The Separation of Body and Mind

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How did so many of us get so far detatched from our bodies?

We intellectualise our existence, elevating the fluff between our ears into higher and higher reverence, and leave our bodies neglected on the earth… which we also neglect.

The trans movement talks in circles about ‘identity’ and ‘I am what I say I am’, completely shunning the physical reality of the body that only knows what it feels and does what it is instructed to with the tools we give it.

We learn to treat our bodies with disdain, women in particular learn to hate our bodies, to see only flaws and inadequacies and never to marvel at the delicacy and intricacy of the vessel that labours faithfully to support the very mind that mercilessly criticises it.

We expect our bodies to run at full capacity when loaded with substandard and inappropriate fuel, and while deprived of proper rest and left to languish, idle, in front of screens. We complain of fatigue when we know that it comes from a lack of care and sleep.

We submit our bodies to dozens of chemicals in the name of ‘hygiene’ and even more in the name of ‘beauty’. This beauty is never achieved, never attained, we go on endlessly applying chemicals and removing our body’s natural protections, causing pain and irritation, in a time-consuming regime that exists solely to avoid the uninvited and unconstructive criticism of others.

We eat food from packets that is many steps removed from natural ingredients, we choose ‘99% fat free’ without caring about the sugars and the additives and preservatives we replace that fat with. We forget how to listen to our bodies, filling up on kilojoules rather than nutrients, trying to satisfy a hunger that we don’t understand.

The bitter contempt we harbour for our bodies is exploited in order to sell us products that won’t fix the problems we don’t actually have, and won’t ever make us satisfied with how we look.

We are our bodies. Our bodies are not the enemy, not there to be conquered or exploited, but to be harnessed and conditioned to provide us with a physical link to an incredible world where many sensations await us. Our bodies want to go on. They want to be well. And while there are times when things don’t work out for our bodies, times when things go wrong, generally the better we care for them, the better they can serve us.

Our bodies can be a refuge for our overstimulated minds. They can be strangers or they can be our dear friends and comrades.They can be an appendix, an adjunct, to our minds or they can be partner and resource.

Our bodies do not exist to provide visual stimulation to others. They exist for our own use, under our own terms. They are what we are and where we reside. They are miraculous and fabulous and come in many shapes, sizes and colours, all with untapped capabilities. They should be loved and appreciated and celebrated for what they are.

Love and appreciate your body. Forget all the things you have been told are wrong about how it looks. Care for and nurture your physical self. The rewards will be great.

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Why No Kid of Mine is Going to a ‘Presentation Ball’

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A couple of weeks ago, my older son and two of his friends had a sleepover featuring pizza and video games.

On this night most of their grade five and six peers were at the school ‘presentation ball’.

Now, there is no attempt to hide the fact that the term ‘presentation ball’ is pretty much interchangeable with ‘debutante ball’ these days. Girls get dressed up in long white dresses like mini-brides, have their hair and make-up done and dance with boys in suits. The ‘couples’ are presented to the attendees, who are made up of family and friends. Hours of dance practice is required to make sure that the ‘couples’ don’t forget their steps on the night.

The debutante ball was developed in high-society Europe in the 19th century for the purpose of helping fathers find suitably-ranked young men to marry their daughters off to. The tradition spread and today these events are still held all over the world.

It is mostly girls in late high school who ‘do their deb’ in Australia. But the ball that was held by my children’s school was for students in grades five and six. Children aged between ten and twelve years old.

I don’t know who had the idea that presenting such young girls essentially as objects suitable for selection by potential husbands was in any way ethical. This is a dubious practice even when it involves older girls. But from where I sit, it is particularly distasteful to subject such young children to a tradition that reinforces the notion that girls are nothing more than pieces of chattel to be decorated and traded.

No doubt all the girls involved would have been under pressure to look as attractive as possible, dressed up and styled to look like adults, and told repeatedly how beautiful they looked. No doubt most would have been insecure about their appearance, worried that they were too fat, too skinny or too flat-chested to look good in their fitted white dress.

