Monday, August 24, 2009

Masochism, Feminism and Eyebrows

I had my eyebrows "done" today, for the first time ever. I've been under some pressure to do this for quite awhile (approximately a decade), and a friend of mine finally convinced me to do it. She found a place that does it with threads or something and today just called me up and took me over, which meant I didn't have long enough to come up with an excuse. I had a minor panic attack about an hour before, but Running With Dogs talked me down. It was fine- the pain wasn't so bad, it was over quickly, and it wasn't that expensive. In fact, you can hardly even tell it happened. Which is good, maybe I'll forget.

On the other hand, I was sitting there, in the mall, one of my least favorite places, thinking what the hell am I doing here? Why am I doing this? This hurts, why do I- why do we- do this? I paid the nice lady for pulling the hair out of my head and then walked off. She said I'd need to redo it in 2 or 3 weeks. So I figure in 2 or 3 weeks I'll either come to my senses or I'll be back at the mall, paying the nice lady again to have hair pulled out of my head in a painful way. What?

I grew up struggling to "wear" my feminism on my body. My mom was a feminist, my schooling was progressive, and I was an avid reader heavily influenced by books like "The Beauty Myth," "Backlash," and "The Feminine Mystique." I didn't burn any bras, but I decided I didn't need to be "girly" to be me. I didn't shave, I wasn't into fashion, and everyone who knows me knows that I don't "do" hair. This was all a conscious, political decision in my early and mid-teens, ala "the personal is political." Now it's just a habit. I'm busy, I have an emotionally taxing job, and it's a force of habit not to do anything with my hair, my appearance, my clothes or anything else. I still believe all those things that made me not buy makeup or buy into the myths, but I don't feel the passionate need to express my beliefs on my sleeve (literally) any more. The drive of youth has passed.

Most of the time, I don't care that I don't buy-in- my life is more simple than that of most women, and even that of my low-key friends. I waste no time with hair driers or hair products. I don't have a makeup routine in the morning or in the evening (I hear that stuff has to come off at night, too.) My clothes all look the same, so they all match- I don't have to pick outfits. I don't look in the mirror, so I don't stress about how I look. But today, I bought in. And I found myself remembering where it all began- that passion the first time I read "The Beauty Myth," the stridency of not shaving for a reason other than sloth, the time when I didn't hide my feminism (now there's a sorry statement.) I found this Germaine Greer quote that says it beautifully:
What is pathological behaviour in a man is required of a woman. A bald man who wears a wig is a ridiculous figure; a bald woman who refuses to wear a wig is being stroppy and confrontational. Women with ‘too much’ (i.e. any) body hair are expected to struggle daily with depilatories of all kinds in order to appear hairless. Bleaching moustaches, waxing legs and plucking eyebrows absorb hundreds of womanhours. A woman who disported herself in a bikini out of which a bush of pubic hair sprouted would be regarded as a walking obscenity.

And sitting in that chair, paying a lady a pittance to "clean up" my body, felt wrong. I felt like I was using her to change me into someone else, someone more serviceable. I didn't feel comfortable with this relationship: here I was, in the most consumer-oriented place around, a fake, new mall built in the last 5 years out of nothing, paying a heavily accented brown lady to pull hair out of my white face. For what? To make me more "attractive" to who? I won't fall under the pressure to do this again.


thb said...

No before and after pictures!!???

KHB said...

I hope I get to see you tomorrow to see the results - I can report to thb if necessary. Also, way back, at some point in time, possibly in your singing career, you did indeed own some old clinique makeup, because I used to use it when you weren't around :)

JenG said...

i can hear you cringing before i even type the thought sitting in my brain upon reading this but it's coming out anyway: Macinator: it would be really, really fun to subject you to hair and make-up one day just to see what it looks like. There. I said it. And even a step further: you have absolutely no way of knowing whether or not you would actually like how it looked. Because you might. Scary, I know.