Amber Rose will not save feminism or completely dismantle body hair negativity for good – and she doesn’t have to. Her activism is powerful in the ways that it starts the conversation for those who are not embracing feminism already.
Summer is nearly here, which means that conversations about body hair, body positivity, and feminism are heating up once again.
The conversation of how body hair plays into body positivity and feminism isn’t a new one. Since second wave feminism, women and femmes have been fighting for the freedom to present in the ways that make them the most comfortable for decades. Body hair, much like every other aspect of a femme-presenting person’s appearance, is political in that it is a conscious and unconscious personal choice. It is something that one chooses based on emotion, and/or societal pressure, and/or survival.
There are so many factors that influence whether someone decides to shave, including why, where and how. Body hair is interesting in that through its heavy policing, it can become a weapon for unconscious femininity and misogyny.
Even now, in 2017, body hair is still a highly controversial topic simply because it directly challenges our thoughts of unconscious femininity, internalized misogyny, and femmephobia.
So where does Amber Rose play a role in this? Last Friday, she posted a photo on her Instagram which featured her posing on a staircase, displaying her pubic hair in the photo. This, of course, began to rise up again the question of what role body hair plays in both body positivity and mainstream feminism.
Imma post this one more time for the haters ???? pic.twitter.com/9U2nE8z4Yh
— Amber Rose (@DaRealAmberRose) June 11, 2017
Amber Rose is a celebrity whose popularity rise in recent years has stemmed from her approach to feminism as a genuine extension of how she lives her life. Though her feminism is imperfect (and whose isn’t?), she remains an interesting figure because she actively tries to marry being a public figure – one that uses sexuality as a core marketing tactic for her brand – and being a feminist.
She doesn’t use academic language to describe her feminism because, well, she’s not an academic – but that is part of what makes her activism relatable. For people who do not use terms like feminism to describe themselves or have a hard time finding reflections of themselves in theory and heavy academic texts, Amber Rose gives a voice that feminism is for everyone.
The fact is that Amber Rose has a unique position within mainstream feminism: She is a public figure who does try to use her platform to bring awareness to feminism as she defines it, however imperfect and evolving this is – and we need more public figures willing to do this kind of work. However, the violence that Amber Rose experiences is because she is a feminist who doesn’t use the theory and fancy words that we are accustomed to. Though she experiences privileges that make it easier for her to navigate these spaces with overall safety, she is still a hyper-visible Black woman vulnerable to a specific kind of violence that is classist, racist, and essentially anti-feminist in nature. With this kind of violence, her fame does not protect her – nor does it protect the other BIW+oC that fight for feminism in their own ways.
Body hair is an important part of feminism because is is the ultimate rebellion against oppressive appearance-based norms. The embrace for body hair for certain body types (thin, cis, white, able-bodied, conventionally attractive) and certain people is rooted in racist, classist, and anti-feminist nonsense. Pieces like gal-dem’s 2016 article, “Not Shaving Isn’t Always A Choice For Women Of Color” and Allure’s recent articles exploring the politics of body hair (“The Labor Of Body Hair Removal” and the Body Hair Photoshoot are great places to start), are bringing a more nuanced look to body hair politics, exploring who is, isn’t and exactly how they are allowed to wear their body hair. But it’s not perfect, and there’s still much work to do.
Amber Rose will not save feminism or completely dismantle body hair negativity for good – and she doesn’t have to. Her activism is powerful in the ways that it starts the conversation for those who are not embracing feminism already. It’s just as valuable, necessary, and valid as the academic articles and jargon that many like to use in place of the action feminism requires.
If body hair is so important to feminism and is something that we can have a greater understanding about, it’s important that we’re able to have the hard conversations of examining how and why we chose to engage or disengage in it. We must recognize that some people will choose to remove their body hair out of convenience, personal autonomy, or internalized misogyny – and that’s ok, as long as it is acknowledged and participated in willingly.
Feminist identity is not contingent on body hair, but in the acceptance and fight for others to present as they choose, full stop. And if it takes an Instagram post for some folks to get on board with that message, then that is a feminist action we should take note of.
Featured Image: Amber Rose