In between all of this we have the boys, who were essentially accessories and dance partners. The boy/girl pairs are referred to as ‘couples’, and all ‘couples’ must be boy/girl. There is no room to blur the lines of binary gender segregation and heteronormativity.

Even had he wanted to go, I would not have let my son attend. I will not let his brother attend when his class have the option to participate in two years time. And I hope that in two years time I will have the courage to present an objection to the organisers. To tell them that it is unhealthy to present children as property to be traded. That it is unhealthy to dress young girls up as adults and put them on show. That it is unhealthy to reinforce the notion that girls must be desirable and decorative and that any other qualities they possess are much less important. Unhealthy to reinforce the notion that girls exist to be paired up with men.

There are ways to have fun with your friends that don’t involve sexualising and objectifying girls. And a small group of boys, my son included, did precisely that on the night of the presentation ball.

The debutante or presentation ball is a tradition deeply entrenched in a patriarchal society. It is the precursor to marriage, which is directly descended from a church-sanctioned ceremony for passing ownership of a girl from her father to her husband. It has no place in a society that has any ambition at all with regard to treating women and girls as human, rather than as objects and property.

I Want My FemTV

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For something a bit different this week, I have decided to review and recommend some TV shows with a feminist leaning. With the current discussions going around about Game of Thrones and its regular assertions that women are almost exclusively for the use, ownership and entertainment of men, I have been looking for shows that, you know, portray women as people.

The pickings are slim. Most blockbuster TV shows are about men, by men and for men. But there seems to be emerging a trickle of solid series featuring women. Here are a few that I have watched, and what I think of them.

Orange Is The New Black

Set in a women’s prison, OITNB features a diverse cast of women, covering a wide range of ages, colours, shapes and sexual orientations. The central character is a privileged white girl who goes in facing a short stint for drug-related crimes and soon realises that it won’t be a simple matter of keeping her head down and doing her time quietly.

For its fairly gritty subject matter, OITNB manages to remain upbeat and enjoyable, as we delve into the past to discover what makes the various inmates tick and what led them to their life behind bars.

Outlander

Based on the beloved series of books by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander follows the adventures of Claire Randall, a world-wise WWII army nurse, who is suddenly transported back in time 200 years.

Finding herself in the Scottish Highlands circa 1940s, Claire is picked up by a band of clansmen, and quickly ends up in a politically-motivated arranged marriage with a very buff young Highlander named James Fraser.

Written by a woman, and featuring a female lead with a unique personality, Outlander doesn’t skimp on all the ‘man stuff’ required to depict life in a politically unstable, historically-accurate environment. There is blood, nudity, sex, violence, depravity, brutality and bad language. And yet none of it is gratuitous or over-the-top. None of it is purely for titillation or shock value.

Season one is about to end, with season two in the works and plans for several more. I hope that the Outlander star continues to rise and we get to enjoy watching the whole story of Jamie and Claire evolve over the next decade.

The Fall

Gillian Anderson plays Stella Gibson, a no-nonsense MET Detective Superintendent called to Belfast to lead the search for a serial killer who preys on women.

This is horror TV for women, with a cold and calculating killer who manages to prey on successful young women even when they take measures to protect themselves. That he does all this without his wife and children even noticing anything odd makes him all the more terrifying. Stella sets out to match wits with the killer (played by Jamie Dornan of 50 Shades of Grey fame, which made it really easy for me to dislike him) and use his pathology against him to bring him to justice.

This series is a slow burner, you’ll find yourself thinking nothing much is happening and then suddenly the episode is over and you just have to find out what happens next. Gillian Anderson’s Stella is the perfect balance of tough and vulnerable, composed and emotional, authoritative and imperfect, whether doing laps in the pool or rocking killer heels and a power skirt in the office. The monochrome bleakness of Belfast and contrasts sharply with the raw humanity of the characters.

