How my armpits inspired me to make conscious choices

How my armpits inspired me to make conscious choices (Offbeat Home & Life)

“Who says that hairy pits on women are gross, and why? Because prior to that being said, hairy pits were just exactly what they were. Hairy pits. I have seen the damage that is done to a woman’s feelings of self-worth when held to a standard of beauty. And it is not pretty.

Programmed prejudice, babes. Judgments we unconsciously make by following the pack mentality without the awareness of our own personal choice in the matter. Like that time in middle school where everyone picked on that one girl and no one knew why but they kept doing it because they thought they had to because everyone else did it. Our culture is littered with these sorts of prejudices and we get to choose to support them or not.

Our beauty dogma as women in American culture is dictated by programmed prejudice. We leave choices regarding our bodies up to someone else’s ideas of what is right and wrong. We shirk our own social responsibility as women by not making choices in line with our own values, following the belief that our beauty is unattainable without paying the price of judging ourselves, our worth, and our beauty through someone else’s lens. And then on top of that, we literally pay the price by buying our own beauty and supporting these standards. Because business is business, and business must grow, regardless of hair in my armpits, you know?

Programmed prejudice is all around us. Try and notice it when you can. And when you do, just remember that you get to choose to agree or not. We live in a consumer culture that is hugely driven by the big industry. We all know this by now. Millions of dollars are made every day by striking fear of our inadequacies and insecurities about how we measure up to others’ standards.”

This is the article I wish I had written about my own body hair. I stopped shaving my legs 3 years ago, as a personal experiment/challenge, and I haven’t shaved them since. I didn’t shave my legs for my wedding day. I don’t shave my legs when I wear shorts, or a dress, or a bathing suit. I rock my armpit hair pretty regularly, but I do trim it (with a mustache trimmer!) when I get dressed up.

I was terrified to go out in public with my body hair in the beginning. For at least the first year, every time I went to the gym in a tank top, I felt extra self-conscious. I avoided sleeveless shirts outside of the house. I avoided showing off my legs. I had to learn to get comfortable with my body, and even as a hardcore feminist with a very supportive partner (he loves my body hair almost more than I do), it was not easy.

Even after all this time, I still feel self-conscious sometimes. But honestly, even though I am much more comfortable with my body now than when I was a teenager, I still feel self-conscious about my weight, my breasts, and my clothes. My body hair is really just one more thing. As women, we have been told that we must look a certain way to be beautiful, but our beauty comes from our individuality and in our spirits, not some beauty “ritual” that we we need to follow.

(For more of my feminist ranting, check out What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name.)


What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name

What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name

“My younger brother started it off by asking me how Chris felt about being emasculated. He was joking, and he did apologize about it later, but I couldn’t help wonder if he somehow represented all the men who might feel emasculated by our choice. My mother, always a supporter, just sighed. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘Just be ready for the responses. Your child might have some trouble on the playground.’

As my belly grew, the comments got even stranger. I had secretly hoped for no reaction, for our choice to be as common as saying, ‘I went with the mustard instead of the ketchup.’ No reaction would mean something good, right? That women in this country are, for example, no longer considered the property of men, even in name. That archaic systems are truly collapsing. That we can reclaim language that was formerly used to control us.

But it seemed, at least to me, that using a woman’s last name for a child threatened everyone. An older woman asked me if I was doing this to make a point. Why was all this doing perceived as mine, not my husband’s as well? At a party, a peer told me she was ‘diehard Obama’ and then argued that her only real concern about using a woman’s last name is that you risk the ease of preserving lineage and historical records.

‘Really?’ I kept responding.”

I got a lot of weird reactions when people found out that I wasn’t taking my husband’s last name when we got married. But I’m an only child, and I’d decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to change my name for anyone. Sometimes I question my decision, but most of the time I feel proud for staying true to myself. There’s nothing wrong with changing your name to match your spouse’s if that’s what you both want. But it doesn’t have to be what you want, and it’s not what I wanted.

