unaccepting of the people who do conform to societal expectations and shave their legs and armpits? What am I missing here?


She says "And I have had plenty of women tell me that their feminism is about choosing: whether or not to wear spike heels and push-up bras and bikinis, and whether or not to shave. Well, as a second-wave feminist (think Hilary Rodham Clinton rather than Gwen Stefani feminism), I respectfully disagree. Feminism, to me, is about leveling the field, creating realistic and respectful expectations for all genders, and allowing the natural abilities and properties of all people to be accepted, appreciated, and treasured."

She is saying that choosing feminine gender presentation is somehow opposed to leveling the field for all genders.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2012


what she's basically saying is "you don't get to choose to shave and say you're a feminist."

Yes, and I absolutely concur that this is a load of goddamn bullshit. Attacking the choices that women decide to make for themselves is pretty much the antithesis of good, inclusive feminism. If I was the last human being on earth for a thousand years I would still shave because I find body hair itchy and irritating.
posted by elizardbits at 10:33 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I haven't shaved in weeks and was on the beach in shorts yesterday and it's still bullshit
posted by cairdeas at 10:35 AM on July 23, 2012


She also seems to have a fairly coherent set of beliefs around women's sexuality (namely, that it's not something to be displayed) and the shaving thing seems to fit right in to that. Which is fine for her, but is totally consistent with traditional, patriarchal gender roles and not with modern feminism at all. (I actually don't know how well it fits in to second-wave feminism - my experience has mostly been with lesbian separatists, who head in some different directions regarding sexuality, obviously.)
posted by restless_nomad at 10:38 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


See, I'm not a choice feminist. I don't care, god knows, what other women do with their bodies. (And there's a whole other queer/femme women thing which really isn't being addressed here.)

I think we might be addressing different parts of the argument and getting hung up on semantics.

I don't think it's "not feminist" to shave your legs. I don't think it's feminist, either. This is because I don't think that the best way to understand feminism is to describe a 'feminist' world as one where women make 'free' choices in how to live under white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. I think that the emphasis on "choice" does a huge disservice to anyone who is not a middle class, white, straight woman - since many of the "choices" that are available to white straight women under white supremacist capitalist patriarchy are not available to other women. I have a friend who works as a stripper, for instance, because that's the work that's available to her due to a variety of health and family issues. She doesn't have the "choice" to shave or not to shave; she has to shave and wax and make-up and hairspray, etc etc etc. And I definitely know women of color who can make all the 'feminine' beauty choices they like and still get treated as unfeminine and unacceptable, not to mention the undocumented women in lousy jobs who don't have the time or money to "choose", but who often labor to enable the "choices" of richer women. "Choice" isn't the best vector for understanding feminism.

This is not the same as saying "no one should make choices" or "I should get to determine how people do things". It's saying that "choice" itself is not a simple thing, and that we do not live in a world where radical individualism is a strategy that brings about feminist outcomes. Again, this does not mean that people shouldn't choose what they want to do. I'm an anarchist primarily because I believe that people make more effective choices for themselves than entities like governments, non-profits and other institutions can make for them. That doesn't mean that I believe that something is ipso facto good and revolutionary merely because it's a choice, or that all outcomes of choice are good.

(Shouldn't all choice feminists be anarchists? I mean, surely we should all be 100% free to make all the choices possible, right?)

There are lots of things we do every day that we want to do or have to do that are not especially radical, feminist, progressive, revolutionary, forward-moving, whatever. This is what I was trying to get at by saying that I don't think not shaving my legs is feminist; I don't avoid shaving out of political principle any more than I am queer and butch out of political principle.

Also, intra-feminist disagreement is not the same as institutional discrimination and violence. If someone tells you that you're not feminist enough, that is not the same as being queer-bashed or publicly shamed or having your picture insulted on the internet or not getting hired or any of the myriad things that happen to non-gender-conforming women because of their gender-non-conformity. ( I feel like there's some slippage between "I don't share your understanding of feminism" and "you are not feminist enough" too.)

