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Body Hair Politics- Shaving One’s Leg Hair

hairylegs

When we talk about “being natural”, we’re often referring to how we wear our hair on our heads.  However, I recently came across a Reddit thread that discussed the following scenario.  Here is the initial inquiry entitled, “Help!  Body Hair Politics” by TheShowIsNotTheShow:

“Greetings, all! I am a self-identifying feminist who believes that a) everyone should have the right to do what they want with their body and I should support them, b) for me, shaving my legs feels infantilizing but also actually unpleasant in sensation. I am about to attend a professional international conference in Portugal, and since it is hot, and they are easy to pack, I will be wearing only knee-length (or slightly shorter) dresses. In this situation, I care much more about people paying attention to the words coming out of my mouth than whether or not my legs are shaved.

Are the myths about body hair being more socially acceptable in Europe true? Will that hold for Portugal? If it will be a distraction, I think I will shave my legs. (My hair is light, and it’s not the sort of thing that would ever be visible in a photo, but definitely would be noticed if you are sitting next to/near me, or maybe if you have a habit of checking out people’s calves while standing and talking to them?)

I would personally feel shallow if I valued my appearance over getting my message across — I don’t see this as selling out, but it might be? Because feminism based on appearances is weak, right?”

What do you all think?  Do you remove your leg hair?  When did you start?  Why?

 * I found this image online, I cannot attest to its authenticity.  To me, it looks like a fake, but the picture gets the idea across!

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Watch Tina’s Television Interview!!!

I was recently interviewed by Emily Rooney on the WGBH Boston show “Greater Boston” about the army’s ban on particular hairstyles.  Here’s a link to the show:  Tina’s WGBH interview. Please let me know what you think!

Now, for a litle bit of trivia.  Who is this?

gene anthony ray fame newspaper report 1983

Post your answers in the comments section before you watch the video!

Once you watch the video, you’ll understand why this particular image is in this post!!!!  

  • Erica Addison

    Leroy!!!!

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“Hard” is relative: What turkey can teach us about embracing our hair by Tina Opie

In my earlier post, I asked “Is kinky hair hard and straight hair easy-peasy?”.  Hard is relative.  That means in this social world we inhabit we tend to make comparisons in order to determine something’s value.  Thus, for kinky hair to be “hard” this must mean that it’s been compared to something else and found to be more difficult.  In this –case, kinky hair has been compared to straight hair.  However, if a woman with a full head of kinky hair complained about her hair being “hard” to an involuntarily bald woman, I think the bald woman might slap her.  In other words,  we must examine the comparison that we’re using to determine our hair’s value.  Why did “easy to detangle” became  a key indicator of hair’s value?  Is this about time?  I admit, it can be an absolute pain in the butt to spend an hour or more detangling my hair so that I can get it ready for washing or styling.  Yes, I have rolled my eyes at fellow gym-showerers who wash their hair, towel up, dress and dart out of the locker room all before I’ve even gotten all of my hair products arranged just so on that itty bitty shower bench.  There are definitely times (especially after a 6AM spinning class and before the 8AM class I teach) when I WISHHHHHHHH I could be done in 5 – 10 minutes if I wash my hair.  However, for the most part, that is not my reality.  I have come to accept that.  I may still suck my teeth and ask, “Why God, why?” when I’m gingerly working through my sopping wet head, praying that the product doesn’t goop up leaving me looking like I rolled my head in popcorn.  That is just me.  But, all in all, I LOVE my hair.  I love what it can do, how soft it is, how versatile it is, how Black it is.  I love it.

But, I first needed to realize that things that take time are not necessarily bad and things that are quick and convenient are not always “the best”.  Take food for example.  Let’s say you have turkey deli slices on one hand and a roasted turkey on the other hand.  If we applied the above hair value algorithm (quick = best and superior, longer time = hard and inferior), we’d argue that turkey deli slices are superior to a roasted turkey.

turkey deli slicesroasted turkey

REALLY?!  Don’t get me wrong, I love a turkey BLT, a turkey Reuben.  When I want something quick and tasty, those are amazing choices.  However, when you have the time, deli slices just don’t compare to a well-cooked roasted turkey.  Try as you might, it is much more difficult to take turkey deli slices and make a gourmet meal.  Yet, with a roasted turkey you can make soup, sandwiches, salad, hot food, cold food.  You get the picture.  Yes, deli slices are quick and convenient (and tasty!), but that quick convenience means you lose out on versatility.  If you value versatility, all of a sudden, quickness and convenience may recede in importance.

Whatever YOU have embrace it.  My point is this, if you have versatile hair embrace IT. It may mean that you have to take more time, but that’s life.  If you have quick/convenient hair, embrace IT!  It may mean that you have less versatility, but that’s life.  Let’s live it.

Introspection: Ask yourself what you value about your hair.  Most importantly, ask yourself WHY you value it.  Please share your thoughts on the site!

Happy New Year!

 

  • Amy D

    So true about embracing what we’ve been given. My friend is in treatment for stage 4 ovarian cancer. All of her hair fell out this past week. Her hair was long, well below her shoulders. Her young adult son shaved his head in solidarity in the fight against cancer. It seems to be a way of identifying with his mom (who adopted him when he was school age).

    • Tina Opie

      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing. Please hug your friend for me and let her know that there are prayer warriors out there! :) There are so many forces working against embracing what we have (whether it be our God-given identity traits or material things) that we are almost like whirling dervishes trying to get more, change, become someone different. Whew, let’s all pause and appreciate. :) Happy happy New Year!

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Happy New Hair: The Curly Girl and Naturalista’s Guide to Four Life-Changing Books – Part I! by Petra E. Lewis

A New Year always means a “New You”—even if you fall miserably short. I made two lousy resolutions last year and didn’t accomplish either of them. They were tiny things. The kind of stuff I call “should have been there, should have done that” items. Ironically, while I never got around to fulfilling those two (relatively) easy-peazy vows, I did breeze through big, non-resolution items like finally finishing the first novel in my trilogy, and launching two businesses. Go figure.

Cover of Curly Nikki's curly-girl guide, Better Than Good Hair

Cover of Curly Nikki’s curly-girl guide, Better Than Good Hair

So let’s resolve not to make resolutions. Instead, let’s simply tap our inner Oprah—and pursue our best self.  Where should you start? Here—or should I say: HAIR. As we wrap up 2013, and optimistically leap into 2014, HAIR is my end-of-holiday-season gift to you—must reads for having some of the baddest hair anywhere. And I mean that in the RUN-D.M.C. sense of the word: Not bad meaning bad—but bad meaning GOOD!  A perfect segue into my first pick in this countdown-style listing of books. Here are the first two life changers on my list…

4/ BETTER THAN GOOD HAIR  Stumbling upon all these new team-natural blogs and instructional videos in recent years has spawned what I call my “old dog, new tricks” hair education. Arguably La Reina del Naturalista Blogosphere is the Queen herself: Curly Nikki (Nearly 300,000 Facebook likes and 46,000 Twitter followers—and counting…).  My first crack at Nikki’s 2013 curly-girl guide, Better Than Good Hair —a title I found absolutely brilliant—made me LOL (one of Nikki’s not-so-secret weapons: being snot-out-your-nose funny)! She also has that “girlfriend-confidential” thing on lock—you feel like you know her (personally), and she knows you. I was among those who preordered Better Than Good Hair, and while I haven’t gotten through all of it yet, the hi-lar-ious forward section from Kim Wayans (yeah, of the In Living Color Wayans ha-ha! clan) is worth the price of the book alone. I remember Curly Nikki once advising on her blog that when you detangle your hair, you should do it as delicately as if it were lace. Every time I detangle my own hair, that little gem of advice pops into my head. It’s that kind of simple, yet solid baseline advice that makes this a must have on every naturalista’s bookshelf.  TO PURCHASE: Better Than Good Hair 

3/ CURLY GIRL Back in the day, when I used to texturize my hair to stretch out my natural curl, I would literally go into a panic when I took the “what if” leap in my mind about living abroad. I felt like I could not live without my stylist at the time. Today: Homegirl—and all those dreaded chemicals—are long gone, and I take care of my own hair. Now, among the things I cannot (and I mean *really* cannot) live without (anywhere in the world) are the DevaCurl brand of products, created by the Patron Saint of all Curly Girls, Lorraine Massey—co-owner of the Devachan salon and spa in SoHo (a beautifully scented sanctuary for curly girls). To me, Curly Girl is the original spiral-haired manifesto. And like most manifestos, initially it seemed radical to me: Ditch your shampoo? What the…. Then only use a product she invented called “No-Poo” to cleanse your scalp, and (again) do not use shampoo on the rest of your hair! (Faint rustling sound as old girl tries to tip toe quietly towards the door, to get away from this crazy woman.) But Lorraine was right.  Just know this book will rock your world—and its complete paradigm shift on caring for curly/kinky hair is mandatory, if you want to start rocking those curls the way that God intended!  TO PURCHASE: Curly Girl

Check in next week for #2 and numero uno….

Till next time: Love, Peace, and Hair Grease, my friends y amigas….

 


Petra E. Lewis is a writer, author, entrepreneur, Tastemaker, and Synergist who lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The first novel in her trilogy, The Sons and Daughters of Ham, Book I: A Requiem debuts February 2014, www.hamnovels.com : : @tastemistressp : :  http://on.fb.me/1fUwRNo

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Pantene’s campaign “Truly Relaxed & Truly Natural”

Hello everyone,

My blogging has been spotty and I hope you’ll agree that it’s been with good reason!  I am working really hard to get tenure at my college so I’ve had my head down teaching, grading and conducting research.  However, I just completed a major milestone (whew hew, graded a TON of papers) and one of the first things I wanted to do was blog and reconnect with you all.

While I was grading and watching the BET Honors show, I happened to see two Pantene commercials that comprised a campaign entitled “Truly Relaxed & Truly Natural”.  Here is a picture of the campaign.

The first commercial starred Chrisette Michele donning her beautiful, golden-hued, faded afro.  The second commercial starred ballerina Misty Copeland sporting her relaxed hair.  Did you see the commercials?  I find it interesting that Pantene is addressing the fact that women of color are returning to their natural hair but that it’s our choice whether or not we do so.  I’m a proud kinky afro wearer.  However, I don’t think you lose your Black card if you opt to get a relaxer.  I do, however, think it’s important that we ask ourselves WHY we make our hair choices.  In a similar vein, I don’t think you lose your identity card if you choose to alter visible signals that you belong to a particular identity group.  Said differently, we may or may not choose to reveal our identity but that shouldn’t mean that we are somehow deemed less embracing of that identity.  Or, should it?  What are your thoughts on this?  What are your thoughts on WHY women make particular hair choices (i.e., to wear natural hair or not)?  Back to Pantene, what do you think of the campaign?

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A balding 13-year old boy and me

Harold movie poster

Good day everyone!  I recently watched a movie on Netflix called “Harold”.  Here is a description of the movie on NetFlix:

“Fitting in at his new high school is tough for Harold (Spencer Breslin), especially since he suffers from early male-pattern baldness. With mean classmates making his life miserable, Harold tries to turn his luck around by taking the advice of a caring janitor (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Co-starring Ally Sheedy, Nikki Blonsky and Chris Parnell, this delightful comedy cleverly depicts the harsh realities of being an outsider.”

Ohhhh how I felt for Harold.  I couldn’t relate to everything because, fortunately, I was not the recipient of bullying.   It was so interesting to me that the whole premise of the movie was how a child would be tormented for his bald pate, how his hair could make him an outsider.  I can relate to feeling like an outsider Harold.  I have been there.  On numerous occasions, I’ve shared how I felt almost like a water-aversive alien because of my hair; afraid of rain, pools, humidity, even a crazy fool with a water hose.  Thanks be to God, I’ve learned (am learning) to accept my hair in all of its glory (even in its smashed, half frizzy state as I type this).  No, I’m not equating kinky / coily hair to male pattern baldness. But, what I am doing is recognizing that we all have identity battles, as we work hard to figure out how we fit in in this world.  May this year bring you self-discovery and self-acceptance as we strive to become the best people that we can be.  Hugs to you all.

Tina

If you or someone you know has experience with male pattern baldness, I’d love to hear more about your experience.  Please email me at contact@hairasidentity.com to schedule a chat.  Thanks!

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Facial Hair and Identity: A Male Perspective

As I was shaving my face this morning I thought of Tina Opie’s post on hair and identity. She raises some interesting questions. From a male perspective, I know that the expectation in a professional setting is to either be clean-shaven or if we choose to wear a beard/mustache, the expectation is that it be neatly trimmed.

Hello everyone,

I recently wrote a Post on facial hair and I am delighted to publish commentary that I received.  Mr. Amir Reza wrote an interesting personal piece on his experience with facial hair.   Here it is; I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

“Men and Facial Hair” by Amir Reza

As I was shaving my face this morning I thought of Tina Opie’s post on hair and identity. She raises some interesting questions. From a male perspective, I know that the expectation in a professional setting is to either be clean-shaven or if we choose to wear a beard/mustache, the expectation is that it be neatly trimmed. I recall when I stopped shaving a few years ago during vacation and decided not to shave before returning to work – that period when your beard hasn’t fully grown in and you are not clean-shaven is interesting – there were colleagues that loved the facial hair and others that didn’t care for it. There wasn’t much in between. Most everyone had an opinion one way or another. There were many questions; was I going to grow it indefinitely? Would I consider a goatee? What did others think about my new look?

Mr. Reza sporting a beard

There were also joking comments about my identity as a Middle Eastern American and what facial hair meant in light of the stereotypical terrorist suspect. This makes me think of that period after September 11, 2001 when the Department of Homeland Security instituted color-coded threat levels and profiling of Middle Easterners (in particular young men) was prevalent. I recall half-jokingly commenting to my friends that if the color code was “orange” or higher I would definitely shave, lest I be profiled as “one of them.” Maz Jobrani (an Iranian-American comedian) has a funny segment on this topic – “you don’t want to be Middle Eastern and show up at the airport with a beard!” (watch here minute 3:50 of this youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYlaIxNX01Q ).

Returning to Opie’s blog on facial hair, it seems that facial hair is a political & social matter for men, whether you are running for office or trying to navigate society (east or west). As for me, I ended up shaving my beard/mustache eventually, not because of my colleagues’ comments, but because my two-year old daughter didn’t want to kiss me because I was too itchy!

Mr. Reza sans beard

What do you all think?  Please share any thoughts that Mr. Reza’s story triggered in your mind.  Thanks for reading!

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Beards, Goatees and Mustaches: How Facial Hair Frames Identity

Hmm, what does the beard symbolize? As a matter of fact, most politicians I envision are clean-shaven, no mustaches and definitely not a goatee. Wait, there are Che’ Guevara, Fidel Castro but both men were revolutionaries. In some cultures, does a beard symbolize divergence from the norm? Men, please chime in, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you wear facial hair? Why or why not? Any stories to share?

Hello everyone,

The other day I heard a radio story about Egypt’s new Prime Minister Hisham Qandil.  So, why am I discussing Mr. Qandil on a website about hair and identity?  Interestingly enough, the story was about how Prime Minister Qandil’s beard is stirring discussion about what a beard symbolizes.  I am not an expert on Egyptian politics or on Islam, so I apologize if I am oversimplifying the story.  Apparently, in the past, beards have been associated with Muslim “hardliners” (according to the article, hardliners refer to devout Muslims follow the exact teachings of the Prophet Muhammad).  However, Egypt is described as a country with secular traditions; therefore, a beard might not be a welcome symbol in some circles. Please see the BBC’s story on this topic here.

Come to think of it, off of the top of my head, I can’t think of ANY politicians (other than Abraham Lincoln) who wear beards?

President Lincoln donning his famous beard

Hmm, what does the beard symbolize?  As a matter of fact, most politicians I envision are clean-shaven, no mustaches and definitely not a goatee.  Wait, there are Che’ Guevara, Fidel Castro but both men were revolutionaries.  In some cultures, does a beard symbolize divergence from the norm?

As I did some research on this idea, I came across an article by Slate.com–> Slate’s article on “Beards in Politics”.  Wow, the article is all about politicians and facial hair. An interesting read (e.g., I never knew why the military banned facial hair!). This story has prompted me to consider how facial hair frames identity. Men, please chime in, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you wear facial hair?  Ladies, do you love or despise men’s facial hair?   Why or why not? Any stories to share?  Now, should we venture into facial hair on women?  Wow, that’s a whole different series!

Thanks!
Tina

  • rosemaryandrock

    Yes, I’d agree with your comment that today, beards indicate a sort of alternative culture. Full beards make me think of the Unabomber. Neater ones make me think of people who are maybe academics or writers. “Scruff”, on the other hand, I associate with hipsters or people who (think they?) are really handsome and can “get away” with not shaving. I agree though that historically beards would have been associated with power and masculinity–think of the horrible attacks in the Amish community of late that involved people forcibly cutting off others’ beards: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/16-amish-ohio-reject-beard-cutting-plea-deals-16887977 Then too there’s the story of Samson–hair = power. A topic with a lot of substance to it!

    • drtinaopie

      Hi Rosemaryandrock. I’m usually much better about responding to comments! Forgive me. thank you for taking the time to read the post. It’s amazing to me that something as common as facial hair can carry such meaning!

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What Drives Us to Wear Wigs?

I am embarrassed to say that we spent ~50-hours driving during our roundtrip RV trip and I drove a grand total of TWO HOURS! Even during the two hours I was nervous wreck because you don’t really drive an RV, you guide it. It’s HUGE and it blows in the wind. I didn’t last long. BUT, during my driving stint, I saw a sign for a wig outlet in Fayetteville, NC. Of course, I couldn’t wait to see it!


Sign welcoming visitors to the Fayetteville, NC wig outlet

I am embarrassed to say that we spent ~50-hours driving during our roundtrip RV trip and I drove a grand total of TWO HOURS! Even during the two hours I was nervous wreck because you don’t really drive an RV, you guide it. It’s HUGE and it blows in the wind. I didn’t last long. BUT, during my driving stint, I saw a sign for a wig outlet in Fayetteville, NC. Of course, I couldn’t wait to see it!

The wig outlet was large and wigs adorned shelves, counter tops and displays. I was amazed by the sheer number of wig options. Blonde, red, black, curly, straight, wigs for females…even wigs for men!

I’m going to research the varying reasons people might wear wigs. We often think of it as a voluntary fashion statement. However, some people wear wigs for medical reasons (e.g., lost hair due to chemotherapy, alopecia, etc.). Do you have a wig experience you’d like to share? Please do!

Here are a few pictures of the wigs I saw.

  • Jeffrey Smith

    Thx for the info, and your web page certainly looks wonderful. Just what word press design are you employing?

    • Drtinaopie1

      Thanks! Let me know if you want to talk “Word Press”.

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