This Wednesday marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The writer Bel Olid (Mataró, 1977) states that “waxing avoids women a form of verbal violence“Perhaps he had never considered that pulling one’s hair, a normally painful practice, could be a form of violence against women. In the recently published essay ‘Unwillingly. Or why break the cycle of waxing, submission and self-hatred‘(Capital Swing), Olid considers herself lucky to have a circle that does not question her having disobeyed this gender social norm, while addressing why many women feel “compelled to eradicate hair to be seen as ‘real women.’
What violence have you suffered for not waxing?
In my personal case, simply comments from strangers. The book is not about my personal case but about social control over women’s bodies. One of the most common violence suffered by not waxing is at work, in certain jobs it is not even conceived, such as in positions facing the public it is considered that a woman who is not waxed is not a woman with a good appearance, while that a man who does not wax has no problem. That is why it is important that women who do not suffer this type of violence by not waxing make way for those who have it more complicated due to their circumstances.
“The day came when I asked myself ‘why am I pulling my hair out with hot wax if it hurts and I don’t like it?'”
What has hurt you the most?
Social control is exercised in many ways and one is the way to present something as undesirable. They convince us from a very young age that hairs are disgusting and that we are ugly with them and therefore, if you do not remove them, it is something that you choose. Again it is curious because men’s hair is in no way disgusting, you can have preferences, but a man is not called “disgusting” for not waxing. I think that undermines women’s self-esteem and makes it even more dependent on external approval. In the book I quote a study carried out by a university professor with her students, to whom she proposes not to wax for a while. The conclusions include comments from their mothers such as “you will never find a partner if you go without waxing” and another very curious reaction was “does your boyfriend / husband already know?”, Which is like saying “have you asked for permission ? “. Control over bodies rests on male authority. Another issue is that couples do not care if you wax or not during the winter, it does not diminish the desire, but they cannot bear it being made public because the comments of other men about your partner push you to exercise that control. This is the most macho thing in the universe and it continues to happen, and they are super naturalized comments by people who, in principle, do not consider themselves macho.
How long have you been without waxing?
I don’t know if this is relevant. I have been practicing selective hair removal for many years, which is doing what makes me feel most comfortable depending on what situation. And for three or four years I have not shaved consciously, almost as a form of protest.
What made you stop waxing?
The day came when I asked myself “why am I pulling my hair out with hot wax if it hurts, I don’t like doing it, I waste time, it’s expensive, and they come out again right away?” That question was very powerful. I had the feeling of doing something absurd that was an attack on my body – for me, I have a lot of hair, maybe if I had little, I wouldn’t have considered it. I don’t like doing things that I don’t want to do and one day I asked myself “but why am I doing this? What is the problem if I stop doing it?” And there the world of problems opened up if you stop doing it and why we naturalize something that is not natural at all. It gave me a lot to think about.
What impact does complying with social norms on waxing have on our physical and mental health?
On mental health it is super complex. Harassment at school of girls who have a lot of hair is solved by waxing them and this has two very dangerous messages. The first, to them: others can criticize your body and you have to adapt your body to please others, even pulling your hair with wax, that is, even attacking your body; the second, to the aggressors: we tell them “you continue when a woman does something that does not seem right to you, harass her until she stops doing it and she will stop doing it.” By allowing these dynamics we are educating abusers and abused. Instead of attacking the bottom line, which is violence. It is necessary to educate that the bodies belong to the people and are not discussed.
“Harassment of girls with a lot of hair at school is solved by waxing them and this has two very dangerous messages”
The fact that women’s self-esteem is built on the validation of others leads to many psychological problems, and this is not only where hair removal comes in, but also gordofobia, which can trigger very serious eating disorders that affect physical and mental health.
Regarding physical health, studies say that hair removal of the genitals is contrary to health: the less hair, the easier it is to contract sexually transmitted infections. In addition, there are some types of vulvar cancer that are more common in women who wax their vulva.
How can we convince those of us who have the idea so deeply rooted and cannot feel safe with hair?
I don’t want to convince anyone. I do not fight against waxing and even less against women who wax. What I fight against is the social control of bodies. What interests me is that if you choose to wax, that it does not depend on the punishment you are going to have for not doing it and that new generations have it easier to see it as something absurd. But my goal with the book is in no way to convince anyone, because I know that not everyone can afford it. There is a hopeful piece of information: younger generations wax more than those over 50 years of age, but they tolerate those who do not wax less, and on the other hand, among young people there is a higher percentage who do not care what do others. That is where we have to influence.
What would you say to a teenager or preteen who has not started waxing yet?
There is a message that is for all but especially for the youngest, who still have time to change things: bodies are important on many levels, for you because it allows you to live and do things that make you feel good, because thank you you are alive to your body and, therefore, treat your body well and for me it is not to pull my hair because it hurts me. Your body is valuable because it allows you to live, not because it is beautiful or not. It can’t be that your emotional well-being depends on looking great, because most days that won’t happen. When we wake up with dark circles and hair and we don’t like each other, don’t give it more importance and go to breakfast something we like to feel better. That not feeling pretty prevents you from enjoying the day. De-enslaving ourselves from beauty and the obligation to always be beautiful to everyone is the best gift we can give to the little ones that we have in our charge or around us. Stop telling them “how beautiful you are” every day because we are giving it a lot of weight and because the people who love us don’t care if you are beautiful or ugly.
“I don’t want to convince anyone. I am not fighting against waxing and even less against women who wax, but against social control of bodies”
And to a man who asks it?
In the first place, I would tell them “don’t screw the trap, you don’t know what’s coming your way, you don’t have social pressure.” And I would ask for your help: stop controlling women’s bodies, stop considering that your opinion about women’s bodies deserves to be heard, we don’t need you to tell us what you think of our bodies except when I ask. Another issue is an intimate relationship.
And with gray hair, what do we do?
Well, whatever you want (laughs). It’s the same again: a man with gray hair is sexy, experienced, attractive … compared to a woman, who looks old. This has to make us think. I think we have to dye when we feel like it and without feeling obliged, we have to come to not feel obliged and stop using double standards. For them there is a lot of pressure and for them, not so much.