Greys Anatomy

Hold on a second, I know what you are going to say. Greys is pure fluff and certainly doesn’t qualify as feminist. But bear with me. With hand on heart, I have to say that Greys Anatomy is my favourite TV show of all time. And I recently finished re-watching all of the first 10 seasons. Yes, it took months. And from my scattered memories of the last ten years, I expected to find it tedious and overly dramatic. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, even with my recently acquired feminist perspective.

This show is full of diverse female characters. Yes, they spend a lot of time talking about boys and dealing with boy problems, but they live their lives, they survive tragedies, they save people, they learn, they grow, they mess up, they fall apart and they pick their shit up and get on with it. Sometimes you get the feeling that the women are the meat-and-potatoes of the series and the men are the window dressing. Story arcs vary from one episode to spanning the entire ten years, and creator Shonda Rhimes keeps finding new ways to touch your heart and sometimes break it. This is a show by a woman, about women, and for women, and I can happily watch it for hours on end.

Orphan Black

It would be easy to give too much away about this series, which features Tatiana Maslany in a number of very different roles. The main character is Sarah, a con-artist looking for the big score that will allow her to escape her troubled past and start a new life with her young daughter Kira and her flamboyant foster-brother Felix. But when Sarah picks up the handbag of a young woman who has just committed suicide, she starts a journey down a path of intrigue where the answers lead to ever more questions.

Apart from the raft of female characters, this series takes a refreshingly honest approach to sexuality, with relationships and sexual encounters handed out liberally and without judgement to the characters without discriminating on the basis of age, appearance or orientation. The story twists and turns, heads down side streets, goes off on tangents, and still manages to stay coherent.

Top of the Lake

I am only one episode into this miniseries, created by Jane Campion of The Piano fame. I didn’t expect to be hooked by the first episode, but it took some serious will power to turn it off and go to bed without watching ‘just one more’. Once I am finished writing this I will be hopping straight back in front of the telly to continue where I left off.

This series has been accused of having an ‘aggressive feminist agenda’, probably because it is brave enough to actually discuss male violence and not take the party line of portraying men as heroes, or at least all-round good blokes. It certainly pulls no punches, with the storyline focusing on Tui, a slight 12-year-old girl who tries to kill herself in a freezing lake and in the aftermath is discovered to be pregnant. Detective Robin Griffin, played by Elisabeth Moss, takes an interest in the case and ends up uncovering a hotbed of small-town secrets.

Child abuse, domestic violence, rape culture and male superiority are all put under the microscope. Set in New Zealand, the scenery is magnificent.

So those are some series to consider if you’re after a change of pace from all the man-centric, ultra-violent, mainstream TV that everyone seems to be into these days. You may notice that I didn’t include Lena Dunham’s Girls in my list. I watched the first two seasons because of the reported realism and out-there female characters, and found something I could relate to in the interactions between flawed characters. But a few episodes into season three it got to the point where I just wanted to slap them all in the face for being so completely self-absorbed, and there seemed to be no more real human connections to distract me from how much I disliked them all. So no, I don’t really recommend Girls.

But the rest of those should keep you going for a while.

The Gender Price Gap

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http://genderpricegap.tumblr.com/

Look at that link. It will open in a new window for you. It won’t take long, and the rest of this post won’t make any sense if you don’t look at that link first.

Did you look? Are you furious? You should be!

Have you ever gone shopping found yourself accidentally looking at a shirt in the section of the store that was not intended for your gender and thought ‘Oh dear, I shouldn’t be looking at this, it is not for me’?

Have you ever picked up a toiletry product for a family member not of your gender and felt self-conscious at the checkout because someone might see it and think that you had stupidly got yourself the wrong one?

Have you ever gone shopping for children’s clothing and had an uncomfortable moment where you were not quite sure which section was appropriate for you child’s gender, knowing you could not possibly bring home a girl t-shirt for your son?