If and when we have kids, we’ve talked about hyphenation, or combining our last names into something new… it’s not set in stone. But it’s definitely not a given for us, and it shouldn’t be for anyone. Names are important: your name is not only a part of how you see yourself, it’s also how other people see you.

As women in the United States, even though “we’ve come a long way, baby,” we still have certain cultural exceptions, including but not limited to: 1. We change our names when we get married; 2. We wear white (or off-white, or eggshell, or whatever nonsense name that’s really just white) on our wedding day; 3. We shave our body hair; 4. We wear makeup and heels when we dress up. Well, guess what? As a white, cis-gendered woman in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship, I currently do none of those things. Somehow, I’m still a woman. The world is still spinning. My husband still feels like a man.

In summation: we don’t have to do any of this nonsense that society still expects we do. We absolutely can, and plenty of women love doing all of the things I’ve just listed. I’m not saying all women should start following my lead, but I’m saying they can. You can. If you don’t want to do some, any, or all of these things, it’s okay. You’re not alone. There are plenty of us out there following our own paths to womanhood. There’s no rule book other than the one you create for yourself.

“The patriarchy is still deeply ingrained—in all of us. Surnames are one of the unseen limbs of the old world. Giving a child the father’s last name is still a given. And that given preserves the man’s place of power, from the Supreme Court on down to the everyday Joe. How can that still be the case? Why, I wonder, are we so slow on this one? It seems lazy of us.”

9 To 5 Not For You? Try T. Rex Puppetry Or Aquatic Mail Delivery

9 To 5 Not For You? Try T. Rex Puppetry Or Aquatic Mail Delivery

“There are countless ways to make a living in America, and for many people, typing at a desk or working retail just isn’t the right fit. All summer, NPR has been meeting young people who have landed jobs with some wacky job descriptions.”

I got excited when I looked through this list and found a job that I’d actually done. I was a Standardized Patient for a short time, which was a pretty unusual experience. A lot of the other “patients” were trained actors; I was not, but I still enjoyed the process of getting into character. The hard part was staying in character after several “exams.”

A fun read, and a cool glimpse into the lives of others.

The Conservatives Who Rebel Against Obama by Blowing Diesel Smoke at Priuses

The Conservatives Who Rebel Against Obama by Blowing Diesel Smoke at Priuses

“Prius Repellent” is a perfect introduction to one of the Obama era’s great conservative subcultures: the men and women who “roll coal.” For as little as $500, anyone with a diesel truck and a dream can install a smoke stack and the equipment that lets a driver “trick the engine” into needing more fuel. The result is a burst of black smoke that doubles as a political or cultural statement—a protest against the EPA, a ritual shaming of hybrid “rice burners,” and a stellar source of truck memes.

I had initially posted a different article about Rolling Coal, with the hilarious title, Rollin’ Coal Is Pollution Porn for Dudes With Pickup Trucks, but then I thought… let me find something a little bit more thoughtful, and less reactive. This idea still baffles me, but y’know,

“the motivation for political coal rolling is roughly the same one that gets people buying guns and ammo after mass shootings. The expectation, every time, is that liberals will capitalize on the shootings to ban guns, so it’s time to stock up.

The use-it-before-liberals-ban-it instinct is powerful. Since 2007, environmental activists have campaigned for an Earth hour, 60 minutes in which people turn off all electricity. Since 2009, the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute has responded to this with Human Achievement Hour, a call to spend those same 60 minutes by keeping the lights on.”

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

P.S. My friend Emily read this and responded, so I decided to share her comment here, because she knows things about cars, and she’s funny:

The main mistake in all of this is putting a political spin on it. It didn’t start as anything political. In the automotive world, there has always been tension amongst groups… Import cars vs domestic cars, lifted trucks vs lowered trucks, Ford vs Chevy vs Dodge, Audi vs BMW… You name it.

Rollin coal as a “street trend” got its start and popularity when diesel trucks would puke smoke on import cars (mainly Hondas). Why? Because it’s obnoxious. It’s right up there with purging your nitrous valves on another car, revving as you pass another modded car on the highway, and a slew of other silly stuff that car people do to each other. The dislike of the Prius was fueled by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear UK, but it represents a general attitude that follows a population of Prius owners: Simply, they have their nose up in the air because they drive a Prius (complete with Coexist and Namaste stickers) and shop at Whole Foods. The video of the woman going off on a diesel truck owner who had his truck idling in a parking lot did nothing for the popularity (or lack thereof) of the little hybrid.

The attitude “against liberals” has very little to do with who is in office or not in office… It’s more about the attitudes that have been displayed (mainly the condescending tone which both articles posted above are dripping with). The really funny thing about the original article posted is that the truck in the very middle of the photo collage, the red F150… It’s actually burning biodiesel or vegetable oil. Pump diesel gives the dark black smoke. Other alternative fuels burn lighter and with a slight brown tint.

Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

We are not the lovable nerdy protagonist who’s lovable because he’s the protagonist. We’re not guaranteed to get laid by the hot chick of our dreams as long as we work hard enough at it. There isn’t a team of writers or a studio audience pulling for us to triumph by “getting the girl” in the end. And when our clever ruses and schemes to “get girls” fail, it’s not because the girls are too stupid or too bitchy or too shallow to play by those unwritten rules we’ve absorbed.

It’s because other people’s bodies and other people’s love are not something that can be taken nor even something that can be earned—they can be given freely, by choice, or not.

This essay is the perfect example of why men really need to start talking openly about rape culture, because this take down of the “nice guy” male nerd is so much more powerful coming from someone who is not a woman.

This is an intense, fantastic read, and it’s your must-read article this week.

A Toast Story

A Toast Story

At first, Carrelli explained Trouble as a kind of sociological experiment in engineering spontaneous communication between strangers. She even conducted field research, she says, before opening the shop. “I did a study in New York and San Francisco, standing on the street holding a sandwich, saying hello to people. No one would talk to me. But if I stayed at that same street corner and I was holding a coconut? People would engage,” she said. “I wrote down exactly how many people talked to me.”

The smallness of her cafés is another device to stoke interaction, on the theory that it’s simply hard to avoid talking to people standing nine inches away from you. And cinnamon toast is a kind of all-purpose mollifier: something Carrelli offers her customers whenever Trouble is abrasive, or loud, or crowded, or refuses to give them what they want. “No one can be mad at toast,” she said.

Carrelli’s explanations made a delightfully weird, fleeting kind of sense as I heard them. But then she told me something that made Trouble snap into focus. More than a café, the shop is a carpentered-together, ingenious mechanism—a specialized tool—designed to keep Carrelli tethered to herself.

I first heard this wonderful story in an episode of This American Life. [Sidenote: If you’re a fan of good storytelling, you need to be listening to This American Life. Like right now.] It begins as a complaint about how toast – like cupcakes before it – has turned into overpriced artisanal nonsense. So the writer goes on a journey to find the beginning of the trend, and he stumbles upon this amazing tale of perseverance that I dare your heart not be warmed by. Let this make you happy today.

The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvesant High School [Feb 2006]

The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvesant High School [Feb 2006]

We haven’t had one from the archives in a while, and this article is a perfect supplement to my previous post about studying bisexuality. It’s also a favorite of mine.

Alair is headed for the section of the second-floor hallway where her friends gather every day during their free tenth period for the “cuddle puddle,” as she calls it. There are girls petting girls and girls petting guys and guys petting guys. She dives into the undulating heap of backpacks and blue jeans and emerges between her two best friends, Jane and Elle, whose names have been changed at their request. They are all 16, juniors at Stuyvesant. Alair slips into Jane’s lap, and Elle reclines next to them, watching, cat-eyed. All three have hooked up with each other. All three have hooked up with boys—sometimes the same boys. But it’s not that they’re gay or bisexual, not exactly. Not always.

Their friend Nathan, a senior with John Lennon hair and glasses, is there with his guitar, strumming softly under the conversation. “So many of the girls here are lesbian or have experimented or are confused,” he says.

Ilia, another senior boy, frowns at Nathan’s use of labels. “It’s not lesbian or bisexual. It’s just, whatever . . . ”

It’s just, whatever.