Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm hairy...deal with it.

The saying always went "if she is hairier than you, she is Persian." And listen, it was true. But sadly, our society does not accept hairy women, and unfortunately for a young Yazzyjazzy, they also do not accept hairy children.

I can remember a time in the fourth grade when all my non-Persian girlfriends were comparing their arm hair. Stacy began, "you guys, my arms are sooo hairy!" and all of our friends would shake their heads and tell her it was not true. "No way Stacy, look at MY arm hair," Tiffany would say. And everyone would be appalled with that statement. "You and Stacy have NOTHING, just look at my arms! I'm like a gorilla," Suzanne would say while the girls kindly denied that it was even a possibility.

I always had suspicions that I was a hairy little girl, but thought to myself that this is the perfect opportunity to find out the truth. I even thought these girls would deny my hairy-ness even if I was hairy, and then at least I would have a false hope that I was like everyone else.

So I went into the middle of the group, and said "you guys, look...I am so hairy!" However, instead of the support I was hoping for, Suzanne said "ooh...yah, you should do something about that."

There began the obsession with waxing, tweezing, nairing, epilatying, shaving, threading...you name it, I did it. It also began the discussion with other Persian girls my age about how we were alike, and how we suffered the same teasing because we were different from the kids at school. This is reminiscent of a feminist legal theory known as essentialism. Essentialism theorizes that people of the same gender and/or with the same racial features have a common bond. And that was exactly the case here. In this group, I did not get teased and I was understood, not only for my outside appearance, but also for my cultural differences. I could be considered "cool" for my personality and interests, instead of "uncool" because I was different on the outside.


I’d like to say that today, we Persian women embrace our hairiness, but that would be a lie. On the inside, I am well aware that it is illogical that women have to shave or wax certain parts of their bodies to be considered attractive, and definitely that becoming hairless was a man’s idea. But until you have had gorilla arms and have gone through fourth grade teasing, do not judge.


By the way, I was recently told that being Persian "is so cool now" because of the show "Keeping up with the Kardashians," which is a reality show that follows a rich and beautiful, half-Armenian family. This was pretty exciting for me, and my fellow Persies. They talk about how they are pretty hairy too, and they make it seem fun to go laser it all off, so I just wish they were around when I was a kid.



13 comments:

Bijorn Turock said...

I hear you Yazzy, I am a Persian man and I am hairy. I can tell you from the male perspective, being hairy is kind of scary. I would have never thought that a little hair in the center of my chest would ever grow to be the full-blown Persian rug it has become today. As my chest hair grew, the more insecure I got about displaying it to the world. Part of this insecurity probably developed from my freshmen year in college, where my hairless Asian roommate said, “Bro are you sure you want to go the beach in that sweater.” That “sweater” was my chest hair. It took me awhile to overcome this insecurity, but after meeting more Persians that share my werewolf like symptoms, I feel more comfortable in my skin and display my rug proudly through the “V” in my v-neck t-shirts.

Yazzyjazzy said...

Hairy Persians Unite!

N.P. said...

I understand this feeling as well. It is interesting that beauty is associated with being hairless, and as an Indian child I had similar problems. When I was young, I remember getting teased for having hairy legs, and running home one day to go shave them in secret so that I wouldn't get made fun of the next day.

What is amazing to me, however, is that despite the fact that I was tormented for being so hairy is the fact that it seems completely normal for me to shave religiously to ensure that I am essentially "hairless." Perhaps this has become such a normalizing effect of what being a woman is in our society, that I cannot even disassociate this anymore.

Alcestis said...

Yazzyjazzy... I'm with you. Things from childhood really do have lasting effects. As an Asian, I guess I'm suppose to be hairless or I'm suppose to have the finest hair that it's unnecessary to shave, but unfortunately I'm not hairless and I don't have fine fine hair. I didn't think this was a problem, until my first boyfriend (oh puppy love). He was Asian and had very fine hair, if any at all. I remember he was holding my hand when he looked down at my arm and said, "Why don't you shave your arms? I'm the guy and you have hairy arms then me." I was mortified. That relationship didn't last much longer. But I have to admit since that day I have felt it necessary to shave or wax my arms almost every week. I know it ridiculous, but I can't help but feel uncomfortable thinking I'm hairier than my boyfriend.

Alcestis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chez Marta said...

I think we have to prod beyond our own experiences regarding hair removal. The origin of this hairlessness ideal is probably the infanticization of women. We should have no body hair, we are supposed to look almost child like, especially in mini skirts or short-shorts. We are supposed to have skinny waist showing that we didn't yet have children (even if we already did) and yet, ample breasts, showing that we have the potential of nurturing them once they are born. To understand the logic behind these seemingly contradictory demands, I strongly suggest a couple of books: Madame Bovary's Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature, by David and Nanelle Barash; and the Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond. Both of them are doing a pretty good job explaining that these ideals are hardwired, due to how we evolved and how our early societies worked.

