Sunday, November 18, 2012

Off topic: College writer uses 'Movember' to raise awareness about a critical issue: a women's right not to shave

November is "no-shave" month -- "Movember" -- and it's among the few well publicized initiatives that brings attention to serious problems that exclusively affect men, prostate and testicular cancers. How are women reacting to this effort?  My impression is that women who are aware of it are pretty much unanimous in their support of it.   

Then there's Hannah Bauer

Bauer, writing in a college newspaper, first mildly belittles the effort: "Traditionally, No Shave November has been an excuse for men to let their facial hair grow out to lumberjack-level beastliness. This generally results in the occasional turned-off chick, and the often jealous or admiring fellow bro."

Then, Bauer had an epiphany. "No-shave" November presents a golden opportunity to raise awareness about a critical problem. No, not prostate cancer or any other issue relating to men's health. Women's rights.

Yep. You read that right. Bauer explains: ". . . we have to ask ourselves why women feel this internal and external pressure to shave. If we, as women and as society, can accept body hair on a man, that means that body hair isn’t disgusting. It’s just gross when it’s on a woman. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems a little unfair. I’m not really sure when or how society began to expect women to be magically and perpetually hairless, or why this expectation has been maintained, but I intend to find out."  Therefore, Bauer announced, "in the name of great feminism, I will be participating in No Shave November this year."

So you see?  Silly "Movember," where men grow facial hair as an "excuse" to be more beastly, can actually be used to raise awareness about something damn important.  Bauer writes:  "Feminism is a lengthy subject, but it’s not about being a lesbian or a man-hater, it’s about being equal. It’s not even really about shaving, but about choice."

You are excused to go bang your head against the wall.

You know what, Hannah? I agree -- it is unfair to women that they are are expected to shave. But to make that point in the context of a campaign devoted to saving lives (a campaign where, finally, men have come together to actually address a male health problem in a productive, activist way instead of doing what men do too often -- ignore it) is a tad insensitive, don't you think?  Not evil, not man-hating, just eye-rolling petty, that's all.  Everyone agrees that there are at least some issues that affect men because they are men -- prostate and testicular cancer have to rank high on that list -- is it so terribly difficult to get behind the men on this issue without trivializing the problem, or without making it a problem for women?  Seriously?

The Huffington Post quotes a Tumblr user named chunkymonkeyandme, a "stay-at-home mum," who responded to Bauer more succinctly than we would: "[D]o not take this prostate cancer awareness month away from men and make it about feminism and your rights not to shave!"