Filed under: Français
Sara m’apporte un bol fumant je lève les yeux. Gratitude distraite merci maman je lui lance mes yeux sont si lourds que je ne suis pas capable de dormir le bol oeufs omelette je me demande pourquoi je suis obnubilée par la fumée l’eau qui se transforme en vapeur évapore du bol. Épuisée est un drôle de mot on dit un livre est épuisé on dit un livre est fatigué mais c’est autre chose. Je suis trop fatiguée pour écrire. Mais. Je. Veux.
La même chanson joue depuis une demi-heure le divan est devenu mon île le divan la lampe dans un coin les fils qui émergent de mon ordinateur vont se brancher de l’autre côté de la pièce comme des solutés sur un patient à l’hôpital. Mes tempes se referment sur elles-mêmes mon corps lentement s’engourdit.
Le lendemain, les métaphores mille fois entendues la ville se couvre d’un manteau de neige et tapis blanc, abruptement, prennent tout leur sens. Photos idyllique dans tous les angles la neige la tempête adoucit les couleurs se pose blanche la ville est comme si quelqu’un avait décidé d’effacer une bavure d’encre avec du liquide correcteur. La neige est lourde je me réfugie chez moi les rideaux ouverts je regarde les arbres courber sous le poids parfaite pour faire des boules de neige parfaite pour rentrer chez soi dégoulinant le sourire en melon d’eau.
Filed under: English
I remember reading this article many many years ago (2008 it was) and since then I may have quoted it so many times that, had it been alive, its ears would have made noises like when you think you hear your name and again and again.
I want to read it another time. Maybe you want too?
(I found it on internet archive so I’m reposting it if you’re the author slap me on the hand)
Judy Jarvis – April 25th, 2007
Women’s hair has long been a loaded concept. For the Victorians in particular, “it became an obsession. In painting and literature, as well as in their popular culture, they discovered in the image of women’s hair a variety of rich and complex meanings, ascribing to it powers both magical and symbolic,” explains historian Elizabeth Gitter. 1 Contemporary shampoo and conditioner ads feature women swinging their voluminous locks in the camera frame, the ads’ narratives congratulating the brand on its thickening and smoothing qualities. The hair featured is luxurious and never short. We are meant to gather that hair is a coveted good, to still accept the Victorian standard—but only if it exists on the head.
Hair on women’s armpits and legs, which has the same density as scalp hair, is not admired for its thickness or smoothness, nor its luxurious softness, despite growing from the same genes. Hair is lovely and “magical,” but with the strict stipulation that it is only so on female’s heads. But who’s stipulation is this? Historians respond, “the norm itself was initially fostered by depilatory marketers, who saw that money was to be made from convincing women that body hair was a flaw.”2 Through pervasive advertising and framing body hair removal as a necessity rather than a choice, razor companies have successfully make a physiologically arbitrary action a socially necessary habit: Approximately 85 percent to 90 percent of women have unwanted body hair.”3
One could easily argue that all beauty standards are, at their root, arbitrary. “’Beauty’ is a currency system like the gold standard,” writes Naomi Wolf in the The Beauty Myth. As evidenced from consumer culture, ‘beauty’ need not have an explicit reason to be classified as so. The reason shaving is significantly different from other American beauty standards, however, is that rather than requiring an additive action like applying make-up to one’s face, this beauty standard requires removing something natural from one’s body. It is thus one of the most problematic beauty aesthetics, in part because its derivatives are so overlooked. Christine Hope argues that hair removal is a subtle push to return women to a child-like body, “to consider women as less than adults.” This desire is “reflected in and reinforced by the custom of female hair removal and the advertising which accompanied its introduction.”4
American female body hair shaving was triggered by a “sustained marketing assault” that began first against armpit hair in 1915, when sleeveless dresses came into fashion 5. An ad in the May 1915 issue of the upper-class women’s magazine Harper’s Bazaar features a woman with her sleeveless arms flung into the air, exhibiting her hairless armpits. The ad reads: “Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.”6 Seventy-two percent of the hair remover ads in Harper’s Bazaar from 1915 to 1919 specifically mention underarm hair 7, most mentioning only underarm hair. In 1918, ads began mentioning “limbs,” though legs were not mentioned by name until 1923.
Sears Roebuck stores began selling sheer-sleeved dresses in 1922 and not-so coincidentally, the first women’s razors showed up for sale in their fall 1922 catalogue8. Ads from the mid-20s typically put equal emphasis on underarm and leg hair removal. The World War II-era shortening of skirts further helped advertisers’ thrust for leg hair removal, and “[b]y the middle of the century, attention had been drawn to lower parts of the anatomy and a tanned, shapely, hairless leg was a thing of beauty,” Hope observes in her inventory of Harper’s and McCall’s magazines’ hair-removal ads . Body hair removal had become a norm, as well as a public discourse, as evidenced by the headline of one of the McCall’s ads in the early 1940s: “Let’s Look at Your Legs—Everyone Else Does.”10 Due to these marketing coups, female body hair removal has become a contemporary, largely unquestioned staple of fashion.