Betty said...

First of all, I love this entry, Yazzjazzy. :)

Over the summer I was looking up reviews for different waxing places for weekend in Tahoe, and I distinctly remember one girl commenting on a site, and she mused: why did God give females hair on places their bodies other than their head if we try so hard after hitting a certain age to more or less shave it all off or at least maintain it? This really struck a chord with me - it's true. While I am Asian, I still have a fair amount of hair on my body and shaving is a pesky but almost daily to weekly chore I have to deal with, especially when the weather is warm.

In that regard, I echo what N.P. comments in that it's interesting to me that if females stay more or less natural, it's a little "off" socially, but if we work hard to literally shave off, pluck, tweak, or wax off a natural extension of our physical body, it's construed as totally normal and more than acceptable. In fact, it seems that the more upkeep females have, the more desirable they become. Ask most males and I'm sure they'd prefer a girl to wax or pluck more than necessary rather than not at all.

I wonder if this comes with the complex of women being more attractive the younger they become or appear. Many men find it attractive when females are helpless or need them to do "manly" things such as lifting and opening a jar of spaghetti for them for them. Then, there's that whole disgusting fetish of a submissive or subservient girl, being almost childlike, being SO appealing to so many men, which in turn lends of course to the notion that men have the power over the women.

gtg263r said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gtg263r said...

There are certain stereotypes of physiology associated with different races across genders, as the original post and subsequent comments illustrate.

Regarding the hair discussion in terms of race and gender, I will offer my opinion coming from the opposite spectrum. Asians (both men and women) have a reputation for not having much body hair. As an asian male, I do fit this mold. I do not have much arm hair, any chest hair, and I can barely grow any facial hair. Though I have never personally received any flack over my minimal body hair, it has caused me some amount of insecurity, much like many of the commenters here - but for opposite reasons.

Unlike women, body hair (e.g., chest hair, facial hair) is desirable for men, yet there is no procedure comparable to a woman's ability to shave that will accomplish opposite results and grow me a beard.

Dusty said...

I just wanted to comment that I have noticed lately that within my queer culture (and seeping out to the mainstream too) there has been a fashionable reclaiming of lip hair, or the mustache, for all genders. Right now, mustaches are considered hot on queer ladies, femmes, on men, on genderqueer, and so on. People wear fake ones if they can't grow their own. Queers are always pushing the boundaries of acceptable gender norms but I thought it was another interesting example body positive attitudes about lip hair.

Rebecca said...

I find it mildly funny and interesting that the concerns regarding hair shift with age. None of my contemporaries talk about how hairy they are.

As you get older, your concerns change regarding hair. Women, tend to become concerned with hair that is growing in the wrong places, like nose, ears and chin. Men will become more concerned with hair loss on their heads.

There does seem to be a great interest and peer pressure amongst young people today, so I thought I would try to see if there was any academic attention placed on hairiness. I found an interesting article on the subject of body hair as it relates to different cultures.
Here is the link:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1542-734X.1987.1001_7.x/abstract

2elle said...

I understand where you are coming from, I think most people have issues with not fitting with a particular standard set by society, especially at a young age.

My "hair problem" was always that it was always way too curly/frizzy/80's volume-tastic at a time where the flat-ironed-to-death look was "in". I still remember one guy telling my how I would "look sooo much better with straight hair"... as if curly hair was a terrible affliction. Or I've been told that I look like I have a lion's mane. Another problem is that after I blow dry it, my hair looks like the crazy beehive style found in Vogue editorial shoots...meant as interesting "art" not something to wear to class.

I'd like to say that I've completely accepted who I am and what I look like, but unfortunately that's not true. I have made progress, though! I think now I have grown to like having curly hair, I just can't get over the "volume" part of it so I give up on being all natural and style it.

...if only 80's hair would come back in style, I'd be all set :)

Bijorn Turock said...

Recently, I was out with a few of my friends (I want to take this time to make sure it is clear that I do not in any way represent my friends) and we came across a group of girls at a local bar. After a few conversations had sparked in the group and we got to know the girl a bit better, one of my friends, Eric, decided to go to the bar and by a round for everyone. The rest of my friends and I decided to walk to the bar to help Eric bring the drinks back. While we were waiting for the drinks we began talking about some of the girls we had just met when I heard another friend of mine, who will remain unnamed mutter the fallowing words, “Did u see the stash on that girl?.” I was shocked. Let me explain why. First, stash is short for mustache and secondly, I have almost finished a full semester of Feminist Legal Theory so I can’t just pretend that what he just said didn’t happen. I told him he was being too judgmental and the he should first assess his own grooming issues. He then laughed and said, “Dude you’re saying you’d hook up with a girl with a mustache?” I wasn’t really sure how to respond, so I just dropped the conversation. Was I wrong? I don’t know, but this time I at least tried to say something, maybe that’s a step in the right direction.