Friday, October 30, 2009

Marvelous and hairy women (by Suzie)

I have pale skin and black hair, a bad combo in a culture that mocks women with “too much” body hair. I have tortured myself with hair removal because I don’t have the strength to transgress in one more way.

I’ve shaved, plucked, bleached and endured electrolysis. Now I have a little machine that pulls out hair by the roots. This pains my conscience as well as my body. By conforming, I make it that much harder for women who don’t.

Because of all this, I read with interest an article condensed from the new book "The Marvelous Hairy Girls: The Gonzales Sisters and their Worlds." Merry Wiesner-Hanks, a distinguished professor of history, writes about the daughters of Petrus Gonzales in the 1500s. He and his offspring had
a genetic abnormality now known as hypertrichosis universalis, which meant much of [their] body was covered with hair. They were not mocked or shunned but were welcomed in the courts of Europe, spending much of their lives among nobles, musicians, and artists. ...

When people looked at the Gonzales sisters, or their pictures, they saw beasts or monsters as well as young women, but this was also true when they looked at most women. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, whose ideas were still powerful in the sixteenth century, had described women as imperfect men, the result of something wrong with the conception that created them—their parents were too young or too old, or too diverse in age, or one of them was not healthy. Nature always aimed at perfection, and Aristotle termed anything less than perfect “monstrous”; a woman was thus “a deformity, but one which occurs in the ordinary course of nature.”
Echidne is covered with scales. But how do the rest of you feel about body hair?