I have done all of these things. What I remember most is that feeling in my gut that someone would see me and judge me for not knowing the difference between men and women.

One time I even paid extra for black ink pens because I wanted pink and purple ones. I am not very proud of that…

It took a conscious effort to realise that you can actually buy an item of clothing from the Men’s section for yourself when you are a woman. That there are some perfectly good deodorants out there with a neutral or minimal scent that say ‘For Men’ but are cheaper than the pink and flowery ones marketed at women.

Next time you are in the supermarket, have a look at the names given to deodorant for men, versus the equivalent item for women. I did this recently, and it is absurd. There is an actual variety of deodorant marketed at women called ‘Sexy’. *shudder* These gendered labels give a very disturbing insight into how commercialism views the roles of men and women.

But to bare-facedly charge women more for an item because it is marketed at women or girls? That is reprehensible. When women go to buy toiletries or clothing or toys, does it even cross your mind to check the price of the equivalent item for men? Of course not.

Now that I know this happens, I am going to make sure that anything I buy that has been pinkified is the same price as the equivalent ‘For Men’ product. And it if is not – I will buy the cheaper one.

I don’t need my deodorant to smell like flowers, I need it to stop me from smelling like sweat and not leave residue on my clothes. And razors, not that I use them, do the same thing whether they are pink or blue. My hair is shorter than my partner’s, so why should a haircut be cheaper for him than for me?

More, more and more evidence of how we are shoved back in our gender boxes every day and women are penalised for being women.

We are taught that there are things for boys and different things for girls and we must never cross that gender line or we will be laughed at, teased, considered stupid, whatever.

But it is all lies. Gender doesn’t matter. ‘Beauty’ doesn’t matter. Just be people, preferably kind people, and we will all be much better off.

 

What I Will Teach My Sons

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Sometimes feminist wisdom comes from unexpected places. Discussing patriarchy while on a road trip with my partner the other weekend he came out with the observation that ‘the world would be a very different place if men realised that sex isn’t really all that great’.

I replied ‘but they think sex is what makes them men, and they think that being a man is the most important thing they can be’.

He responded with, ‘they think that being a man is all about drinking, f**king and fighting. So their whole life revolves around those three things.’

‘And women suffer for it’, I concluded.

We hear the term ‘toxic masculinity’ and it doesn’t really mean much until you look at the way boys learn that being a man is the most important thing they can be, and that in order to be men they must behave in a certain way and shun everything feminine.

If boys learn that men are the most important thing and that femininity threatens masculinity, of course they are going to develop an ingrained fear and dislike of all things feminine.

And what is the most feminine thing? Girls and women.

In my house, I am no shrinking violet. I speak without fear. I call out sexist language. I point out the things that promote sexism in our society.

We also avoid most mainstream media. I don’t let my children watch commercial television. Yes, I have one child who writes comics about stick figure zombies and loves the XBox, and one who loves AFL football. But I also have an 11yo who is not worried about being seen hugging me in public and a 9yo who doesn’t bat an eyelid when his long hair and pink football lead to him being called ‘young lady’ by friendly strangers. We are making progress.

I have a few things that I constantly reinforce. One is that your body is yours and yours only. Except in circumstances where your parents make decisions for the benefit of your health (like enforcing the eating of vegetables or brushing of teeth), you get to choose what you do with your body. If you want a haircut, or want to grow your hair, you get to make that choice. If you don’t want to hug a relative, you don’t have to. I have even told my older child that if he really doesn’t want to have any more teeth pulled in the pursuit of a perfect smile, that is his choice. I know how awful it was being marched into the dentist for my extractions as a kid, and I am not going to force anyone to go through that for the sake of straighter teeth.

The goal of this is that my boys will learn to respect the physical boundaries of others, and when the time comes, consent in sexual encounters will be easy to navigate. ‘No’ will be heard as ‘no’. A less obvious ‘no’ will still be recognised as ‘no’.

