memoirs of a hairy girl

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Age eleven was the first time I picked up a razor. I can’t even remember why I wanted to shave, but I guess I just felt like it was time. I wanted to enter into womanhood and decided this was a way in. I hadn’t even had my period yet and I was desperately trying to enter into these “female experiences”. I shaved the little hair I had on my legs, armpits and arms (I DIDN’T KNOW), and cut myself numerous times in numerous places. But I had done it! A woman at last! And I continued shaving consistently up until November 2016.

Shaving wasn’t something I thought about very often. I didn’t feel as though it was taking it up so much of my time and I didn’t feel pressured to shave; I started doing it on my own, I wanted to. Shaving made me feel clean and just avoided unnecessary embarrassment. Overall, shaving felt very much my decision and it was also my decision when I decided to stop.

I became passionate about feminism in the 10th grade. I remember finally questioning these “norms” with my friends and having numerous discussions about body image, body hair, makeup, revealing clothing, and thinking about things I participated in everyday in a whole different light. I agreed that shaving shouldn’t be expected and we should all have the liberty to make our own personal choices. But I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t shocked and/or disgusted when I saw a women’s armpit hair or leg hair. As a feminist, I’d never voice those opinions out loud but I was definitely judging women who didn’t shave. I went on like this for quite some time, and even though I was surrounded by feminist women, almost of all them were shaving too. I verbally rejected the concept of this norm but internally accepted its expectation and practice.

After I graduated high school in 2016, I went longer and longer without shaving. I couldn’t give you a specific reason. Maybe it was because there were no boys I was trying to impress? Maybe it was because I was trying to see just how long I could stand it? But throughout that summer I only shaved once or twice and then in November I stopped shaving altogether. I wanted to see how long it could get because from the time I started growing it, I had been shaving it off; I’d never actually seen myself with proper body hair. I also wanted to see how it felt, living with my hair; I wanted to know if it would be as uncomfortable as I anticipated. And lastly, I wanted to see how people in my life would react, as well as the public.

In January of 2017, I flew to Australia and traveled around with three of my best friends. We spent most of the days on beaches or in the cities and it was hot (obviously). Most days I was in shorts or a skirt, and usually in short sleeves, that meant a whole lot of leg and little glimpses of the underarm area. At first, I was so insecure. I had a noticeable amount at this point and I was honestly just afraid people would think I was homely, and since I’ve always been very passionate about frequent showers, deodorant, and the use of perfume, this stressed me out! I caved in about a month into my trip. The four of us were about to go to a party. I was going to be meeting a lot of new people, and up until this point I’d pretty much just spent time with my girls. I was so afraid of making the wrong impression or being stared at the whole night annnddd I shaved.

For the first few days I realized how much I missed feeling so smooth! It also made me feel more feminine. But after two weeks with these shaved legs and pits, I just felt disappointed in myself. I had gone almost 3 months without shaving, the longest I had gone since I started! I shaved for what! For fear of what people would think about me; and truly, I thought I was stronger than that. Even if that party would’ve been more stressful if I hadn’t, it would’ve felt better knowing I wasn’t making decisions based on fear of judgement. So I stopped.

I haven’t shaved since February 3rd, 2017. When I came back from Australia my mom was pretty weirded out by the fact that I came back hairier than when I had left and we got into a few arguments about it. It was hard for her to understand how I didn’t feel gross and uncomfortable with my hair and the truth is, you just get used to it! Growing out my leg hair wasn’t some magical experience, where everyday I felt more and more like who I was meant to be! It just felt like I was me with more hair. Yes, I feel as though it is a much bigger art of my identity now, but not throughout the process itself. Eventually we moved past this once I expressed how deeply her approval mattered and that I didn’t expect her admiration, I just needed her support! I’m not on a mission to destroy razors! I just want people to respect my decision and to also show girls (boys too!) that you get to choose how you treat your body.

While I faced some harsh opinions from some family, I also received ridicule from strangers. One specific instance was during my job last summer. I worked at a Tourism center and also did tours on our old trolley. My job consisted of standing in front of a group of people and talking at them for an hour, and since it’s summer and since it’s Saskatchewan, it is hot. I’m usually dressed in a skirt or shorts and I would get a few stares throughout each tour. It didn’t bother me that people were staring; staring didn’t inherently mean they had negative feelings towards it. I know it is not typical to see a woman with body hair in North America – it’s abnormal, I expect people to notice. One afternoon on the trolley I had two women in their early 50’s. While I was giving my introductory speech, I saw one of them take note of my leg hair. This usually starts off with a double take, then wide eyes, and then a prolonged examination of the rest of my legs and body. She went step by step but I was surprised to see her take it a step further by then whispering to her friend. I watched her friend go through my examination process and heard them start giggling. In my head, I just rolled my eyes but then I heard one of these women say, “I’m going to take a picture”. She pulled out her iPad (yeah, she’s old), and very obviously, I might add, placed the iPad away from her, outstretched towards my legs, with the sound on. I did not know how to react. In the moment I was flustered and partially didn’t want to embarrass them as they were not subtle at all, but I ignored them and proceeded with my tour, very thrown off. Looking back on it, I should’ve addressed them, not with contempt or anger but a simple, “Hey, if you guys want pictures of my legs, wait till after the tour and I’ll even pose for you!”, or whatever. I was so surprised women so much older than I am, were blatantly laughing at my hair, hair that they grow! I didn’t expect to be treated like a circus sideshow, but every once in a while I felt like I was a spectacle.

That, by far, was my most dramatic event concerning my body hair. One more notable conversation was with my dad before I left for university. It is always confusing to me when men are so bothered by female hair. Sure, it’s not customary to see a lot of women with grown out hair but men live with it. For women who have shaved since they’ve hit puberty, it kind of makes sense; they’ve never actually had body hair. But men (unless they shave everything) know it’s not gross! We don’t consider men with leg hair or pit hair gross or unhygienic, they’re just normal. My dad did (and probably still doesn’t) fully agree with my choice, and when we were arguing about it he posed the question of “how are you ever going to find someone willing to date you like that?”. My quick reply was rather feminist of me, stating “I’m not walking around my life like it’s a job interview for a boyfriend!”. The presence of my leg hair was a very apparent statement that I was trying not to make decisions based on other’s expectations.

Now my parents’ distaste for my choice isn’t because they’re mean or don’t love me; they have always just wanted to be sure I was presenting myself with the image I wanted, and they’re also conditioned to think it’s gross! We all are! I felt gross for months, and every once in a while I still feel like that! When I arrived to university, I wore pants. I wasn’t necessarily trying to hide the fact that I had leg hair but I was already so nervous, and didn’t want to add to the fact that I was terrified of making good impressions. The second day we had to participate in a water related activity, forcing me to wear shorts and come of the “body hair closet”. That was also the day I met my boyfriend. Those couple of weeks before we started dating, I felt an undeniable urge to shave. I wanted him to like me sooo bad. I was so close to losing it all to impress him, but I resisted. Once we starting going out, I asked him what he thought of it. He replied, “I mean, growing up it wasn’t unheard of [he grew up in Vermont], and when I noticed it for the first time, I thought ‘interesting, wonder why she doesn’t shave’, and that’s it”. So unless Liam was trying to be sweet and lying to me, he didn’t think I was gross or crazy or really lazy, I mean he did decide to pursue a relationship with me; a relationship with a hairy girl. And I explained to him why I don’t shave. My reasoning has evolved over time. At first, it was an experiment. How long could I go? How long could it get? What are people going to think? And once I realized how big a deal it was to both family and friends and even some strangers, I learned how important it was that I stop shaving.

This is my choice. It is my choice to live as a hairy woman and take on the judgement that comes with it. Nothing will ever be normalized without exposure. I face very little oppression being middle class, being young, being able-bodied, being well-off, the least I can do is take some heat for my body hair. If all my hairy riot accomplishes is one little girl seeing my legs and learning that shaving is a personal preference and not an expectation, I’ll have done my part. I reiterate, I’m not anti-shave. I still participate in practices such as wearing makeup, dyeing my hair, etc, and I enjoy these things! And honestly, I probably enjoy them because I’ve been conditioned to think without it I’m kind of ugly. If I felt just as beautiful with no makeup, I probably wouldn’t wear it. It would probably be more “feminist”of me to go makeup-less, but feminism implies choice and some of my choices are more systematically challenging than others. My choice not to shave does more for women than my choice to continue wearing makeup. It doesn’t make me any less of a feminist though! And I also like being a bit of a contradiction. I’ve always loved surprising people and the bulk of women with body hair are fairly low maintenance, free and easy women! I’m not the person you’d expect to have hair because, like I’ve said, I wear makeup and do my hair and generally put a lot of effort into my appearance, and my choice to stop shaving hasn’t changed that. And I’d be lying if I said I don’t want people to stare. Of course I do. If people don’t stare, people don’t notice. If people don’t notice, people don’t see female body hair. I want people to see it and get used to it so that, shaved or hairy, women get to choose regardless of prejudice or judgement. Keep shaving if it makes you feel better or if you just like feeling clean sheets on smooth legs! You are allowed to enjoy that! All I’m trying to say is respect choices that don’t look like your own.