I will reiterate that it is frustrating to me to have women who are able to appear as women should appear tell me that this is a big feminist gesture. It's rather as though I would say "it's a radical anti-capitalist gesture for me to take this degree-requiring job which comes with good insurance! After all, I am an anti-capitalist and I'm making a choice!" That's not to say that I can't be against capitalism and enmeshed in the working world, or that I should pick garbage for a living and forgo health insurance - but it's not a particularly anti-capitalist gesture to have a white collar job.
posted by Frowner at 10:40 AM on July 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


I do resent women who default to "choice", like their lives as gender-conforming women with a lot of body privilege are exactly equal to mine as non-gender-conforming and undesired-by-straight-dudes.

Also, Frowner, just because women see making their own decisions about hygiene, dress, and gender presentation without taking into account anyone else's opinions, wishes, or feelings, as being feminist (because how dare a woman just do what she feels like without making sure everyone else is happy first???) nobody is saying "their lives are exactly equal to yours." Where are you getting that from?

It is disgusting to me that the things you described happen to you. Believe it or not, there are quite a few extraordinarily shitty things that happen to you when you are a feminine-presenting woman that don't happen nearly as much when you are not. But the feminist answer is not to direct anger and rage at people for being who they are, rather than who you are.
posted by cairdeas at 10:42 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't shaved in weeks and was on the beach in shorts yesterday and it's still bullshit

right, exactly, and I would totally kick sand in the face of anyone telling you that your beach shortsing was wrong or bad.
posted by elizardbits at 10:42 AM on July 23, 2012


Zarq: it's here --

"And I have had plenty of women tell me that their feminism is about choosing: whether or not to wear spike heels and push-up bras and bikinis, and whether or not to shave. Well, as a second-wave feminist (think Hilary Rodham Clinton rather than Gwen Stefani feminism), I respectfully disagree. Feminism, to me, is about leveling the field, creating realistic and respectful expectations for all genders, and allowing the natural abilities and properties of all people to be accepted, appreciated, and treasured."

The implication is that it's possible to make a WRONG choice about personal appearance, or one that isn't "feminist." To which I respond that if she believes all people should be accepted, then part of that acceptance should include how someone wants to present themselves.

Her defining herself as a second-wave feminist above is another thing - as obliquicity above explains, second-wave feminism holds that the possible choices a person CAN make are restricted by a person's gender or culture. Which I disagree with - because such a theory implies that I am not capable of making an independent choice all on my own simply because I am a woman. I do not deny that it is grossly unfair for the hirsuite woman in this society; but I'm also not egotistical enough to believe that my throwing away my razor in solidarity is going to lead to some hundredth-monkey societal turnaround, and I resent the implication that my own choice about my own self is the result of a lack of intellectual thought and blinkered imagination on my own part.

In short - feminism, as I always heard it, was about respecting the individual as an individual, rather than just "a female". Well, I happen to be an individual who likes shaving her legs now and then, and that should just be that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:45 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will reiterate that it is frustrating to me to have women who are able to appear as women should appear tell me that this is a big feminist gesture. It's rather as though I would say "it's a radical anti-capitalist gesture for me to take this degree-requiring job which comes with good insurance! After all, I am an anti-capitalist and I'm making a choice!" That's not to say that I can't be against capitalism and enmeshed in the working world, or that I should pick garbage for a living and forgo health insurance - but it's not a particularly anti-capitalist gesture to have a white collar job.

I don't think that's an apt analogy because capitalism expects everyone to have a job. In this society, women aren't supposed to make choices at all without taking into account what everyone else thinks and wants.. That is the feminist thing about making your own choices as a woman. Like someone said above, nobody gives this level of scrutiny to men who want to have a beard or not. Nobody would be on the internet telling them how they should think about how their beard affects everyone else. That would be laughable. But that is what women are expected to do and face rage if they don't.
posted by cairdeas at 10:46 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, Frowner, just because women see making their own decisions about hygiene, dress, and gender presentation without taking into account anyone else's opinions, wishes, or feelings, as being feminist (because how dare a woman just do what she feels like without making sure everyone else is happy first???) nobody is saying "their lives are exactly equal to yours." Where are you getting that from?

