writing on the body

How does shit like this happen? One day you’re a goddamn hairy-armpitted anarcho-feminist, and the next you’re…..this:


Even after 33 spins around the sun, I don’t understand this business of woman-ing.

Here’s what I can figure out: I’ve been wearing clothes with paint on them for weeks and weeks. Dingy hoodies and slouchy jeans and old filthy Vans slip-ons. Hair in a bun held with a chopstick, or a ponytail. Every. Day. Hoodie/mom jeans/slip-ons/ponytail. Come home at midnight, deposit clothes on floor. Wake up, put clothes from floor onto body. Sometimes I scrub the paint and primer and dust off my hands and throw on an apron and get chocolate all over my hands. Repeat.

The past few weeks and the next few to come are all about filthy clothes and an ever-cleaner and more gorgeous chocolate shop-to-be.  This is all well and good. I’m enjoying a different kind of hard work than I usually do.

But: it’s springy, and I like clothes. And I like the performance of femininity. I like seeing how my body looks in differently-shaped clothes. I like, I regret to say, the line of my calf in a heel, now and then. And I like, just for fun, this little eye makeup pencil thingie that happened to jump into my cart at the health food store not too long ago. For a long time, my body was my only friend—all those childhood hours spent with my knees up to my chin, pretending things that were happening weren’t happening. My body and I were two, because I needed an ally. One of my proudest accomplishments is that we never became enemies. It’s a workable, usable, homey body, this body of mine. I can’t touch my toes so great, my ass is flat, and sometimes I can’t raise my right arm above my head without unbearable pain. But it’s my body, and I’ll take it.

The victory of feminism is that we can choose what kind of women we want to be, right? Even better, we can choose, as many of us smarties do, to be every kind of woman, to pick and choose from the panoply of options now available to us (in this way, women are light-years ahead of men, still stuck in their stupid ties and collared shirts.). Some days jeans and a hoodie are perfection. Some days, when I’m going across the river for dinner and drinks and a movie with friends, a dress feels delicious. Particularly when I know we can, ahem, park not far from the restaurant.

Most feminists my age have made their peace with this. But because I am close to some truly radical “second-wave” radical feminists, and so I occasionally think like they do and wonder: am I just brainwashed into accepting that I feel good when I pour myself into male gaze-approved receptacles? To what extent are our likes and dislikes shaped by the patriarchy that is the air we breathe?

I’ve written this same blog post a million times. It’s the same problem I have with the neo-burlesque thing: balancing that whatever you want to do is a victory of feminism with questioning why women are still drawn to these patriarchy-approved (with a twist! Tattoos!) activities and are so invested in defending them as feminist. Blah blah. I always come to the same place: wearing dresses is fun. So that’s where I’ll end today too.

And anyway, my armpits are still hairy. So there’s that.

Oh, and before these two assholes who adore slandering me on the internet for wearing thrifted leather shoes see this and start up a damn Facebook thread about how I’m not vegan (I’m still mad, by the way), I guess I should say that my shoes are from the vegan design house Cri de Coeur. I traded them for chocolates at the magnificent Cow Jones Vegan Industrials. So there, haters!

10 Responses to “writing on the body”

  1. Bettina

    you rock those dresses, so keep on shining your calves in heels.
    As a yoga teacher, however, I do have to ask–what are you doing to yourself that makes your right arm hurt so much??? Destroying your body for chocolates is also not feminist, right?

    • lagusta

      Yeah, it was really weird! It happened for maybe 3 days and now is completely gone. I have no idea. Thanks for your concern. : )

  2. adriennefriend

    You are STUNNING. Especially when you work as hard as you do, there’s a lot of power in choosing to get fancy. There’s always a sea change in my confidence when I strip off the sweaty sweats and allow myself the time and energy to put on a little (ok! a lot! I’ve always loved) eye makeup. And yeah, male gaze, but I hope I’m titillating a lot of ladies’ gazes when I make the effort. And if not? Well, I’m still pleased as punch for having satisfied my own eyes!

  3. Cait

    Good to know about the natural underarms. I hope the trend continues. This just published…

    Relationship Between Armpit Hair and Breast Cancer Mar 31, 2011

    The Anderson Cancer Center concluded that women who shave their armpits, are 10 times more susceptible to breast cancer compared with women who let their armpit hair grow naturally. Dr. Therese Bevers of the Anderson Cancer Center at the Universirty of Maryland reveals that with shaved armpits you will create many small cuts, and the pores in the armpit will swell. This allows toxins and chemicals from a variety of products such as deodorant, powder, and creams to easily enter the skin. Antiperspirant and deodorants easily add toxins into the skin, because the antiperspirant prevents sweating and can prevent the toxins from exiting. Toxins that enter can be buried in the breast forming estrogen imitators called ‘parabens’, and the result is the possible risk of cancer. Bevers explains that armpit hair is useful for protecting the skin under the arm from toxic substances coming from outside the body. Because there are lymph glands in the armpit that facilitate toxin transport, especially to the breasts and other parts of the body, the possibility of transporting these toxins is therefore possible. Therefore the absence of armpit hair can facilitate the spread of cancer in other parts of the body such as the lungs, heart, and brain, especially if the breast cancer has metastasized. Underarm hair is also an extremely effective and natural way for perspiration to wick away and evaporate from the body, thereby creating a less hospitable environment for bacteria. Bacteria welcome the environment of a shaved underarm; hair facilitates more surface area for evaporation.