This is a poem I wrote:

memoirs of a hairy girl

To the men who find my body hair disgusting:

Oh well

To the women who find my body hair disgusting:

Once I learned I was not a meal

Or a trophy head

I stopped skinning myself every morning in the shower

I won’t lie

It felt nice to be digestible

palatable

I don’t blame women for disguising ourselves as snacks

Men are so hungry

It’s nice to feel like we can subside their appetite

But we can’t

because we are not food,

not even girls

We are women,

we grow hair

And hair is not dirty

We may be made of dust and a rib,

but we are creation

We have life in our lungs

Strength in our hands

Hair on our skin

The flesh we live in was formed perfectly and purposefully

And didn’t God say it was

good?

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All the best,

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you’re a feminist

I really hate to break it to you, but you are. Or most likely are. But I’m not about to tell you what you are or are not, I’m going to let words and their meanings do that instead.

The word “feminism” was first used by a French philosopher in the late 1800’s, when describing women’s relationship with social and political status. Since then it has tailed along side the Suffrage movement and carried throughout the second wave and it now it’s become quite the buzzword. While the feminist movement has been gaining traction and support in light of a political uproar (the orange man) and with ongoing discussions (intersectionality, sexual violence, etc), it’s still such a dividing topic. Even though most every person within Canada or America would give the concept of “equality” a thumbs up, we still can’t seem to team up behind one movement. This is all due to bad connotations.

They’re all lesbians.

Some are.

They complain about non-issues

Some do.

They’re gross and hairy

Gross? No. Hairy? Some.

They hate men.

Some do.

Here’s the deal. Movements of great importance always contain members that don’t have it quite right; and people screw up! Sometimes we phrase things wrong. Sometimes we change our minds. But just because a cause is made up of flawed people doesn’t mean we have to throw the baby out with the bath water. To further explain, I’ll use a parallel that also pertains to my life. I’m not only a feminist but a Christian as well, which many think are mutually exclusive, and while I have many things to say about that I need to save it for another post. Even though some think Christianity and Feminism have zero to none in common, that isn’t true. To stay very specific, let’s just look at the language. Feminism, as discussed, has a black and white definition but with all the varying opinions it appears much more grey. Christians are united by a single belief which is designed to make us objectively good people but because we’re are inherently flawed it has seemed to create a much more extreme binary. Either you’re a saint or a hypocrite. Historically Christians have screwed up and misinterpreted the Bible pretty severely (the Crusades), and because of this, we now carry connotations as well.

They’re judgemental.

They don’t understand science.

They’re so condemning.

They love Trump.

They hate Muslims.

They hate gay people.

The sad truth is some are, some don’t, some can be, some do, some do, some do. This is not an excuse for hateful and hurtful behaviour but it’s just to highlight the fact that while you’d think loving God would cause all people to reach the same conclusion about everything, that’s impossible. Everyone’s relationship with God is on a spectrum and with elements like your economic, political, geographical background, trauma, and current circumstances, it’s unrealistic to expect every single, complex and unique individual to have black and white answers for everything. I believe some Christians have interpreted certain issues incorrectly, but I have enough grace to not write them off because of it. And I’d hope that those who think I have it wrong give me enough grace to listen anyways. Civil discourse is so important (as I’ve previously discussed) and I think we should enter into discussion and debates with the intention of listening and hopefully leave with more understanding from the other’s perspective.

I understand that by calling myself a Christian I may be taking on thousands of years of other’s mistakes but it would be silly and unproductive to call myself exclusively a “Jesus Follower” or another synonym for Christian. I will continue to call myself a Christian because that describes what I am and even though I don’t like a lot of the baggage that comes with the word it makes it my responsibility to reclaim the label and represent it accurately and lovingly. Feminism has a hand on so many different issues and there’s lots of differing of opinions throughout the community and there’s room for choice. That’s what it’s about: equality and the right to choose.

Speaking of choice, I should probably address something. A huge reason why so many in the Christian community do not support the feminist movement is because it is loudly pro-choice. Please don’t let that count yourselves out. Just like how I still choose to participate in Christian circles even though it can be anti-immigrant and homophobic. We are imperfect people but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working towards a greater good. Feminism supports child care, challenges beauty standards, fights for indigenous rights, supports the disabled and people of colour. Feminism fights against sexual violence and assault. Feminists fights for the people Jesus would have talked to at the well. Feminism fights for immigrants and representation of all people. Feminism is greater than the sum of its parts.

