Monday, December 10, 2007

Body fascism

Last night I came across a programme called "My Body Hell". The subject was female hair removal and I was thoroughly wound up within about five minutes. As a caveat, warning, rejoinder, to this blog-post, in fairness I should say I only watched part of it, so there may have been good and thoughtful journalism in the bits I didn't see. There's always hope.

With a title like "body hell", I would have thought the subject matter would be something serious, something medical (in which case I would have switched off sooner, given my queasy nature), something I would call a real problem. Hair removal can be uncomfortable and tedious and all that, but it's not hell. I struggled with the programme's apparent acceptance of our fashion for hair removal without questioning of it in the vox pops and so on. There was, however, sneering at the continentals who don't consider it part of normal grooming and sniggering at Julia Roberts, most famous of hairy armpitted females.

A fellow who had gone out with a Swedish woman looked surprised with himself that it hadn't mattered to him that she didn't shave her armpits. Well, durrrrr. Could've crowned him with a shovel.

I think what really riled me about the programme is that it seemed to take itself so seriously, when the subject matter is utterly utterly frivolous. Not but what it does raise questions about why we see body hair as unfeminine, when clearly other Europeans do not. Body hair, menses and boobs are all indicators of accession to womanhood, to put it rather floridly, so why is the former seen as undesirable once attained? I just take issue with the premise that normal body hair represents in any way shape or form "body hell". Gerrova it.

I was horrified by the young woman who said that her relationship and life generally was blighted by in-growing hairs; she would only wear skirts when she had made-up her legs and she was delighted into tears by the news that electrolysis would probably solve her problem. No-one should let a few blemishes on their legs affect their life like that. No potential mate with half a brain would care that you have a few spotty bits ... and you will find a zillion tiny (and large) imperfections if you spend all your time examining yourself.

I suppose the programme makers would necessarily want someone to show, (or would prime her and edit in order to show), what horror in-growing hair can be, not someone who would shrug it off. No story if it's no big deal. There's always hope.

If you think I'm unsympathetic, you'd be right. It seems extremely self-indulgent to me to put so much emphasis on one aspect of one's appearance.

It's not that I don't understand being self-conscious, because I do, but there's no way I can sympathise with those priorities. To begin with, I was very self-conscious of the scar on my forehead, but I came to terms with it. At the time when it was really getting me down, M got me to shave my head. Extreme, but it stopped me hiding, and the hiding and thinking about hiding it was what used up the energy and fuelled the anxiety. You have to put the brakes on somewhere: accept yourself and enjoy your body & life. I am what I am, as that great philosopher #cough# Popeye said.

We can't carry air-brushes with us and get the right lighting and a bit of tweaking from Photoshop as we walk down the street. And fortunately it's unnecessary as well as impossible. People don't have to be perfect.

Maybe the programme was just a wind-up. There's always hope.

And this was post 600 on my bloggy ogg. Taa daaa!


Primitive Person said...

Extremely well said, that woman. I fully agree - a few minor blemishes here and there is par for the course. All this sort of thing does is fuel anxiety, eating disorders and social phobias. There's an evil, nasty attitude out there that judges people on the flimsiest of grounds.

It annoys me that images of so-called perfection make people into quivering wrecks over tiny (and completely normal) things.

Sorry for my lack of comments of late. I hereby promise to write more in future...

Mephitis said...

It's ridiculous sometimes. I know it's all very real to the person and they're entitled to their feelings etc etc, but when it's something minor I just can't dredge up the sympathy: "You are being neurotic!" I want to say.

It's just self-absorption and horrible clich├ęs like "count your blessings" and "other people have it a lot worse" are all I can think. There's a girl I know with a large facial strawberry, and the way she deals with it makes me very impatient with people who seem to wallow in their "flaws".

Thanks for commenting.