    Removing armpit hair also allows bacteria and germs to enter pores and facilitate the occurrence of ulcers or even abscesses. Conclusion of the relationship between cancer and underarm shaving was obtained from data collected from women in the United States and Europe over the last 10 years. American Cancer Society estimates that in 2010 alone there were 175,000 cases of malignant breast cancer in the United States, and 43,000 deaths will occur due to breast cancer. Bevers said that any hair that grows on our bodies is there to maintain organ health (skin is an organ), and so it is ironic that many women shave their armpits only for fashion reasons. The armpit is very close to a vital organ, the breast. Men proved far more secure against this danger, because most men do not shave their armpits (however many cosmetic companies are now targeting men to do so as more women stop removing underarm hair due to the risks).

    Does removing underarm hair by other means such as waxing also increase susceptibility to cancer? Bevers said, removing armpit hair by shaving is the most dangerous because of the possibility of minor injuries to the skin layer. Waxing and pulling will however make the pores much bigger than shaving, so all hair removal methods have the same inherent danger. Bevers recommends that women do not remove their armpit hair by any means, because the danger is very large compared with that of following an absurd fashion trend. Slowly Bevers hopes the trend is following a more natural path, and removing armpit hair will be considered a fashion faux pas. “It’s sad, but we still have people smoking in our society despite all of the evidence there.” Dr. Bevers said. “One hopes a change is in the air.”

  4. Liz

    This was exactly what I needed right now. I’ve been ejected from so many anarchist/punk circles because I deign to wear high heels and dresses and makeup sometimes (without being in burlesque) and have never once owned a set of carhartts, or stitched patches on my denim vest. I thought that the freedom to express our femininity in any way we chose was one of the benefits of feminism, but some people still believe they are the trappings of a patriarchy that I must be too dumb to recognize as such. FUCK THAT.

    Damn, girl. When are you and I finally going to gossip over sake and trade revolutionary secrets?!

  5. Tracy

    I just got interesting information from a health seminar. The leading environmental cause of breast cancer is the use of antiperspirant. Yes, antiperspirant! Most of the products out there are an antiperspirant and deodorant combination.

    As its name, antiperspirant prevents you from perspiring, thus inhibiting the body from purging toxins from below the underarms. The toxins do not just vanish. Instead, the body deposits them in the lymph nodes below the arms since it cannot flush them out totally. This causes a high concentration of toxins and leads to cell mutations, i.e. cancer. These are very toxic chemicals!!

    Nearly all breast cancer tumors occur in the upper outside quadrant of the breast area. This is precisely where the lymph nodes are located. Breast cancer is becoming frighteningly more common. This awareness may save lives.

    In other hand, men have been less likely to develop breast cancer prompted by antiperspirant usage because most of the product is caught in their hair and is not directly applied to the skin. Companies are targeting men to remove the hair as more women are becoming aware of these hazards! Meanwhile, women who apply antiperspirant/deodorant right after shaving increase the risk further. It’s because shaving activity causes almost imperceptible nicks in the skin which give the chemicals entrance into the body through your armpits.

    Conclusion of the relationship between cancer and underarm shaving is obtained from data collected from women in the United States and Europe over the last 10 years!

    “Antiperspirant and deodorant use have a direct relationship between hair removal and breast cancer,” told Dr. Therese Bevers, an epidemiologist at the Anderson Cancer Research Center at the University of Maryland. “ANYTHING you apply to the underarm area WILL get absorbed through the skin. The hair is there for a very good reason; protection, toxin removal, perspiration elimination, etc. Leave it alone! Don’t remove it! Doing so will help lower your risk of getting this horrible disease. It’s THAT preventable; like telling a smoker to stop smoking to lower the risk of lung cancer. It doesn’t mean a non-smoker couldn’t get lung cancer, but he/she can do a lot to lower the risk and help prevent it. It’s the only life we get. Let’s not put the body at risk any more than it already is.”

  6. Tracy

    Breast cancer has been on the rise for over half a century. Only 5-10% of breast cancer is genetic, leaving up to 90% from the environment and lifestyle! [1] Studies indicate that deodorants / antiperspirants and underarm hair removal practices together play a major role in the increase of breast cancer cases.

    The link between parabens and breast cancer might seem outlandish to you: After all, parabens are used in so many cosmetic products, it has to be safe. The FDA would never allow that to happen – right?
    The FDA uses the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) for its safety assessment of parabens (isobutylparaben and isopropylparaben). The safety assessment of the CIR Expert Panel was published in 1995, before evidence of the endocrine (hormonal system), reproductive and developmental effects of parabens had been reported. [3]
    Furthermore, due to the lack of available data on parabens (isobutylparaben and isopropylparaben), the CIR used data from related compounds (methyl-, ethyl-, propyl- and butylparaben) instead. [3]

    [1] McGrath, Kris G. “Why Breast Cancer is Spreading Around the World.” ControlYourImpact.Com. 12 Feb. 2008. 13 Feb. 2008

    [3] Harvey, Philip W. “Parabens, Oestrogenicity, Underarm Cosmetics and Breast Cancer – a Perspective on a Hypothesis.” Journal of Applied Toxicology 23 (2003): 285-288. 10 Feb. 2008

    1.McGrath, Kris G. “Why Breast Cancer is Spreading Around the World.” ControlYourImpact.Com. 12 Feb. 2008. 13 Feb. 2008
    1.McGrath, K G. “An Earlier Age of Breast Cancer Diagnosis Related to More Frequent Use of Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Underarm Shaving.” European Journal of Cancer Prevention 12 (2003): 479-485. 24 Jan. 2008.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: