[personal profile] imagines
I have been thinking about this for a time, and right now I have a pounding headache and I'm feeling pissed off at culture, so the time is right to condense my thoughts.

It is not my obligation to adhere to the prevailing cultural standards of female beauty so that other people will feel aesthetic pleasure upon looking at me.

Sure, I can do it if I want to. Sometimes I like to put on eyeliner--because I have some fucking stunning eyes and sometimes it's fun to make them stand out. But you'll never catch me in foundation or lipstick, because the feel of these things on my skin is repellent to me. Foundation feels like a mask, even in the lightest application; lipstick feels slimy, no matter the brand. I am most certainly not saying that other people shouldn't wear these products, but I will argue to the end that it is not my responsibility to "cover my flaws" or color my lips so that other people will be pleased by my appearance.

Sometimes I like to put on a skirt. Yeah, you read that right. I found the most kickass skirt a few weeks ago. I have no idea how to talk about skirts, or I'd describe it, but rest assured it's awesome. And it looks awesome ON me, because I wear it my way, which is with Converse and tights and shorts and a t-shirt. This skirt does not prevent me from engaging in any activity whatsoever, which is one of my zillion reasons for not wearing skirts in general. (My rule of thumb for clothing is as follows: Could I wear this while running, climbing, and turning somersaults? If not, is it easily removed so that I could do these things? If not, I just don't wear it. Period.) I wear this skirt, in short, because I like it. I wear it because it makes me happy.

But here are two things that I don't do and don't expect to ever do again: shave or wear bras. Again, I note, I am not saying and never will say "I do this and SO SHOULD YOU." I will say "I do this and here is why." And I will also critique cultural expectations that can lead one to believe they should do these things no matter what. For years I believed that I was doing these things for myself. I had buried my discomfort, and I had convinced myself that culture hadn't affected me, that I was doing it because I wanted to and for no other reason.

And then there was the day I finally stopped to think about shaving cuts. How much they hurt. How much they bled. How red and swollen and scabby and awful they looked. How they stung when they happened, and how they itched as they healed. How I always got them on the backs of my knees, no matter how careful I was.

I realised I didn't enjoy shaving. No, it wasn't any fun to drag a sharp blade over my delicate skin. To do it twice if necessary, because I couldn't stand the feeling of scratchy stubble. To bend into pretzels to get every inch of my legs, and then find stray hairs anyway, hours after I'd finished. To never, ever be able to stop, because the look and feel of stubble was worse than having hair in the first place.

So I just quit. I threw out my razors. I started wearing jeans or tights all the time, because yes--I firmly believe it is not my obligation to follow the standard, but I also don't have the courage yet to uncover my legs. I'm working on that. I think I will get there someday. I'm somewhere in between "giving a fuck" and "not giving a fuck." I guess I "sort of give a fuck," enough to stop me from baring my skin. But every summer, I do it just a little more. I find friends who won't care, and I wear shorts when I hang out with them. This is what works for me at the moment. The big thing is that I'm still not shaving.

Once, last year, I got freaked about my underarm hair and shaved it off. And then I felt like a plucked bird, and it itched like hell when it grew back, and that was enough to convince me that shaving is not, has never been, and never will be for me. Hair is fine on my head. Hair is fine on my arms. Who the fuck is society to tell me that it's not fine on my legs and under my arms? Did you know that women in modern history did not shave until a fucking advertiser realised they could get more money if men AND women shaved? This isn't even culturally-constructed; it was nothing more than a campaign to convince women to spend more money. In no time at all, in the space of a couple of years, advertising had successfully convinced women that body hair was unfeminine. If you ever need an example of the incredible power that advertising has on culture, there you go.

(I think, once I've got some disposable income again, that I'm going to buy some of that pubic hair dye and try it out on my underarm hair. If ever there was a way to tell the world that I didn't forget to shave, it's there on purpose, it's dying it purple.)

So, yeah. I hate shaving. I won't do it. For me, it is a total waste of money and of resources: cans of shaving cream! ever more high-tech razors! not to mention band-aids! It is also a waste of my time, and the single benefit it offers me? The cultural freedom to bare my legs. And this is why I want to take back my freedom to bare my legs, because culture's got me so damn scared I won't wear shorts if I don't have tights on underneath. Who the fuck is culture, to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body? I cannot tell you how angry this makes me.

Now, as for bras--I'm talking about regular bras here; I'll get to sports bras in a minute. I find this a little less black-and-white, because I believe the people who tell me that bras make them more comfortable. Therefore, I ask you to believe me when I tell you that they make me uncomfortable. First of all, they waste my money. All that cash for a contraption that...HOLDS UP MY BREASTS? Okay, why? Why do I want to do that? Who decided that the proper location for a set of breasts is several inches higher than where they'd be normally? Cultural standard ahoy: "sagging" breasts are ugly. So I have to ask, ugly to whom? Not to me. I don't give a shit. It isn't my obligation to strap up part of my anatomy so that other people will be happy with how I look. I mean, what the fuck?

Second of all, bras are not necessary for me. I experience no pain from not wearing a bra, whereas I used to experience a hell of a lot when I wore one. Sorry, culture, but I have no interest in strapping my breasts to my shoulders and ribcage. That hurts. I have ligaments for holding up my breasts, and so far they're doing just fine.

Okay, sports bras! I'd love to have one of these, actually, but only because it would be slightly more comfortable than wearing a binder. I cannot, however, seem to find one that does not insist on being uplifting. I want compression, not enhancement, but because I'm probably a C cup at least, sports bras seem to think I don't exist. Or that my ribcage is bigger than it is, or smaller than it is. For the time being, I don't actually care that much. I run, dance, and skate braless; it has yet to cause me any problems. (Once in awhile, if I'm planning to be very active, I'll just wear a binder. And I will do this until I find the Sports Bra What Doesn't Seem to Exist.) I suspect it makes other people uncomfortable (there's those other people again), because ohmygod, BREASTS MOVE JUST LIKE ANY OTHER FATTY TISSUE!! Shock! Horror!

Whatever. Those people are really not my problem. If someone is so distracted by breasts that move that they can't concentrate on whatever the hell they're supposed to be doing instead, that's actually very fucking creepy. I'm not brafree for their enjoyment, and I'm not brafree to be shocking; I'm brafree because I fucking hate wearing bras. By the by, it's also not my problem that the fat on my thighs, calves, and arms moves when I move. My body stores fat, because it is supposed to; said fat will move if I do. Transfer of kinetic energy in the HOUSE.

In short: my body doesn't need to be supported, constrained, covered, repaired, smoothed, enhanced, or otherwise modified so that other people can enjoy looking at me.

Later, I will likely have more to say on this topic. I've just hit the chapter on second-wave feminism in one of my textbooks for Women in History, and oh, am I ever having a good time. Not one single history book I have ever read has even mentioned second-wave feminism--not even with a passing reference. And yet this era has to be one of the most influential in terms of how women think about themselves. It is my philosophical inheritance, and I am proud to learn about it so that I can own it.

In a fit of something or other, I'm going to unlock this for now. Do what you will.

Date: 2010-04-22 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] imagines.livejournal.com
Oh, I was somewhat aware of this already--but sadly, mostly because I'm used to just about everyone being virulently transphobic. :|

Date: 2010-04-23 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] havocmangawip.livejournal.com
Transphobic people suck.

I thought we were in the Third Wave of feminism since the "first wave" was the Suffragettes and the Second wave was in the 60s and 70s and the "Ms. Magazine/Feminist Majority" people.

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