The other important thing that I constantly reinforce, is that gender should not alter the way you treat somebody. In fact, gender is not really important. Being a good person is the goal. Anyone with a penis can ‘be a man’. It is not a special quality, not an achievement or something that makes you better than anyone else. What someone’s genitals look like, or what you assume they look like, should not affect the way you treat that person.

If someone is smaller or younger than you, be gentle with them. If they are up for a bit of rough and tumble, make sure you respect any request to back off or stop altogether.

My goal here is that my boys will grow up with the notion that women are people. That dominating women or treating them as objects is as unthinkable as doing the same to another male. That everyone deserves the same respect, regardless of whether they play football or netball, whether they have long hair or short hair, whether they wear shorts or a dress to school.

If they grow up with this attitude, encouraging them to speak out when their peers say things that are disrespectful to women or girls should be easier. Because they will recognise sexism and know it is wrong.

Some feminists say ‘teach boys not to rape’. I say ‘teach boys that women and girls are people, and all people deserve the same respect’. For when boys grow up to see girls and women as equal and fully human, not as sex objects or inferior beings, not as something to be attained or achieved, not as a tool for their entertainment, they will find the idea of harming, dominating or violating a woman as abhorrent as the idea of someone harming, dominating or violating them.

And if they grow up without the notion that ‘drinking, f**king and fighting’ are the most important things, they will have plenty of energy for less destructive pursuits.

 

The Barefoot Cook’s International Women’s Day Address

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international womens day

Good evening, my fellow humans. My name is Jodie and I am a radical feminist.

Radical feminists believe that we live in a patriarchal society that divides the entire human race into two groups and then makes one of those groups dominant over the other. It divides us not for any logical reason, but with the prime objective of treating us differently.

The practical application of radical feminism is to challenge anything that puts women in a subservient role and reinforces our position of weakness. Anything that makes us less valuable, less powerful, less human.

The purpose of feminism, as a whole, is to promote women to the rank of fully human. It should follow then that anyone who does not identify as a feminist, does not believe that women are fully human. And that anyone who does agree that women are fully human is thereby a feminist.

People shun the word feminist for many reasons. They think that feminism is no longer necessary. They claim to be opposed to labels. They say that the word feminism is loaded with ‘negative connotations’.

These are often the same people who label me a man-hater, a sexist, a ‘male genocide advocate’, and who then call me a liar when I tell them I am none of those things. If feminism has negative connotations, it is because those who are against it, those who quite enjoy the current social acceptability treating women as less than human, are working very hard to discredit it.

There are many women out there who cannot stand up for themselves because the threat to their own or their children’s lives is very real. Because they have been trained for their whole lives to believe that they are of little value and that men are in charge, there are consequences if you disagree, and that is just how the world works.

If you are woman who is in a safe place, who can stand up for yourself and for those around you, I implore you to make that stand. Whenever you see women being disrespected, belittled, devalued or sexualised, in person or in the media, say something.

If you are a man who believes that women are fully human, speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Call out the attitudes that allow for the objectification and dehumanisation of women.

Teach your children that women are people. Teach them about consent. Teach boys and girls that they always have the right to say ‘no’. That nobody is allowed to touch them without their permission, and that they never have to allow anyone to touch them if they don’t want to. Not even grandma. Teach them to speak up if they feel uncomfortable, and always believe them if they tell you someone has done something inappropriate to them.

Open up the lines of conversation. Warn boys about the dangers of online porn. Pull them up if you hear them calling a girl a ‘slut’ or using the word ‘girl’ in a derogatory manner. Make sure they understand that women are people, not decoration or devices for their sexual gratification.

Challenge the gender binary. Without this rigid division of the human race, sexism and gender inequality would dissolve. Look at all the ways that gender is reinforced. Notice sexualisation in the media.

