Outskirts online journal

Kaye Johnston

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Volume 1, May 1996

Her Suit

To shave or not to shave, is that the question? Are you a feminist if you shave your legs, your under arms and around your pubic line? Does it matter if you don't shave and you are not a feminist? And what about pubic art?

You know, shells threaded and plaited through the front of your curly swat. But take care that the inhabitants of the shells are well and truly dead or there could be a nasty odour as they die a painful death struggling to breathe out of water, tied to pubic fishing lines. Attach ribbons, which flow in and out of your panties, hanging down in gold and green, the Australian national colours. Or green, white and violet (Give Women the Vote).

Do young feminists shave their legs is the real question. Is the question of shaving really pertinent in the 90s? Have the implements changed, become more techno? Can it happen on the internet, or while you are waiting on the information super highway? You know, while you're hitchhiking on your first trip along the optic fibre network, you stand with one leg on a bulging backpack, pull up one leg of your black lycra, wipe a bit of spit over the hair, rub over a soap stick or spray a CFC-free shaving foam and lather up. Then you drag an old rusty razor, pinched from your flatmate, up and along the ridge of your leg nicking yourself and drawing at thin stream of blood as you are distracted by a passing converted Corolla driven by an attractive woman. Sorry, I forgot you are standing beside the information super highway Well, perhaps it was a newspaper truck that nearly knocked you off your pack. Probably you'd use a laser-driven cutting instrument that could be fine-tuned so as not to nick you ever and the good thing about a laser beam is that it doubles as your CD player, a mobile one for travellers.

Is shaving our legs still an issue? We can shave and be clean and lean and free to throw up our arms in a singlet top, at any gathering. Or hairy and confident and willing to show to all our thriving patches, not just at lesbian events. Or self-conscious and shoulder-hunched, mumbling our way through social events, walking with arms tightly pressed against our sides and always with our legs covered. We're okay in winter but nervous in summer. Is shaving our body hair, then, a personal preference or a political stand?

Why is it that some of us feel so sensitive about the issue? Is it part of the continuous anti-feminism campaign of the media? Is it because it is important for them to sell the advertising space to fashion houses, to get women to buy their feminine clothes, the mad outfits that would strangle women if they really wore them and damage their spines and hips, reducing their capacity for unaided childbirth is the years to come after wearing pointed stiletto shoes throughout their young adulthood? Can Doc Martens and Blundstone be incorporated into Chanel's spring season collection?

But what if you're over-endowed with body hair, your hair suit, or in medical terms, you're hirsute? How can you positively prance around the office struggling to burst through the lavender stained glass ceiling if you sprout chin hair? Can it be decorated like pubic hair? Can it be strung with ribbons, beads and shells, and made into a feature, soon to be lesbian chic and then copied by the heterosexual community and become an international fashion statement? What about Bronwyn Bishop wandering off to see John Howard with her facial hair freshly plaited with Australian wildflowers or Carmen Lawrence resplendent in knotted dreadlocks complete with ripped sheets or rags? Wouldn't they be terrific examples for the fur faced among us?

By the 21st century we would have foggy memories of the last days of mowing our bodies. How we threw away the Victa and stopped whipper-snippering around the edges of our hairy consciousness, creating bald patches and red raised lumpy areas on our skin similar to a blackberry patch, ground down with a Stihl brushcutter. You would remember the time you shaved your pubes into a heart shape for your new lover and then it was too sore to touch. And remember after you had finished your shaving ablutions how it looked like you had upended the grasscatcher in the bath, how the plug hole of the bath was blocked, full of hair and soap in a tangled slimy mass. You would pull and pull to no avail, then have to resort to a comb to latch through it for extra leverage.

Well maybe those days have gone. Instead of burning the metaphoric bra we have taken the tools of the greenkeeper to the tip to be recycled into useful computer consoles and cylinders for carrying sets of miniaturised fibre optics, for the fully hair/suited modern day woman executive who has donned her super cape of hand spun human wool to fly to the upper limits of lavender business.


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