Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Thing About Hair

     This is something that has been weighing on my mind for quite some time now--what is up with our obsession with hair?  Specifically, the maintenance of body hair.  Our preoccupation with this topic is more than a little bit ridiculous.  As humans, we are blessed with a tremendous range of hair: curly, straight, dark, light, thick, long, and more!  And yet, we are taught to never be content with what we have (this is pretty consistent with other aspects of our bodies).  I believe media influence is largely responsible for this malcontent attitude.  It is true that the best way to sell a product is to create a desperate need for it, and unfortunately the best way to sell razors, bleach, wax, and more is to convince folks that the natural state of their body hair is wrong and undesirable.
     Messages like this are most often directed toward women.  Women are perpetually reminded to maintain their legs, underarms, face, arms, and pubic area as utterly hairless or perfectly sculpted.  This is problematic for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, it allows women to develop body image issues over how well their appearance conforms to social ideals.  Along these lines, it also encourages people to judge and demean each other based on appearances.

This metaphor always cracks me up. Better trim up down there or no one will visit!

     The intense amount of maintenance that is required for a woman to look merely "presentable" is outrageous.  When you think about what is natural, what is human and real, that image aligns much more with ideal standards for men (although in the last few years, men too face similar issues).  A woman's ideal is so far from the natural, and she must change so much about herself simply to achieve what is considered "normal," even though it couldn't be farther from this.  The amount of time a woman spends on her appearance could easily be spent on much more valuable things.  Take the example of a job interview: assuming a man and a woman both start to prepare for an interview three hours in advance, think about how that time is allocated.  The man spends ten to forty minutes on his appearance, leaving the rest of the time available to study and prepare for potential interview questions.  Because of the high expectations of a woman's appearance, she must put in about an hour or two on looks, leaving much less time to prepare for the interview.  The woman is left in a double bind situation--if she spends the same amount of time preparing for questions as the man, her appearance is less ideal, leaving the employer with the impression that she is sloppy or simply giving them a subconscious dislike for her (women are indeed judged on appearance more so than men in job interviews).  However, if she does put forth the time and effort on appearance, she has lost valuable time to prepare for questions in the interview and her performance will likely suffer from it.  This is a lose-lose situation for women .
     These situations and examples relate to all aspects of appearance for women, including dress, hairstyle, makeup, and more.  However, I believe that the issue of body hair is the one that causes the most trouble for women.  Those who do not maintain the ideal expectations of hairlessness are met with disgust, harsh words, and harassment because of their decision to accept their body naturally.  This is incredibly sad to me.  Everyone should be able to love their body as it is (or change it if they so choose!) without the scrutiny of others.  Frankly, my body is hair is nobody's business but mine!

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