Examine your choices. Do you really wear high heels because you like them? Wear make-up because you want to? If nobody else would ever see them, would you still wax your legs? Do you tone down your clothing selections so as not to attract unwanted attention? Do you decide not to buy something because it ‘makes you look fat’? Do you buy skin products in the hope that they will prevent you from ‘looking old’? Often we have to adhere to societal expectations to stay out of trouble. I am not saying turn up to work in a tracksuit instead of a skirt and heels. Just understand why you wear that skirt and heels.

Women are not decoration. Your level of attractiveness to others has no bearing on your worth as a person. The colour of your skin, eyes, hair, the number of your clothing size, your height, your freckles, your wrinkles, your scars, none of these make you any more or less deserving of happiness. Or love. Or respect.

Always believe those who claim to be victims of abuse. The number of false accusations is miniscule compared to the number of victims who are disbelieved or who never speak up at all. Chances are, if somebody tells you they have been assaulted or abused, they have. And the price of not believing them is far greater than the slight chance that what they are saying is untrue.

Do not accuse women of ‘playing victim’, or having a ‘victim mentality’. If women are victims, it is because somebody has harmed us. Changing our attitude will not magically erase that. A woman cannot choose not to be a victim any more than she can un-rape herself. Women do not choose to be victims – do not take the blame away from the perpetrators.

Understand that violence is a gendered issue. Nine out of ten physically violent crimes are committed by men. This has been backed up over and over by official crime statistics. In terms of domestic violence, men are also grossly overrepresented as perpetrators. Don’t feel the need to weigh in with ‘but some women are violent too!’. We all know that. But one in ten does not make women ‘just as bad’. It makes violence a gendered issue.

We can make a better world for everybody. Don’t give up. Be proud of your feminist attitudes and defend your right to safety and respect. Challenge traditional gender expectations and ridiculous ‘beauty standards’ created for the purposes of control and corporate gain. Examine the unfairness that has been background noise for years.

We hold up half the sky. It is time for women to raise our hands, raise our voices and take what we should never have been denied in the first place – our autonomy.

gandhi

 

 

On Choice, and Why Body Hair is a Feminist Issue

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You know that thing where a topic keeps popping up so I write a blog post about it? It is happening right now.

Be thankful I am not doing a rehash of all the things wrong with Fifty Shades of Grey. Nope, I am not touching that one with a barge pole.

Instead I am going to launch into an attempt to organise my thoughts on choice, beauty standards and armpit hair.

This is a little bit more political than a lot of the stuff I post on here, but as I gain confidence I am becoming more comfortable with sharing these ideas with my audience, rather than hiding them in my secret feminist blog.

As women, we are constantly told that the things that happen to us are a result of our choices. That we choose to date or marry abusive men. That we choose to be single mothers. That we choose to work in lower-paid jobs. That we choose to drink too much or eat too much or act in ways that make us targets for violence. This way we are left in no doubt that whatever happens to us, whatever predicament we find ourselves in, we have only ourselves to blame. The flip side of this, that nobody talks about, is that those who harm and oppress us are absolved of all responsibility.

We are told that women choose to be prostituted, that women choose to act in porn. That to take away these choices would be taking away women’s choices, and that would be bad.

The lie that we are told every day is that women choose to be oppressed, and that men are doing us a favour by oppressing us.

We are told that women don’t want the hard/dangerous/high-powered jobs because we would rather stay at home and have an easy life while our husbands earn the money. That we want to be treated as sex objects. That we want to be abused and humiliated. That when we leave abusive partners we have chosen to break up our family, deprive our children of a father and be poor and stressed with limited opportunity to improve our lot. I hear it all the time. Women don’t want to work, they want to stay at home and be treated like princesses. Women like rough sex, but they are ashamed to admit it. Women think ‘nice guys’ are boring, so they always go for the ‘bad boys’. Women have it so easy. Women are their own worst enemies.

We are told that we only dress up to compete with other women. That we can choose whether or not to wear make-up, whether or not to wear high-heels, whether or not to remove our body hair.

