The conversation about body hair started between my friend Alana and I one boring day at work. I was explaining to her how I had facial hair due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and I wanted to do laser hair removal. One year and several laser hair removal sessions later and we are on the cusp of opening our first-ever theatrical show, Do You Shave. I won’t tell you, dear reader, everything about the show, I don’t want to ruin the surprise! But in a nutshell, the show is a dance theater odyssey exploring the circus we are constantly surrounded by and the fur we live in. When we developed this show, we didn’t want to be pro- or against hair, we just wanted to make a show about why we even care about body hair? Is it our choice to keep it or remove it? And I personally, wanted to understand why I had the bad luck of living with a lady beard.
I was first diagnosed with Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) when I was 19. Hairtrisum was only one symptom of many others, including weight gain, mood swings, and extreme hormonal imbalances. There is no cure for PCOS, yet thousands of women live with it along with the awful facial hair that comes with it. The only way to keep PCOS under control is by being on birth control, and even then it does not stop the hairtruism. So what do we do about an insecurity we suffer with, but have little to no control over? The temporary solution, would be to do what I did, and that is to pay $150 per laser hair removal session, and kill the hair follicles. It is painful, but feeling like a feminine woman, to me was completely worth the pain and the money. The long-term solution, however, is a little more complex.
First off, maybe we should talk about this insecurity, as embarrassing as it may seem. I speak to women every day, who I see are suffering from haritruism. When a person suffers from hairtruism, they hide their face, and they put themselves through all sorts of torture to remove it, yet we pretend like it does not exist, because we know it is a sore subject. But, because this is a medical condition, the best step to finding a solution would be to acknowledge it and to pressure the medical industry to do more research, and find the cause and cure for PCOS. Hairtruism is only an annoying symptom, but the problems caused by PCOS, such a infertility, cysts, depression, and if left untreated diabetes and heart disease (web md), make PCOS a medical condition that seriously affects women’s health and should be on top of medical research’s list.
But the biological aspect of facial hair is just one aspect of Do You Shave. Facial hairtruism is only a small portion of our show, we also focus on other parts of body hair. The biggest question we asked while doing this project is, why care? Why care if a person shaves, waxes, lasers, or keeps themselves fury? Why and to whom are we giving up our autonomy to? Hair removal has actually been around longer than we think, even though the 1970’s would beg to differ. Body hair removal can go as far back as ancient Egypt, who according to internet sources used boiled sugar/honey and lemon juice to remove hair, or Ancient Turkey who can go as far back as 3000 BC, the preferred paste there was “rhusma." And in medieval Europe, they had The Tortula, a very popular book of recipes all related to women’s health, one of which was for hair removal.
Hair removal doesn’t just affect women, it also affects men. In 2014, a Turkish hair removal company “accidentally” used a photo of al-Queda leader and self-proclaimed terror mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in an ad for hair removal. The company claimed to have found the photo on the internet because it was used in many memes, but it still makes us question, is hair evil? Are men who have an excess of hair prone to being evil masterminds? Or is hair a form of primitiveness we must take control and colonize through our removal of it? We are asking many questions, but they are questions that have to do with the fabric of our culture.
As artists and inquisitors, we have made an entire 30-minute live theater piece, looking into our insecurities of body hair and what they mean. Does it matter and will it make a difference in the world? We hope. But our cultural thoughts and insecurities won’t change unless we start a dialogue about it. Maybe it is “just hair," but our decisions on our bodies should be something we decide because we want, not because we feel a pressure to conform. And in celebration of freedom of thought and speech, we want to know what do you think about body hair? We would love to hear your opinions, rituals, and thoughts.
Do you remove your body hair? Is it a sacred ritual, or a coming of age? Tweet us at @isabeldieppa or comment below! We are hoping to gather as much data as possible in order to continue the conversation of body hair and our choices.
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Isabel Dieppa is a writer and actor. She is a part of the performance duo Of This World in Chicago, IL. Her interests lie in science, art, and history. Past writing includes interning for the Chicago Field Museum ECCO program, the national theater blog HOWLROUND, music reviews for UR Chicago, and in a former life was a beat reporter for the Indiana Daily Student. She loves archaeology, kitties, and dancing. The next big adventure may include an archaeological dig in Peru. Follow her on twitter @isabelsdieppa