Tag Archives: Gender Across Borders

So What’s the Deal with Waxing? (Because My Arms Feel Naked Now.)

Okay, kittens. We’re done with body treatments. We’ve mastered facials. Makeup applications are but a distant memory.

At Beauty U, the time has come for waxing.

A quick disclaimer to the supportive family members who read this blog: Now might be a great time for you to take a little break. Maybe catch up on that pile of unread New Yorkers in your bathroom. See what’s on TV.

I’m just saying. Things are going to have to get a little bit graphic round these parts. Continue reading at your own risk. That’s actually good advice for anyone who gets squeamish about body hair.

Because we’re going to have to talk about body hair.

And to start with, maybe we should talk about why it makes (many of) us so squeamish.

“If men had to remove their body hair, don’t you think we would have figured out how to make this hurt less?” asks Blanche, as we gear up for our first waxing practice. My forearms are deemed the most appropriately hairy subjects. Everyone is nervous. The wax is hot. The wooden Popsicle sticks and muslin strips that we’re supposed to use to paint it on and then rip it off seem clumsy and awkward.

The general consensus is hell yes, there should be a better way. And also that hair removal is something we only do for the pleasure of men anyway.

“Except now we like it better that way too,” adds Stephanie.

“I’m not sure that we even like it, I just think everyone does it, so it seems like that’s what normal is,” says Miss Stacy. “If everyone went around hairy, we would think that was normal too.”

And yet. Miss Stacy removes all of her body hair (for the uninitiated that means, arms, armpits, legs, bikini zone to some degree, and any extraneous eyebrow, lip, and chin hair) on a regular basis. Even though she has pale, sensitive skin that raises up in red welts for days after every treatment. “You get used to it,” she says. “And it’s so great later because you don’t have to shave and the new hair grows in finer.”

So, we get down to business on my forearms. Which, in the space of ten minutes, go from this:

Arm before wax hair removal photo

To this:

Photo of arm after wax hair removal

To be honest (and don’t worry — I’m always honest, but especially about what hurts in waxing), it doesn’t hurt as much as I expect. Like ripping very large (but not super sticky) Band-Aids off your skin, as fast as possible. Or being snapped repeatedly with a large rubber band. I mean, it’s not awesome. And those red welts feel hot and strange to touch. But it’s bearable. I discover a tiny scar on my left forearm that I’d never noticed when it was covered in hair.

It feels weirder the next day, when it looks like this:

Photo of arm post wax hair removal, after redness

My arms aren’t sore, and they are undeniably smooth — but they feel fragile, like the skin might peel off, and a little numb as I slide into my coat sleeves. I am acutely aware of my lack of hair. And feel sort of plastic.

“You’ll have to remind your clients that hair does serve a purpose,” says Miss Theresa, one of the day teachers who is filling in tonight. “It’s not the best idea to take it off every part of your body just because you like how it looks.”

So here’s the thing. Before I started at Beauty U, I didn’t even know that arm hair removal (as in, wrist to elbow or even higher) was Done. I’ve met a handful of women (of Italian or Jewish descent, with pale skin and very dark hair) who shaved their arms. But I thought that was a bit of an anomaly, a hassle that only the very hairy or very self-conscious subjected themselves to. Turns out (at least from what my peers and teachers tell me) it’s pretty common from women of all colors and cultures.

Which makes me realize there’s a lot about waxing (and hair removal in general) that I don’t understand yet. So as I delve in deeper, I’d love to do a little pulse-taking with you guys. This seems especially relevant in light of last week’s cross-post by Emily Heroy, on how you can love fashion and still be a feminist. After all, what says “stereotypical feminist” more quickly than hairy legs and armpits?

So: Do you love hair removal? Do you consider it a necessary evil? Do you eschew it completely as a sign of patriarchal oppression? Why or why not?

And if you have a hair removal line — some kinds of hair removal seem totally normal to you, but others sound freaky — do share your thoughts on all of that, too. Not to mention: Where do you think your preferences come from? (Your family, your friends, hairless Hollywood starlets, that Babysitter’s Club book where Kristy shaves her legs for the first time, you get the idea.)

I have my own preferences/theories about how I ended up with these preferences, and I’ll be sharing them (and analyzing them and over-analyzing them) as we go along — but I really want to hear from you. So go!

[Photos courtesy of the trusty iPhone.]

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, In Class, Waxing, week 21

[Cross Post] I Enjoy Fashion and Makeup; I’m Still a Feminist, Right?

I am so delighted that Emily Heroy of  Gender Across Borders asked if I would cross-post this piece. When I was preparing for this week’s Feminist Carnival, I had several bloggers say, all sheepish like, that they wanted to submit, but weren’t sure if their take on beauty would be “feminist enough.” Because somehow, we still think “feminist” means angry, bra-burning, and all that — when it can mean so many different things. So yes, you can be an angry feminist if you want. Or a non-angry feminist. Or even a sometimes angry feminist who still wears her bra — and makeup, too.

