What triggered me to write this piece is a fairly recent encounter that I had a week ago. In all probability, an instance which most people brush away but it happened to stick to my mind until I decided to call it out. I was told how I blew things out of proportion or how I overreacted. But I was okay with all of it as long as I derived a sense of deeply personal fulfilment for being able to call out things which shouldn’t be normalized at any point.
A classmate tried making a casual joke about my facial hair. He said, “You have a better moustache than I have”. What I could have done is make a hilarious comeback about his inability to grow a moustache. But I didn’t. That’s toxic masculinity and preaching positive masculinity is as much a part of my agenda as feminism is. I told him with a straight face, “Hey, that’s outright body shaming”. He tried telling me it was not. I walked away.
Sometime later, he messages me an apology and how he was just joking. The underlying tone was simply that I was the one who did not get his joke and he is sorry about that, not acknowledging the fact that he did body shame and he was apologetic about that.
The next day he comes up to me and asks, “Do you hate me?” I sat him down and tried talking to him. I said, “Of course I don’t hate you”. I told him how jokes are the most common means of expressing one’s deep-seated biases. I never hate the person but I feel it is extremely important to question the conditioning from where a comment or joke originates from and call that out. This guy then told me how he had always been joked about because he didn’t grow a moustache. He went to clarify that he never got offended. But I knew how he was internalized into associating masculinity and feminity with body hair.
That bloody red lipstick made me feel empowered and I wore it with pride.
I took to my blog page on Instagram and shared what had happened and asked my followers to share their stories about body-shaming. I got a huge response – young girls telling me how they had been shamed by fellow classmates or how they stopped wearing shorts. It was heartbreaking to see how it had come to be the new normal.
I decided to put up stories with all their pictures appreciating how beautiful each one is. On seeing that, all of them were surprised and overwhelmed. I realized how a small gesture of appreciation could make them feel so good. They are made to feel horrible about how they look. So, people out there – go and tell your friend or that classmate or colleague you don’t speak much to that they look beautiful today.
I have always been a feminist who always made a conscious choice of getting waxed. I never considered removing my body hair or putting makeup on to make me less of a feminist. That is because I had been on the other end of the spectrum of shaming. I was makeup shamed to a huge extent back in school. Applying makeup was solely my choice and not something I was compelled to do due to societal standards or anything. That bloody red lipstick made me feel empowered and I wore it with pride.
There were days I got waxed, spent 2 hours on my makeup and felt damn good about not only how I looked after that but also enjoyed the process. There are also days when I wear skirts with hairy legs, my dark circles booming out without a hint of concealer and I love that self of mine as much. I am someone who has both these sides to my personality. I do not want anyone to judge or shame me for any of it. The basic underlying principle of feminism is providing women with the choice to make decisions about their body and life.
There are also days when I wear skirts with hairy legs, my dark circles booming out without a hint of concealer and I love that self of mine as much.
As much as I have spoken about the negative about it, it will be extremely unfair for me to not talk about the good part of it. The entire incident that happened came along as very surprising to me because back in school, I was never made to feel anything of this sort. Body/facial hair was never an issue of discussion or ridicule ever. I have gone out wearing dresses/skirts with un-waxed legs and my friends said I looked gorgeous.
For the longest time in my life, I had a pack of beautiful and inspiring people around me. Even when this instance happened, I had way too many people who had my back. There was this absolutely adorable guy who did not shave for almost a week just to show solidarity. The world also has such people, like whom we should aspire to be like.
So people out there, you do not shame a man or woman or gender-non conforming individual for having body hair, for choosing to remove it, for applying too much makeup, not applying makeup at all, for wearing whatever they want to wear. We need to stop judging and shaming other people about deeply personal choices they make for their bodies.
Till then, preach love!
Featured image used for representational purpose only. Image source: BBC