A few weeks ago I wrote a post about body hair and hair removal. As regular readers and friends know, this is a subject I could talk about pretty much forever (sorry, readers – sorry, friends) and which, for me, is very closely linked with my identity as a feminist. Sadly, as my post revealed, it appears that it’s also quite closely linked with my identity as a deeply insecure person. This wasn’t so much a call to arms as a cry for help.
At the end of the post I included a link to a short survey I’d designed around the subject of hair and hair removal. I was interested to hear what my readers – especially my female readers – thought about these issues, and whether their experiences might be in any way comparable to my own. I called this survey the ‘Questionhair’, because it was funny. You’re welcome.
Aided by reposts on the super-cool and not always SFW Awesome Women Of Twitter and Raw Women blogs and by the noble social media efforts of friends and followers – all of whom, incidentally, I LOVE – I started to receive some very interesting feedback.
But then something strange started happening . The Internet seemed to go a bit hair-crazy. I can’t be sure whether it was in writing the post that I became naturally more attuned to hair-related stories in the media, or if my survey actually started something (unlikely), but after posting on the subject it seemed that EVERYONE was going on about women and hair.
First off, Caitlin Moran was very nearly the cause of a fatal aneurysm on the Piccadilly line when she said in her Times Magazine column that body hair isn’t something that feminists need concern themselves with*. Then quite a few other columnists and bloggers wrote pieces on hair and hair removal. Seriously. My Google alert for ‘female body hair’, were it a housepet, would have appeared glossy and well-fed. Since Armpitgate, however, it’s just kind of lain around my inbox, looking distended and slightly glassy-eyed. Armpitgate, of course, refers to the talented, witty and proudly-bewhiskered Emer O’Toole, who popped up first in the Vagenda, then the Guardian, and then, hirsutely and unexpectedly, on ITV’s This Morning**.
In the weeks after I launched the Questionhair, nine separate people forwarded me links to Emer’s article. I met two new people at a party and, on being introduced, both of them exclaimed ‘Oh! Are you the hairy woman?’. Then one day I logged into SurveyMonkey and found that 630 people had completed the Questionhair. I did some brief calculations –
630 responses = 630 x 10 questions = 6300 individual response fields + multiple responses + quite a lot of poorly-conceived free text options = approx. one kajillion fuck-offs of information
– then panicked and closed the survey.
So. Much. Data. How to get through it all? Well, that part has actually been a blast. You lot are seriously intelligent, eloquent and most of all, flipping HILARIOUS. Reading through your responses has been amazing. I’ve cried with laughter, sniffled with pathos, and, best of all, gasped in solidarity.
It became obvious very early on that I wouldn’t be able to summarise my findings in one post. Ignoring my mother (whose incessant demands for RESULTS, NOW mean that she is in serious danger of inexplicably unsubscribing herself), I propose to post my findings as I make them, in sections. The first section will be posted a bit later on, when I have written it.
DISCLAIMER: The Questionhair should in no way be viewed as a serious scientific study. My educational background is in eighteenth-century pornography and I had to call my dad earlier to check how to work out percentages.
DISCLAIMER: The Questionhair has actually created a greater number of questions than it set out to answer.
DISCLAIMER: I was drunk when I wrote this.***
*I can’t give a quote because I don’t pay for the Times online and because I can’t find the relevant Saturday Times magazine that the column was in – possibly because I burned it in a frenzy of rage and betrayal – but I swear to God she said something like feminists don’t need to worry about whether or not they shave their legs because women who do are just ‘mucking about’ with a ‘look’. This is ridiculous. Much as I’d love to write off my entire history of hair removal as a carefree fashion exercise, I suspect that precisely NO-ONE starts scraping hair and the top few layers of epidermis from their shins aged 13 to ‘experiment’ with ‘different’ ‘looks’. You do it so that your classmates won’t laugh at you, or call you a hairy virgin. You do it to look JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Why would you say that, Caitlin, why? WHY?†
† sorry <cries>
** a programme whose regular audience is noted neither for its worldly liberality or employability
*** actually not true. I just think that people might judge me less harshly if they thought I was totally off my face