Women’s facial hair unquestionably falls under that category. I run around hiding my Nair behind the cough medicine if I know anyone will be using my bathroom, and I have a tendency to take out the tweezers to do some necessary plucking at stoplights.
Let’s face it, it’s freaking embarrassing for a lot of women to have facial hair. I 100% fall into this category, and I don’t think I know of any women that haven’t had to address the occasional chin sprouts from time to time (maybe I just have hairy friends).
But embrace it?
We all have an achilles heel, and mine is facial hair. I hate it, both on myself and other women. I have a particular terror of fuzz appearing on my face, and always carry one lone item of beauty equipment: tweezers. Luckily, I am not particularly afflicted, although in recent years I have noticed one long black hair that sprouts from my left cheek, another under my chin, and a few barely noticeable ones above my lip. The second they appear they are instantly torn asunder.
Yeah, seriously, it’s like a never-ending battle. And I’m glad that Bindel mentioned hating facial hair on other women as well, since I thought maybe I was just a horrible person. I sat at a meeting not too long ago next to a woman with a hair on her face that had to be an inch and a half long. I wanted to pull it out. I wanted to tell her to pull it out. Instead, I did nothing, but it’s a crying shame that, whenever I see this very nice lady, my first thought will always be, “Big black hair!” [Ed. Note: Kind of like that scene between Austin Powers and Fred Savage's character in the Austin Powers Goldmember movie -- "Mole!"]
But some women are cool with sprouting the stuff, and some are even trying to make beards the new little black dress.
Over the past two months, a feminist activist in Bristol called Jessica Burton has been running a campaign called Hairy Awarey, asking women all over the land to go natural. “I’ve been hairy for so long that it just seems normal to me,” says Burton, “but I do feel that at the moment women do not have a choice about hair . . . I suppose the excitement about Hairy Awarey was that the simplest of actions (leaving the razor on the side of the bath tub) can have life-changing effects for the women brave enough to try it.”
The logic of Hairy Awarey is that if enough of us give up the tweezers, the sight of body and facial hair on women will be normalised and any stigma will eventually disappear. But is it really that easy?
Uh … no way is it that easy. To make a slight analogy, my male friends are at the age where their beards, goatees, mustaches, whatev are containing their first threads of gray. I notice. It irks me. I want to pull them out.
Is there a stigma to being a fairly young, good-looking guy with a couple of glaring white beard hairs? Well … yes and no. But it’s definitely noticeable, and it’s something that weird OCD people like me will remember.
Perhaps that’s why I’m so ridiculous about staying on top of my own (fortunately fairly minor) facial hairs.
“At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it,” she says, “as I was obsessed with hair removal, having had a Hitler moustache since I was seven. But actually it was very easy. Having body hair is the most natural thing. We are all hairy, and it is a myth that men like hair-free women. After the programme I had thousands of emails from men who said they much prefer hairy women – but they can’t say that in public because lads’ mags tell them they have to like a hair-free Abi Titmuss.”
And check out these numbers! Those ne’er do well hairs cause all sorts of problems, if research supported by Embarrassing Body’s Dr. Dawn Harper is to be believed.
According to a survey of 1,000 women carried out as part of the campaign, 30% of women with unwanted facial hair suffer clinical depression, a quarter believe facial hair has held them back from promotion, and more than 40% say it has affected their ability to form relationships.
Um … yeah. Sad but true. It’s kind of like menstruation, something that most women are inconvenienced by and are in sort of a permanent state of wanting-to-make-it-go-away-but-just-gonna-have-to-suck-it-up-I-guess.
So what’s behind this beastly mess? There are a number of causes, actually, and potentially medical attention that needs to be given, if you can believe it.
Aside from hereditary factors, it can also be caused by an excess of certain testosterone-related hormones or polycystic ovary syndrome (POS). Jessica Karjala discovered she had POS after being alerted to the fact that a sudden facial sprouting can be a symptom of the disease. “When I experienced an increase in facial hair it was coarser and thicker than usual,” she says, “and I removed it out of vanity. I chalked it up to middle age or perimenopause. I wish I had known that my increase in facial hair was an early symptom of a harmful hormone imbalance. Regardless of your comfort level in regards to your appearance, [that knowledge] could prevent serious future health problems.”
Women I know use a depilatory like Nair or Veet (which smell horrible), wax (which hurts like hell), or pluck (which is time-consuming and kind of hard to do completely thoroughly). I’ve heard that some women shave (which I just cannot imagine … maybe I have this preconceived notion that face-shaving is something only men do). Oh, and of course there’s electrolysis, which is pretty expensive.
I could never grow out my facial hair—ew!—but I’m curious to see how y’all feel about the subject. Oh, and also any sort of hair removal ideas that don’t involve horrible odor, pain, or images of my father standing in front of a mirror with shaving cream on his face.