Now here’s Emily to tell you why:

Before I took my first Gender studies class as an undergrad, I always had the image of stereotypical feminists with hairy armpits, a makeup-less face, and wearing no bras. I know, I know–what a faux-pas for such a staunch feminist! But as I grappled with my own definition of “feminism,” I also struggled to find a medium where I could care about my appearance as well as fight for equal rights for all. Many thoughts went through my mind during this time: Does my appearance of wearing make-up and heels coincide with “feminism”? Will I not be considered a feminist if I wear lipstick or if I like to shop for clothes?

One way to look at it–is that liking fashion and make-up may imply that you care too much about your appearance, and therefore that’s all that you care about. That’s a slippery slope to assume–but many people make it, including myself at times.

I wish that these assumptions weren’t made, because I outwardly enjoy fashion and make-up. I wrote a post last year about Lauren Luke, a Youtube-made makeup artist who believes that applying make-up should not be what TV and magazines tell you how and when to apply it, because that’s just “not normal.”

While I do not think appearances are everything, unfortunately they do matter in today’s world. I’m not talking about conforming to beauty standards (which you can read about in Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth), but about how you appear in front of other people. One of my good friends in the fashion industry  (whom I frequently ask questions to her such as, “Are leggings appropriate as pants?”) reminded me that appearances, for the most part, are about confidence and how you convey about yourself to other people. If you don’t feel good about yourself and how you look, how will that affect your overall confidence?

How you feel about your body actually affects your self-confidence greatly, many studies have shown. But most of all, it’s okay to wear new fashion trends and red lipstick–because after all, it’s your body and you can wear whatever you want. That’s what I call empowering, and by empowering yourself through the kinds of clothes and makeup you choose to wear, I would say, is “feminism.”

So, whether you choose to wear bright red lipstick,

Photo of NARS lipstick from drugstore.com

Alexander McQueen heels (RIP McQueen),

Photo of Alexander McQueen spike heel

or wear a sequined tank,

Photo of Zappos Sequined Tank

and you’re an unyielding feminist like myself, go for it. The more and more I learn about feminism, I realize (that many of you probably know) that there is no one definition of feminism. My definition of feminism might be different from yours–and that’s okay. More specifically, though, in terms of fashion and beauty, as long as I’ve understood the historical and societal implications of beauty and fashion and how they’ve shaped how women are “supposed” to look, then it’s more than okay for me to wear heels.

Emily Heroy is the Executive Editor of Gender Across Borders, a global feminist blog. She is currently working on a master of science in secondary education and you can follow her on Twitter at @emilyheroy.

[Photos: Lipstick via Drugstore.com, Alexander McQueen heels via The Frisky, sequined tank via Zappos.]

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Guest Post, week 20

Pretty Price Check. (01.08.10)

Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of how much we paid for beauty last week.

  • $2.2 billion: The amount we’ll be spending by 2013 on foods and drinks — like this collagen coffee, above — that promise to enhance our beauty, according to this New York Times story. “If you’re drinking Nescafé, you better hope it’s doing something for your skin, because that shit is nas-tay,” says Tracy Clark-Flory over on Broadsheet. We like her.
  • $4.95: The cover price of New You, the new magazine of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, launching this month with, I know you’ll be shocked to learn, a pretty pro-cosmetic surgery agenda. “I can’t help but think that this magazine will create insecurities where none existed before,” says BellaSugar. Yup. We like her too.
  • 53,000: The number of products that Environmental Working Group now evaluates for safety in their Skin Deep database. A helpful explanation of their protocol is up on Enviroblog today.
  • $280-525: What you’ll pay for services at Lashtique, according to this review on Beauty Blogging Junkie, who nevertheless tries to claim lash extensions are a Marxist fashion statement by making “glammunism” happen. They aren’t and it isn’t.
  • 5000: The number of clients that dating site BeautifulPeople.com kicked out for gaining weight. Okay, I think that one speaks for itself. (Via Broadsheet.)
  • $500,000: What CoverGirl donated to give 50 million gallons of purified water to needy areas through their new partnership with Children’s Safe Drinking Water. I think I’m supposed to say something nice about “Clean Makeup Clean Water” here, but Queen Latifah did it for me. (Via JolieNadine.)

PS. Much love to Gender Across Borders, for including me in the 11th Carnival of Feminists round-up. There are some awesome feminist bloggers in the mix, so scamper on over and check that business out!

[Photo: NYT]

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Ingredients, Pretty Price Check, products, week 9