The image of the ‘hairy’ feminist is ubiquitous and I would suggest unchanging although not necessarily immutable. Indeed, the image of the hairy feminist could even be said to haunt feminism provoking accusations of disgust – as if body hair is some sort of pollutant – and frivolity. Is body hair really something to be taken seriously after all? I mean it’s just hair, isn’t it? Frankly there’s no just about it when women’s body hair just remains there on the body where it is naturally found. The image of the hairy feminist is an image I’m interested in understanding further and unpacking and unravelling.
The nude hairy feminist captured as oil on canvas perhaps offers another lens through which to wonder at this largely stigmatised image, another mode in which to address its stakes, its history, its possibilities. Camilla Cannon‘s painting of Emer O’Toole The Hairy Feminist gives us this very lens.
Emer reflects on her experience of posing for Camilla in The Guardian and her final words hint at the possibilities the hairy feminist desnuda and the hairy feminist vestida admit a genealogy of the image of the hairy feminist tout court.
‘Being painted was, however, fun and pleasurable. And that’s OK, too. I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to do things with my body because they are fun rather than because they’re empowering’.
Emer here divorces the ‘fun’, the ‘pleasurable’ from a question of empowerment. Frequently neither body hair nor feminism are associated with ‘fun’ and the image of the hairy feminist in particular is often read as a key marker of the ‘unfun’. Hairy girls do not want to have fun, apparently. The unapologetic fun that Emer expresses here, then, is itself a somewhat subversive proclamation and this fun has been seen elsewhere on the bodies of women throughout 2015 in the pit hair dying and glitter pit ‘trends’ last year bore witness to. A simple, playful claim for enjoying one’s body and what one does with it exclusive of a sense of empowerment is thus a provocative and productive platform from which to start to rethink the image(d)/imagined and lived hairy feminist.