The whole logic of "I make my choice, you make yours and we are all happy because we each get what we want" is pretty much saying that the lived experience is equivalent. Otherwise you have to start investigating what is meant by "happy" and "get what we want".

I think one of the misreadings that occurs again and again in this conversation is to read "I don't think 'choice' is the most meaningful way to look at this" as "I think you should do what I say".

But the feminist answer is not to direct anger and rage at people for being who they are, rather than who you are.

See, this is also very frustrating to me, because it seems to obscure my entire experience as a queer woman. When I point out that I experience, frankly, oppressions that straight and gender-conforming women do not, I am told that no, of course as women we all experience precisely the same quantity though not kind of oppression, and that it is "rage" when I point out that gender-conforming straight women have gender-conforming straight privilege.

Definitely it is enlightening to be on this side of the conversation!
posted by Frowner at 10:51 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Also, "rage"? Really? We're disagreeing on the internet and that's rage. If we want to unpack how women are expected to behave, I find it interesting that it seems natural to be told not to express anything that even hints at anger.)
posted by Frowner at 10:53 AM on July 23, 2012


Also, "rage"? Really? We're disagreeing on the internet and that's rage.

Yeah, but I've also seen one woman stop a complete stranger on the street and lecture her because her high heels were "part of the patriarchy". I agree that internet debate is okay, but that kind of thing is happening too, and that's not cool.

Mind you, it also wasn't cool that rtha got hassled for not shaving legs. But it strikes me that the problem in both these cases isn't a matter of "some woman's choosing to conform creates a difficulty for other women who don't," it's a matter of "some people are just really god-damn rude".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:59 AM on July 23, 2012


(Also, "rage"? Really? We're disagreeing on the internet and that's rage. If we want to unpack how women are expected to behave, I find it interesting that it seems natural to be told not to express anything that even hints at anger.)

Although, to be honest, I yearn to de-escalate, because I hate fighting on the internet, whether that's a gender thing or not.

Perhaps we could just say that as a baseline we both believe that women should do whatever they like with their bodies with no personalized heckling?
posted by Frowner at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The whole logic of "I make my choice, you make yours and we are all happy because we each get what we want" is pretty much saying that the lived experience is equivalent. Otherwise you have to start investigating what is meant by "happy" and "get what we want".


But I don't see anyone saying "I make my choice, you make yours and we are all happy because we each get what we want" That is a totally different statement from "Women should all make their own personal choices." I have not seen a single person saying that after each woman makes her choice, each woman will be happy and each woman will get what she wants. I think everyone knows that doesn't happen. But it doesn't happen as a RESULT of the people saying that all women should make their own personal choices. It happens as a result of the people who are trying to control how women are and what women do.

See, this is also very frustrating to me, because it seems to obscure my entire experience as a queer woman. When I point out that I experience, frankly, oppressions that straight and gender-conforming women do not, I am told that no, of course as women we all experience precisely the same quantity though not kind of oppression,

I also don't see where anyone was saying all women experience precisely or even approximately the same quantity of oppression. Seriously, I looked. Who is saying that?

and that it is "rage" when I point out that gender-conforming straight women have gender-conforming straight privilege.

I thought the part about how you "resent" us for things that I didn't see anyone saying here, and the things that we "bang on about" that nobody said here either, were meant to convey rage, but I apologize if I misread that.
posted by cairdeas at 11:01 AM on July 23, 2012


I'm pretty sure Hillary Rodham Clinton shaves, which would seem to subvert that key paragraph she wrote. Whatevs.
posted by secretseasons at 11:17 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought the part about how you "resent" us for things that I didn't see anyone saying here, and the things that we "bang on about" that nobody said here either, were meant to convey rage, but I apologize if I misread that.

See, I think that this type of conversation is very tempting on the internet, but often goes spectacularly badly. I think there's a lot of slippage between "I have experienced this" and "you people are doing this", and between "narrator has witnessed this" and "narrator says that I am doing this", and that it's not always clearly marked when people are relating anecdotes as illustrations of society as a whole or as illustrations of the climate on metafilter.

Also, I think it's almost inevitable to present a flattened view of both your own position and the position you're critiquing, in a way that doesn't happen as much in person.

I have not seen a single person saying that after each woman makes her choice, each woman will be happy and each woman will get what she wants.

But no one is ever advocating, "You make your choice - which will subject you to patriarchal oppression - and I will make mine, which will get me patriarchal approval! Choice is great! The rich and the poor alike have the right to sleep under bridges!" No one who advocates for choice as a good thing in itself believes that this is how choice works. (I tend to believe that people should make their own choices because other people choosing for them is usually worse, not because I believe that there's a positive value to the act of choosing in itself.)

The only real justification for choice is the idea that people will be happy with what they've chosen. If you're choosing between, for example, two equally shitty alternatives, that makes choice irrelevant. And if you're choosing between one happy-making choice and one misery-making choice, that's not a very good argument for free choice either!

And this is why I have trouble with the whole political philosophy of choice - the idea that we are able to pick aspects of life as neutrally and coolly as we might choose a new pair of socks.

The more I think about this, the more I think that the reason shaving isn't a particularly important thing to worry about is precisely that it isn't really a good example of choice. To me, it's extremely overdetermined in all kinds of ways - there's no way to reset the brain and truly choose between shaving and not. ("Hm, smooth feels good but so does fuzzy; my skin is pretty but my leg hair sparkles in the light; shaving is relaxing but also time-consuming; I can pick up shave gel for free down at the Utopian Communal Supply Depot but that means I have to get up and go there....What to do?") I recognize that to people who have different theories about choice, human subjectivity, etc this probably seems pretty reductionist.

I think people don't generally make free choices. Choices are accretions of our past, basically, and the best you can do as an individual is either use all your choosing power on One Big Choice that dramatically shifts the subsequent ones (I'm going to enlist in the army! I'm going to come out to my parents!) or make slow, accretive choices (Today, I am going to wear a short-sleeved shirt even though I worry about people judging my arms....maybe in a year I will have worked up enough confidence to wear a swimsuit.)
posted by Frowner at 11:22 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Frowner, I'm rather confused by what you're saying here. You honestly seem to me to be arguing against things that no one here has said, and that I have certainly never heard put forward as a tenet of third-wave feminism. In fact, kind of the opposite.

("Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave's 'essentialist' definitions of femininity, which often assumed a universal female identity and over-emphasized the experiences of upper-middle-class white women ... Third-wave feminists ... challenge the second wave's paradigm as to what is, or is not, good for women ...
Proponents of third-wave feminism claim that it allows women to define feminism for themselves by incorporating their own identities into the belief system of what feminism is and what it can become through one's own perspective.")

Are you sure you are not talking about postfeminism instead?

I have not seen anyone here, or heard put forward as a tenet of third-wave, the idea that choices are somehow made in a vaccuum free of cultural content, the idea that making a choice per se is in and of itself a feminist act, the idea that making personal choices in and of itself is a guarantor of happiness, or the idea that all oppression is equivalent and interchangeable.

We're just not SAYING any of that.
posted by kyrademon at 11:33 AM on July 23, 2012


restless_nomad, showbiz_liz and Empress, thanks for explaining. I wasn't understanding the context. I feel like I've stupidly blundered into something that I didn't fully comprehend. I've studied the feminist movement extensively and thought of myself as pretty informed. I guess not.

restless_nomad: " There's some unpacking to do there, really ("second-wave feminism" encompasses a fairly large set of beliefs) but what she's basically saying is "you don't get to choose to shave and say you're a feminist.""

EmpressCallipygos: " The implication is that it's possible to make a WRONG choice about personal appearance, or one that isn't "feminist." To which I respond that if she believes all people should be accepted, then part of that acceptance should include how someone wants to present themselves. Her defining herself as a second-wave feminist above is another thing - as obliquicity above explains, second-wave feminism holds that the possible choices a person CAN make are restricted by a person's gender or culture. Which I disagree with - because such a theory implies that I am not capable of making an independent choice all on my own simply because I am a woman.

I do not deny that it is grossly unfair for the hirsuite woman in this society; but I'm also not egotistical enough to believe that my throwing away my razor in solidarity is going to lead to some hundredth-monkey societal turnaround, and I resent the implication that my own choice about my own self is the result of a lack of intellectual thought and blinkered imagination on my own part.


Ouch. Okay. I didn't see that. My understanding to date has been much like obliquicity's comment above in that I have believed free choice in situations like these can somewhat difficult to quantify because gender roles are still defined to an overarching degree by one's cultural/societal environment. IOW, it's not that one's choices don't matter, but rather that the personal empowerment they imbue and their public meaning they convey might be a little more subjective than we realize consciously.

I mean, it seems logical to me that we may not be completely, consciously aware of other influences or pressures on the choices we make.

But ye gods, that doesn't mean I also think women are incapable of making independent choices. Or that they shouldn't be making them. That's totally defeatist. I certainly don't think women are fooling themselves, or haven't thought about these things rigorously. That would never occur to me.

I didn't understand that was where Bialik was coming from. Thanks for explaining.

In short - feminism, as I always heard it, was about respecting the individual as an individual, rather than just "a female". Well, I happen to be an individual who likes shaving her legs now and then, and that should just be that."

Agreed.
posted by zarq at 11:44 AM on July 23, 2012


And this is on The Learning Channel. *facepalm*
posted by WCityMike at 9:11 PM on July 22 [+] [!]


If it's any comfort, that's no longer what the "TLC" stands for.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:46 AM on July 23, 2012


My reading of the fpp, what I think Frowner is saying, and what I believe personally as well is that
* people trying to make authentic choices for themselves, no matter what side of a cultural divide that puts them on, is a good thing, BUT,
* women making authentic choices for themselves is not our definition of feminism. It's nice. In a world without patriarchy or other forms of oppression, it would be much easier for everyone to make authentic choices for themselves. And as a tactic to help achieve such a world, one of the things that we might do is be very militant about attempting to always make authentic personal choices.
* To me, however, feminism is a critique of patriarchal social relations, and being a feminist principally requires a commitment to analyzing and opposing patriarchy.

So as I see it, not shaving might or might not be a feminist act depending on your personal intentions. It does have feminist overtones regardless of your motivations since it challenges gender norms. on the other side, the act of shaving itself, divorced from your intentions, does not challenge patriarchal norms, and thus is not specifically pro-feminist. Policing other women's bodies is not feminist in any case. I think that it's hard to make a case that choosing to shave is a specifically feminist act, however, unless that choice goes against some more local norms about how women's bodies should be that supercede the larger societal norms for a particular woman. That doesn't mean that a woman making an authentic personal choice to shave is necessarily being un-feminist. Making authentic personal choices is just kind of the neutral baseline.
posted by eviemath at 12:04 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


To be fair, zarq; it may not necessarily be what Bialyk consciously realized she sounded like, but it's how it's coming across for me, anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:04 PM on July 23, 2012


EmpressCallipygos: "To be fair, zarq; it may not necessarily be what Bialyk consciously realized she sounded like, but it's how it's coming across for me, anyway."

*nod* You're also obviously not the only person for whom that was true, either.
posted by zarq at 12:13 PM on July 23, 2012


"women making authentic choices for themselves is not our definition of feminism"

Who here ever said this was the definition of feminism?

"feminism is a critique of patriarchal social relations, and being a feminist principally requires a commitment to analyzing and opposing patriarchy"

Who here ever said this was mutually exclusive with the idea of women making authentic choices for themselves? (Other than, perhaps, Mayim Bialik.)
posted by kyrademon at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2012


My point, though, is that in my reading Bialik did not say that the second view was exclusive of the idea of women making authentic choices for themselves. I think she was guilty of setting up a straw man, claiming that third wave feminism did think that feminism was all and only about women making authentic personal choices, and then saying that she disagreed with this view. I didn't read her comments as being opposed to certain personal choices that individual women might make.
posted by eviemath at 12:31 PM on July 23, 2012


> Two people who are themselves TERRIBLY dressed

I got two minutes into it, saw the woman had chosen to wear shoes that she couldn't walk in and had to be helped out of the car, and realized they were not the consultants for me.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:36 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, it occured to me today that in some places (I'm in the UK if it makes a difference) being pale is seen as really weird. I don't tan naturally, and the thought of essentially covering myself in full-body makeup feels icky - and if I don't tan naturally, I have the feeling that it would look pretty weird too. I'm a white woman of Celtic heritage, and this is what I'm meant to look like, especially given the temperate climate here. But every summer, people start complaining about being pasty, or 'milk bottle legs', and cover themselves in bronzer and tanner and head for the sunbed. When I head back to my home town, I frequently see girls whose skin is Asian-toned, if not actually terracotta, from the neck up and white from the neck down, because this seems to be the fashion now.