At the end of the day labels aren’t everything but they help us define ourselves and support causes we believe in. I believe in Jesus and am a Christian. I also live in Canada, and am Canadian. I love dogs and I’m a dog person. I go to fashion school and am a fashion student. I support women and the rights of all people. I’m a feminist. And you probably are too.

All the best,

feeling pretty zitty lately

 

I’ve had acne since I was 10, which is unfairly early. Or maybe it’s not and all my girlfriends have perfect skin, but I do feel pretty on the outs with this one. Having pimples as a girl in the 5th grade is less than ideal, obviously. My mom empathized with my predicament and allowed me to use concealer. I was (am) an oily kid. My hair gets greasy fast and my skin loves to collect and grab onto any oil, and this has been a curse. My acne got astonishingly worse as I aged and it hit its peak of nasty when I was 16. This is when I had Rodan and Fields recommended to me. Despite its priciness, my parents were kind enough to let me try it and it did stuff! After a couple months of using it day and night, my skin looked significantly better. Since then my skin has had moments of clarity and times of peril, but is much more mode

rate than it was. But once I was introduced to what I looked like with almost no acne, it shifted my perception. I like how I look without acne (obviously) so much more than the alternative, that I get even more disgruntled by pimples now, though they’re not nearly as severe.

As of late, my skin has not been a pal. This is due to winter weather (dry, dry, dry), not as much fresh air (it is cold), and bad diet (I eat from a university cafeteria, what would you expect?). It’s spotty, discoloured, rough, flakey, and oily (gotta love combination skin!!!), and I forget what it feels like to have clear skin altogether. While I still use R&F religiously and never sleep in makeup, I have too many elements working against to expect Glossier model level skin. And when I talk to folk about my skin related frustrations I hear a few common pieces of well-meaning advice, which include; drink more water, cut out sugar, stop wearing makeup. And here lies my unasked for ramble responding to said advice.

Drink more water

You know what? You’re right. I don’t drink enough water because Grapefruit San Pellegrino tastes much too good. Sugary drinks just taste better than drinking plain liquid that only tastes like “wet”. But I’ll seriously try to take this one on. I mostly promise!

Cut out sugar.

Okay…but then I won’t want to get out of bed in the morning? I’m not saying sugar is the only reason I wake up but I can tell you it’s an exciting prospect for the day. I don’t overload on sugar on the daily, but I know if I took it away from myself then I wouldn’t be able to stop obsessing over it, most likely resulting in an ungodly donut flavoured binge. Even though my zitty life is making me a little blue, I care too much about my mental state to deprive myself of the taste of happiness. Cutting back on sugar? Mm, we’ll see. Cutting out sugar? I’ll keep my zits thanks.

Stop wearing makeup.

skin with light concealer on

No. No thank you. No thanks. It’s easy to not wear makeup when your skin is relatively clear. When your skin looks like mine, or worse, it makes leaving house no fun at all. Whether not wearing foundation everyday would drastically transform my skin or not, it’s too hard walking around with a pimple for a face. Wearing makeup may be a contributing element to my acne, but I promise you it’s not the root cause. I’m made of bad skinned genes, as proven by my parents high school photos. You have no idea how much I would love to be that traditional “low maintenance” gal but with the hand I’ve been dealt consisting of acne-ridden skin, naturally mousey brown hair, being paler than the moon, and eyelashes shorter and straighter than my nail clippings, it would take far too much self confidence and the ability to not care at all about what people think to walk out of my door feeling good. I’m not trying to sound deprecating because that would be terribly annoying but I’m trying to be honest.

The parts of me I’m most satisfied with are things I’ve had the most control over. Over the years I’ve been able to play with and grow out my brows and I really like how they look now, and I tweak them very rarely now. My hair I’ve changed a million times and I like that I’m able to select colours and styles that I feel best represent me. And I like my nose now, but that has taken years. All of this is to say that I’m not just what I’ve been given but I’m also what I choose to be.