This hairless version of reality is so pervasive that it goes against evolutionary meaning, but we pay little attention to it because social norms of beauty are dependent on it, social norms derived directly from fiscal gain. Corporate gain is a direct result of classifying body hair as shameful. No matter how brightly colored the ads or how cheerily the model smile while holding a razor to their tanned leg, ads for razors at their most basic telling women there is something wrong with one of their natural functions: hair growth. “Advertising aimed at women works by lowering our self-esteem,” writes Wolf.11 The bottom line of razor marketing is selling women a product by which they may change themselves.
Like deodorant, razor marketing “arouses the psychological fear of unpopularity and exorcises it by showing how you may avoid embarrassment,” wrote early advertising experts Doris E. Fleischman and Howard Walden Cutler. And just as deodorant is marketed as a hygienic necessity, female leg and armpit hair is symbolically unhygienic. Were the argument of shaving for cleanliness and personal hygiene truly valid, it would follow that both genders would engage in obligatory hair removal, as did the ancient Egyptians. In the last few years, there has been a rise of a hairless male aesthetic, like Versace models with clean-shaven faces and chests; but, with such high percentages of women shaving, it is clear that the hairless beauty standard applies to women of all classes, whereas male body hairlessness seems to be predominantly at a haute couture level.
Advertising campaigns like the recent Schick Quattro assault, subtly but deftly assert the razor’s right over the woman’s body. The most expansive and inventive section of the company’s website is titled, “Quattro® Lingo.” The Lingo contains 24 made-up definitions of shaving-related terms, some of the more benign ones including, “Bathtub Tinsel, noun. The ring of itty-bitty hairs and soap film left in the tub after a serious shave.” Others are more loaded, like “Chastity Pelt, noun. What you have on your legs when you intentionally go without shaving before a date as a way of making yourself behave” and “Girlilla Warfare, noun. Temporarily suspending shaving as a way of punishing your mate for something. Could backfire if you end up uncovering a newfound fetish.” The humor in both is dependent on the reader’s assumption that body hair on a woman is disgusting and would thus be a ‘punishment’ for your mate if you didn’t shave, or an incentive not to engage in sexual activity. Not shaving your body hair is self-punishing in regards to your sex life, these two in plainly imply. (Unless, of course your man has a hair “fetish,” the second term concedes; for liking body hair on a woman could only be a deviant “fetish.”)
The marketing campaign underscores femininity as the most basic reason to shave, asserting that a woman is anachronistic and bestial if she does not shave. The cave-woman illustration and caption evidences this bluntly: “Tame the Cave Lady, verb. To shave out-of-the-way places such as the toes—where women aren’t shown by movies or magazines to have hair, yet almost all do.”
Others more subtly hit home that shaving is a hygienic necessity. “Jaybird, noun. A carefully executed, super-thorough shave to set your mind at ease before a checkup, massage or other appointment that calls for shedding your clothes in front of a total stranger.” Since hair removal is in no way hygienic (in fact, if blades are shared or not cleaned and changed appropriately, shaving itself could actually be unhygienic) the ads can only imply that uncleanliness results from not shaving.
The “voice of the herd”12 may indeed compel women to shave, but the hairless herd originated and is perpetuated by marketing interests, interests that American women have internalized as “beauty” and justify as a personal choice. “I shave because I like it” is a frequent assertion, but a historically inaccurate statement. Women shave because Harper’s Bazaar arbitrarily told them to in 1915. But razor companies are doing everything possible to make sure you forget it, because the simple origins of female body hair removal are enough to make us question this destructive, expensive, and unnecessary cultural habit.
1. Elisabeth G. Gitter, “The Power of Women’s Hair in the Victorian Imagination,” PMLA 99.5 (1984): 936.
2. Merran Toerien, Sue Wilkinson, and Precilla Y.L Choi, “Body Hair Removal: The ‘Mundane’ Production of Normative Femininity,” Sex Roles 52. 5/6 (2005): 404.
3.Marika Tiggerman and Sarah J. Kenyon, “The hairlessness norm: The removal of body hair in women” Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 39.11-12 (1998): 873.
4. Christine Hope, “Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture” Journal of American Culture, 5.1 (1982): 98.
5. Ibid 93.
6. Ibid 94.
8. Ibid 95.
9. Hope 96.
10. Ibid 97.
11. Wolf 276.
12. Ewen 137.