And sure, you can choose not to do the things that society tells us we MUST do. But what happens if you don’t?

Body hair on women is one of my pet topics. To me it is a core feminist issue. I cannot count how many times I have been told that it is a ‘first-world problem’, or that women can ‘do whatever they want’ and most just ‘choose’ to remove their body hair for no practical reason.

And then when i argue the point I get told that it is insignificant, unimportant, that being allowed an opinion on what I do to my own body has nothing to do with feminism, that I should shut up and be glad I don’t live in Afghanistan.

I have got into countless discussions on the topic and been told countless times that body hair on women is unacceptable. The words most commonly used to describe underarm or pubic hair on women are: gross, nasty, disgusting, unhygienic, dirty. Who is going to volunteer to be considered all of those things, when simply picking up a razor can prevent it?

Admit it, just reading this you are wondering why I am writing about such an icky and insignificant topic. You’re thinking ‘ew, I just had lunch, I don’t want to hear about your armpit hair’.

Ask yourself, would you grow your armpit hair? Would it be okay if your wife or girlfriend did? Why? Why not? Because it is gross or dirty? Is it really? Why?

Yes, we have a choice. But choosing to go against the majority is difficult. And it shouldn’t be.

When I chose to stop removing my armpit hair I did it for a number of reasons. I get bad razor rash, which leaves me with nasty red spots and sometimes big lumps, especially in summer. I wanted to see if not shaving would prevent this. It did. I also realised that I had been shaving the hair off since before I even started growing it. That I had never had more than a couple of millimetres growth. I had no idea what it would even look like if I let it grow.

But mainly, I wanted to see if I could. If I could really choose.

And do you know what? This tiny choice was incredibly difficult. I had to deal with worrying about what everyone thought. Would they think I was disgusting? While most people won’t come out and say it, if you ask them they will tell you that they find it a bit yuck. You certainly don’t have to travel far on the internet to find out that whether it is on Madonna or Sofia Loren or the woman next to you at the train station, 99% of people think armpit hair on women simply should not exist.

I have not personally encountered a single woman who would even entertain the idea of not removing her underarm hair. And when challenged, the women I have talked to about it all tell me that they choose to do it.

It took me months and lots of self doubt to finally be comfortable with my decision. My partner pulled faces and told me it was ‘manly’, but he has learned to live with it. Wearing singlets, raising my arms in public and letting the rest of the yoga class see it took some real guts on my part. This tiny decision, this thing I do for me and me only that anyone can do at any time? It was a real eye-opener. A real consciousness-shifter. A pivotal event in learning how to really make my own choices for myself.

Having our appearance micromanaged by society blocks us from dealing with the ‘bigger’ issues. The lipstick/body hair/skirt arguments are all manufactured by the patriarchy. None of those things should matter. But ‘choosing’ to shave your legs and ‘choosing’ to be a stay at home mother are two sides of the same coin, and go hand-in-hand with ‘choosing’ to be a prostitute. We are told we have a choice, but those choices are laden with threat and consequences. To you or me, feeling like you have to wear make-up  to fit in at work is a lesser hardship than feeling like you have to let men pay to rape you so you can pay your rent, so you just do it. But a win is a win. Oppression is oppression, and the ‘little’ oppressions are supposed to keep us obedient and teach us how to submit to the ‘bigger’ oppressions. You have to teach a horse to eat from your hand before your can teach it to carry a saddle and rider. And you have to teach women to ‘choose’ to shave their armpits before you can teach them to ‘choose’ to be owned, abused, humiliated and discarded.

By making that one tiny choice, I learned how to make an actual choice about what I do with my own body, regardless of the collective attitude and outside influences. Maybe next I will get a short haircut on my head or go out without a bra or shop for clothing somewhere other than the women’s section of a store.  You have to learn how to choose what you do with your own body, before you can choose to demand to be treated like a fully-fledged human being.