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Feminism and the art of being a woman

These days, being something of an old crone in the scheme of modern feminism since I was supposedly in my prime – burning my bra and breaking down the barriers between the sexes – during the late Sixties and early Seventies, I’m acutely conscious of the wide spectrum of opinion and the many issues providing lively debates among the 21st Century sisterhood.

It’s also why I’m wary of coming out of my closet with any unguarded observation about the way things are going lest I might appear to be a representative of a nostalgic strain of old-fashioned ‘back in the day’ regressive apologists for the male gender whom – whilst happy to be sexually liberated – actually remained in still slave-like thrall to men and their antediluvian ways when it comes to relations with women.

And yet.

Step forward, 21 year old Laura Jackson of Warwickshire who has apparently begun a worldwide movement from her back bedroom encouraging ladies everywhere to ‘reclaim’ their body hair.

After all, for several years now men have had “Movember” – encouraging men everywhere to grow moustaches or beards in order to promote men’s charities such as those dealing with prostate issues or testicular cancer.

Why cannot we have “Januhairy”, doing roughly similar for good causes and/or to demonstrate that there is (or ought to be) no shame in women ‘going natural’, whether that be once a year for a month – or indeed permanently?

See here for a report by Amber Ashcroft and Harriet Johnson on the subject, as appears today upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL

See also here for a slightly different take on the subject by Chitra Ramaswamy that appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

Now. It seems to me that this particular issue, much as it raises the prospect of healthy debate and exchanges of views, is yet another of those causes célèbre that is equally capable of prompting confusion and discord, if not also hypocrisy.

To put it directly for the benefit of my fellow Rusters, whilst I would defend to the death the right of my fellow feminist sisters to ‘let it all hang … [or should that be ‘grow’] … out’ in terms of hair growth if they so will, temporarily or otherwise, I’m afraid that you will never find never going down the same route, even in a month of Sundays.

To put it another way, and I don’t mind how disloyal to any notion of feminism it sounds, there’s no way I’m ‘passing’ on the opportunity to pluck every grey hair on my head I come across, eradicate every errant hair follicle sprouting from my chin, cheek, upper lip, underarm, back, backside or bikini-line [that is, if I ever still wore a bikini these days which, for quite unconnected, but admittedly ‘body image’ issues, I never do]; nor indeed on any to shave my legs as I deem appropriate both above and below the knees whenever I can.

To me, this is not a feminist issue – or rather, a failure on my part to appreciate or tune in to what is the right of every women to ‘respect, love or accept’ themselves exactly as they are – whether that be a size zero, or a 10, 12, 14 or even 22, or even with imperfections, glitches, disabilities and ‘not normal’ characteristics.

Let’s get a few things straight.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with any instinctive female desire to render themselves attractive to the male sex, or – these days – to any other human being, now that lesbianism, bisexuality or even pansexuality (whatever that is) and transgenderism are not only to be tolerated but, it seems, actively encouraged to the point of being practically compulsory.

Rather, it is steeped in the eternal (and I would argue perfectly natural) interest – if not ongoing quest – of every woman to ‘make the best of themselves’ when appearing in public.

And granted, this may call upon certain notions of ideal feminine beauty which may be controversial to some, but I would simply put this down to a fact of life, not an imposition.

Is it really so outrageous for someone like me to have my nails done, go for a hair appointment, or maybe spend am occasional half-day in a health spa for a bit of pampering … every so often?

I’m making the case here – and I know many friends who’d agree with me – that I’m not spending all this time and attention (let alone considerable expenditure upon anti-ageing creams etc.) in order to beautify myself for eventual and inevitable submissive victimhood upon the altar of male chauvinism.

I’m simply doing it for me.

Whether it’s a female thing or not, every girl – whatever her age or stage of life – wants to look her best when she wants to.

Or is it ‘wants to be able to look her best whenever it really matters to her’?

Which, for some, may be just now and again … and for others, all of the time!

All I’m saying – from my position of wisdom, if that is indeed what it is – to all those young girls who become addicted to social media and to the vloggers etc. who collectively condescend towards millions of their followers by ‘selling’ their own perfection and (by implication) sneering at others who cannot meet their standards … is “Do it for yourself”.

If growing hairy armpits and shins – and learning to love what you have hitherto regarded as ‘unwanted hair to be removed’ – makes you feel empowered – then go ahead.

But don’t for a moment think that it is automatically going to make you feel better about yourself.

Dealing with hair growth is a regular and unremarkable feature of a woman’s daily cleansing and ‘getting ready’ routine.

It needn’t ever be more than that, e.g. some kind of evil citadel to be stormed and taken apart brick by brick.

About Jane Shillingford

Jane spent the bulk of her career working on women’s magazines. Now retired and living on the south coast, she has no regrets and 'would do it all again'. More Posts