I have been trying to tame the Beast for a great deal of time now. I first met her in elementary school, when the natural parts of myself started becoming unnatural.
I remember the first time I took a shaving razor to my legs. I retrieved a plastic, bubblegum pink Daisy from a loud plastic bag in my mother’s vanity, slipping the plastic cover off of the blade. I pressed the disposable razor against my leg, shaving against the grain as I had read in The Care and Keeping of You. This seemingly simple manoeuvre unleashed a river of blood, which proceeded to flow down my leg.
The feelings that followed were shame and guilt, which were partially driven by my mother’s anger when she found out. I recall running and crying to my father afterwards, who told me that everything would be fine.
Somehow at the age of 9 I realized that hair was undesirable, and thus, that I was undesirable. I had yet to even become a woman in the physiological sense, but I already knew that desirability would become like a currency in my later years.
The shaving incident was followed by many other years of trying to break The Beast through strict beauty routines. Growing up in Southern California, lland of bikinis, hairlessness was close to godliness (at least for women). In its fury, the Beast fired back with yet another attack: Acne.
I began wearing makeup around 11 or 12 years old. This time, my mother was aware of my desires to cover my preteen pimples and provided me with an ALMAY powder compact. I layered the powder thick across my face, attempting to cover up any indication of imperfection brought on by The Beast. As my acne got worse, my makeup usage increased. To this day, I still feel incomplete without it on my face.
At 21, I continue to whip and pluck The Beast, as I started to do when I was 9. I still see the parts of The Beast – the acne, the stretch marks, cellulite and body hair – as “the other” rather than as a part of myself.
I wonder now what has led to me viewing natural parts of myself with otherness – or as a profound flaw that needs to be fixed – as if I am the only woman in the world with body hair and acne. Is it the fashion magazines I read? My peers in school? Could it have been The Care and Keeping of You?
I am in no position to question the patriarchy. I continue to uphold its standards of beauty for women by attempting to tame the Beast by shaving, plucking, pinching, concealing and lasering away flaws with due diligence. Who am I to question the patriarchy, when at the age of 9 I knew to run to my father to gather support in taming the Beast.
Perhaps some might feel that I am a bad feminist, or that I should not even claim to be a feminist at all. Others might praise me for “reclaiming femininity” and “doing what I want” in a man’s world by exercising agency over my body. Regardless, I still sit on my bathroom countertop, staring at the Beast in the mirror as I plan my next attack.
I will not pretend to be any different than the woe-is-me-white-feminist writer. The issue of body hair extends further for Black and trans women, who have faced continual discrimination in this area. I am not saying anything deeply profound — I am simply writing what has been thought by countless other women who continue to fight with the Beast, just as I do.
In this niche, how can we begin again? How can we begin to celebrate beauty and the routine of maintaining it?
By truly loving ourselves, and thus, loving the Beast.