Testimony Of A Bearded Lady
A 39-year-old woman says she stopped shaving her body hair—and never felt sexier.
Rose Geil is on the cusp of turning 40, and she’s never felt sexier. The Portland, Oregon woman has long struggled with the thick body hair that grows on her arms, chest, and face. Not even doctors could help. “They ran a few tests,” Geil told This Morning, “and came to some conclusions that medications might help, so we tried for probably a year to manage my hair growth with medications but it really wasn’t effective.”
Expensive laser therapy treatment didn’t work either. “It mostly affected my social life,” she says. “I don’t feel like my full personality was ever present, and instead of facing ridicule, I hid. I didn’t participate fully in school as a young child. Even going to class on a regular basis was difficult for me. I suffered all around.”
So Geil was forced to shave each and every day—until one day, she stopped.
“First [I stopped] out of a physical need – my skin was just torn up, and I really couldn’t handle putting a metal blade to my skin just one more day,” she says. “And once I realized that I could give myself permission to experiment with that, it got a little bit easier every day. So the rewards of not having that physical discomfort encouraged me to keep it up a little bit longer.”
It was a coming out, of sorts, that did wonders for her self-esteem. Geil says the body-positive atmosphere of some social media accounts helped her feel more comfortable with the idea of letting her whiskers run free.
“I wouldn’t be able to do that without social media. I found my community right away. Even before I let my beard grow, I was following certain accounts that were run by bearded women or just people in general who didn’t conform to a conventional look, or gender roles even. Just looking for inspiration, it’s there, it’s a beautiful thing.”
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A photo posted by @lunchboxscoresagain on
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
A brief history of the hairless.
Beauty standards are always in flux—as are the finer points of femininity and masculinity. But reading the pop-histories of shaving printed in journals like Mental Floss, you might conclude hairlessness is a recent development—a product of targeted advertising during America’s Gilded Age.
While it’s true American women began mowing down the hedges of their axillas in the early 20th Century, the practice of removing body hair for aesthetic purposes dates as far back as ancient Egypt. Over thousands of years, in hundreds of societies, through countless cultural shifts, hairlessness has served a variety of purposes.
In ancient Rome, body hair was a divider of classes. Highborn women shaved with flint razors and pumice stones, while the lowborn were doomed to bushiness. In ancient Egypt, male and female hair was painstakingly plucked, one follicle at a time, from the bodies of royals—and any lowly soul who wished to imitate them.
In the Elizabethan Age, the hottest trend among European women was the removal of eyebrow hair to elongate the forehead. The end-result is either a testament to womankind’s reckless vanity or the timid, desultory acceptance of the absurd male gender.
The Anglo-centric story of the first women’s razor – sold through sexist adverts in glossy glamour mags – tends to obfuscate the larger historical picture. The very fashion industry culpable for this culture of hairlessness also helped to liberate women from the overly-modest and impractical clothing then en vogue for proper ladies.
It was indeed a scandal when the first sleeveless dress was modeled for the rapacious cigar-smokers who then ran the world. And as skirts receded upward ever so slowly, so too did the greenwood of the fabulous female leg give way to smoothness. The female armpit and leg were once taboo—nobody but a woman’s husband ought to be sneaking a peak somewhere so naughty. For American and European women, the need to shave one’s armpits or legs simply didn’t exist until cultural norms, and fashion, changed for the better. It was this change that motivated advertisers to decry hair in these naughty places as “unseemly”.
Cultural norms are again shifting. The unmolested growth of female body hair, briefly an act of cringe-worthy teenage rebellion in the 1980s, is re-surging with body-positive millennials. Their general evisceration of traditional gender roles plays no small role. Skyler, who participates in an online focus group, demonstrates my point with five stoically hip words: “Gender is a fake idea.”[contentblock id=7 img=gcb.png]
Even those of us who view gender as a biological reality (myself certainly not included) are weary of the Boomer and pre-Boomer standards of dress and grooming. “Female hair—up to the female”, says Christie. “I’m always for body autonomy. Pro-choice!”
“My very best friend from my 20s was a young lady with a full beard. She did not shave either. She was quite a lovely person, and taught me a lot about loving myself and forgiveness of others. I’ve never met another person who was more content with themselves than she was.”
Traditional wisdom (funny how often that phrase precedes explanations of why it’s so unwise) dictates a woman like Rose Geil is doomed to the single life. To borrow a not-so-regressive buzzword from the regressive Left: traditional wisdom is a hetero-normative bitch.
“There are all kinds of people in the world who are attracted to all kinds of things,” Geil says of her romantic prospects. “So I wasn’t too surprised when I started getting lots of attention.”