It's not a Feminist Issue in the same way shaving is, but when did it start being the norm?
posted by mippy at 2:40 PM on July 23, 2012


jonmc: What if a woman just shaved one leg and the opposite armpit? It'd be a fashion statement. or something.

With two small boys who invariably use my precious shower time to create havoc, this has been me more times than I can tell you.
posted by Catch at 3:03 PM on July 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


eviemath writes "I've seen teenage boys who have tried to grow facial hair and kind of failed get teased a bit for not being able to grow much by way of facial hair, but the cases I've seen seemed to focus on their age more than lack of masculinity, I think."

It shifts to a critic of masculinity the older you get up until somewhere around 40.

jonmc writes "What if a woman just shaved one leg and the opposite armpit? It'd be a fashion statement. or something."

Then she'd be a Wunderlander.
posted by Mitheral at 7:01 PM on July 23, 2012


There is privilege attached to appearance decisions that favor traditions of femininity, and even when you make the choice that's "feminine" for reasons completely separate from the privilege, you still get the privilege along with your non-itchy armpits or congenitally short Achilles tendons that are more comfortable in heels or whatever. Even if you loathe the privilege and don't want it, you get it. (And, because patriarchy means double-edges to everything - people will suggest your shoe choice confers sexual consent, or your hairless legs are too Something or not enough Something Else and you have failed femininity by exposing them.)

So feminist women who choose the "feminine" appearance standard end up feeling defensive, because they have gained miniscule, useless privilege. They can "pass". But the flip side of "passing" is the loss of credibility. There's a privilege within the many communities of feminism, a privilege of unquestioned authenticity, and it's conferred on those who are Rebellious Enough against the "feminine" appearance standard. It's not surprising that everyone in these discussions sounds defensive, because again, the game is fixed - the existence of the standard is divisive enough, and just trying to figure out where we stand means we've accepted that our appearances, our bodies themselves, are subject to policing at the most arbitrary, minor level. Hair/no hair.

I am a feminist woman. I leave my body hair alone but I cover it up to try to escape the whole mess. I do not think this works either, and I am sometimes grateful that I am 42 so I am becoming invisible to the patriarchy, but I do not think that is really such a great prize, especially when I get brushed aside on the sidewalk or I can't get the fishmonger's attention.
posted by gingerest at 9:38 PM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am sometimes grateful that I am 42 so I am becoming invisible to the patriarchy, but I do not think that is really such a great prize, especially when I get brushed aside on the sidewalk or I can't get the fishmonger's attention.

I would gladly trade you that for the "privilege," in adolescence, of having middle aged male strangers drive by me and yell out what they would like to do to me sexually. Bonus for making me cry! For the "privilege" as a teen of hearing what a bitch, tease, user, and cunt I was for not wanting to have sex with various guys who I thought were my friends. For the "privilege," in college in NYC, of hearing XXX-rated comments on every part of my anatomy from male strangers, at all hours of the day and night, many starting with "Hey bitch." For the "privilege" at 21 of almost being forced into a car in the middle of the night by a stranger in the middle of Queens who was trying to convince me I should have sex for pay. Right then and there. For the privilege at 22 of a 50-something male boss who openly stared at my breasts.


If you honestly believe that having the sexual approval of heterosexual males in the US is some kind of fantastic privilege-laden wonderland for the average woman, think again. There is a very well known comment here on MetaFilter about beginning to dress "male" in response to relentless sexual harassment and attempted sexual assault from adolescence on. There are consequences in this society for presenting yourself in a feminine way. Very serious consequences for many women.