This piece was mostly to complain about my face, which I understand may come off as irritating, especially since I address ways in which I’m fairly aware, could help fix my problem but like I said, this is also about choice. I’m unhappy with the amount of acne I have but I’m also happy to be able to treat myself to sugar and be able to put makeup on in the morning. Those good habits might be ones I can build up to one day, and perhaps I can eventually become confident enough to stop caring about the state of my skin. I don’t have acne because I’m gross, I get zits because I wasn’t born with the perfect skin. And neither was a lot of population. It’s crazy how big of a taboo acne is, considering how common it is. The world of advertising is finally understanding that consumers don’t care about the “ideal” but we care about representation. Body positivity within mainstream media increases by the day. We can now see ads with women rocking different body shapes and skin colours. But where are the zitty folk? Makeup companies are becoming very anti-retouching nowadays but what’s the point if all of their models have perfectly clear skin? Not only does that perpetuate the standard to have clear skin but it does a terrible job of showing how much coverage the makeup actually provides. Acne is a hard problem. Compare it with being fat. While in North America the ideal for the last 100 years has been variations on the slim girl, we are pushing and gaining lots of traction to help expand the western idea of beauty to include women of different proportions, but you can also find other cultures themselves praising the fat body. I’ve yet to hear of one person/place in the world that glorifies pimples. I don’t expect acne to one day be envied or become the ideal, however it would be really cool to see zits as a neutral trait. Most people get them at some point, so can we throw away the judgment, please?

skin without anything! ain’t it purty??

As for my skin, let’s hope it clears up a little, but if it doesn’t at least I have Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation to fool those who forgot to put in their contacts.

All the best,

 

my tattoo

I work at a Tourism Information centre and I talk to around 300 people a day. I mostly give directions or answer questions about campgrounds or what we grow in our fields (Saskatchewan), but quite often the conversation turns from pointing to a street on a map to personal questions. Sometimes I get asked about what I’m taking in school, my ethnic background, and often times, my tattoo. And since the people asking me are mere strangers, I don’t give them a long explanation but there is more to it than a couple of sentences.

My journey with feminism has been a long one and I’ll spare you the details in the post! (But if you want to hear more, you can watch this video). Feminism has always been evident in my life, I just didn’t know the language. My biggest influence has always been my grandfather.

My grandpa is a retired history teacher, and really nurtured an appreciation for the past in me. And being the feminist he is, my grandpa made sure I knew all about the suffrage movement. He stressed the fact that women’s liberation was not give, but fought for. My voting rights as a white woman came long before the rights of women of color, which goes to show that freedom is often is a slow, and unfair process. And I figure, if white women have been able to vote for only about 100 years now, I don’t believe it’s possible that every women is a recipient of perfect equality, not even close. And while most people are aware that women in poorer countries around the world still face a heavy amount of injustice, it should also be recognized that North America still has a long way to go. The topics of the gender wage gap, women’s reproductive health, child care, etc. are all controversial, but they have to be keep being discussed so we can solve the significant questions and issues so many women face today.

My tattoo is a reminder that the rights I have today were not always mine. That they were fought for by loud women, supportive men, resilient women of colour, feminists. And my tattoo is a thank you to them. Awareness and conversation is what brings attention to the many around the world still without basic rights and the many right here with their own shackles. I will keep fighting the good fight.

Proverbs 31:8 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” I know that as a middle class, white, Canadian woman, I have privilege and while I didn’t ask for it and can’t do anything about it, I can use my voice. While some think getting a permanent marking on my arm is dumb, regardless of the meaning it has, I love my tattoo and love the conversations it has started with strangers I meet.

All the best,

the first

While the idea of a blog honestly seems draining and too much work for what it’s worth, I know the impact bloggers have had on my life and I think I may as well put my piece in as well. So let’s just get this introduction under way! I’m Martha Shareski, I currently live in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and I turn 19 in the fall. I’ll be attending Ryerson University in Toronto at the start of September, for a degree in Fashion Communication. That’s the factual stuff about me. But really the core of who I am consists more of this:

  • I’m a feminist who loves Jesus
  • My favorite food is either pickles or cotton candy, can’t decide
  • The most dramatic movie scene of all time is the part in Karate Kid when Daniel throws his bike into the garbage bin, hands down
  • Dickies are the best fashion invention of all time
  • I’ve seen 16 (I think) Broadway musicals and I hope to rapidly expand this list
  • If I could ask God any question it would be: is Bigfoot real?
  • I have one tattoo (so far)
  • I took a gap year this past school-year and traveled Australia with three of my friends for 4 months and ate lots of bread
  • Jess from Gilmore Girls is my dream man
  • and lastly, I love to write

I’m a middle class, white woman from Canada, and though I know my ethnicity and background are represented much more than women of color or of different religions but I still feel a major lack of women who share my perspective. Being a young woman who loves Jesus and cares deeply about women’s rights, it’s very difficult to find sources of solidarity in that. I know how encouraging it is to find women who I can relate to, women who either love Jesus, or fight for women’s equality (or both!), and women who care about style and view it as expression rather than vanity. Basically, I hope to use this platform to encourage me to research the things I am confused/intrigued by and to possibly encourage those of you who feel similarly as I do about certain things!

All the best,