In a society where men are the ones with the power, the ones with the privilege are men. Men may treat people like you like shit. Guess what, men treat people like me like shit too. In different amounts to different individuals - and by the way, it's by no means a fact that any given "gender-nonconforming" woman will have been on the receiving end of more of it than a "gender-conforming" woman, or vice versa. But it's a mistake to say, that just because men treat some of us one way and others of us another way, that some among us are the privileged ones. No, it is still men. Let's not be pitted against each other and manipulated in that way.
posted by cairdeas at 10:38 PM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you honestly believe that having the sexual approval of heterosexual males in the US is some kind of fantastic privilege-laden wonderland for the average woman, think again.
Men may treat people like you like shit.

What I'm saying is that the beauty standard thing is a mess, because (as I noted waaaayyy above), the patriarchy fixes this game. There are no good choices. If there were good choices for women, it wouldn't be a patriarchy. Privilege is relative, not absolute, and it cuts across a lot of lines. A rich white straight woman has a lot of privilege, but she still lives under the patriarchy.

I would gladly trade you that for the "privilege," in adolescence, of having middle aged male strangers drive by me and yell out what they would like to do to me sexually.
Let me be clear: Spending half of one's life perceived as an object that is or is not compliant with a patriarchally determined standard of fuckability, and the second half absolutely invisible, a non-person, nullified, is not a "fantastic privilege-laden wonderland." It's the fate of women in a patriarchy and it sucks gonorrhea-laden donkey balls. I do not miss being an object, and I don't want to go back. It's certainly easier to be nothing, but it isn't better. I would be much happier if women were treated as humans, for their whole lives. Me and everyone else.

But if there's privilege trading, to hell with re-living being a young object. I choose that rich white guy who founded Facebook.
posted by gingerest at 11:34 PM on July 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


You know, it occured to me today that in some places (I'm in the UK if it makes a difference) being pale is seen as really weird. I don't tan naturally, and the thought of essentially covering myself in full-body makeup feels icky - and if I don't tan naturally, I have the feeling that it would look pretty weird too. I'm a white woman of Celtic heritage, and this is what I'm meant to look like, especially given the temperate climate here. But every summer, people start complaining about being pasty, or 'milk bottle legs', and cover themselves in bronzer and tanner and head for the sunbed. When I head back to my home town, I frequently see girls whose skin is Asian-toned, if not actually terracotta, from the neck up and white from the neck down, because this seems to be the fashion now.

It's not a Feminist Issue in the same way shaving is, but when did it start being the norm?


I don't think it's a feminist issue, as it's equally true for men as for women, but I don't get it either. Maybe it's like a weird fashion/class thing? Fashionable people take the time/money to make themselves look tanned, or have the time/money to travel to where they tan, therefore it's cool. The two American hosts of What not to Wear are both strongly tanned.

My own aesthetic preferences is for people to look as natural as possible (or as unnatural as possible - eg blue hair). I think pasty people look best when pasty and brown people look best when brown, and straight hair looks best uncurled and curly hair looks best when curly. To me, our natural states almost always look better than the result after we try to change our naturalness - in trying to change, it seems like some balance or health seems to be lost.

I recognize that this is just my aesthetic preference, of course - I state it with no more depth of significance than my musical taste or fiction taste. But I do like to state it so that other people know that there are people who think that what they look like naturally is beautiful and that if they like that too, they have my support in adopting it. (This makes me sound so arrogant - "you have my support" as if I'm some fashion deity - but it's actually the kind of support I'd like from others about not curling/blow-drying my own hair or tanning).

My dream day is when no person darkens or lightens their skin, or straightens or curls their hair simply because it is the fashion (especially if it's because they are under pressure to look more like the dominant race) - but only because they think it would be fun to do so. I think I'd like to go blue, myself, just for the fun of it, but not because I felt like people wouldn't respect me if I weren't blue.
posted by jb at 9:32 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I should note: maybe "pasty" isn't the PC term for pale people. But I'm decidedly pale myself and I embrace pasty-pride.
posted by jb at 9:34 AM on July 24, 2012


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