• Mon, Feb 3 - 12:11 pm ET

Girls Just Forced Me To Confront My Internalized Prejudices Against Body Hair

gaby hoffman girls 3x5

Girls seems to be drowning a bit under the weight of its own fanfare, and this season has been easily its worst. While I think there are some interesting things happening under tired plot lines and heavy handed dialogue, I want to talk about one person and one person only: Gaby Hoffmann. Hoffmann, who plays Adam’s frenetic, difficult, “crazy” older sister Caroline, is the only reason to watch Girls nowadays, and not only does she make the show worthwhile, but she’s making me confront my own internalized issues about female beauty standards.

In this week’s episode, Hannah attends the funeral of her book editor (sloppily and awkwardly, as to be expected), and mediates a fight between Adam and Caroline all before kicking Caroline out of the house after learning that her book deal died with her editor. By far, the most interesting aspect of the episode had to be the fight between Adam and Caroline, but Hoffmann’s body hair made an appearance that threw me for a loop.

While I think Hoffmann’s character is a poorly-written caricature, I can’t stop watching Hoffmann on screen–I’m happy any time she’s on camera just to watch her act. However, I’ve also realized that I react whenever Hoffmann lifts her arms to reveal her under arm hair. Not with revulsion or disgust, but with an “oh, that’s different.” This goes against pretty much everything I always say about all bodies being inherently neutral, and no one is better, worse, or more “normal” than another.

Obviously, I’ve internalized some bullshit about women and body hair. The act of removing a naturally occurring body part is what I perceive as “normal,” and it’s apparently radical to not alter your body. Interestingly, I was completely unfazed by a shot that showed Hoffmann’s full pubic hair situation (or at least Caroline’s, although that underarm hair and unplucked eyebrows are all Hoffmann’s), but that might be because I honestly think pubic hair is deemed more acceptable than underarm hair.

I think that whatever you do with your body hair is a personal choice and shouldn’t matter. It’s personally embarrassing that for someone who talks a big game about body diversity, I react the way I do to women with body hair, which is to say I see them as noteworthy. On the upside, I don’t think of it as negative–in the case of Hoffmann, I think it adds to her appeal. That being said, something as arbitrary as body hair really shouldn’t carry any weight. It’s a good reminder that no matter how much body acceptance people like me spew, there’s always plenty of room for growth and to think critically about our own biases and internalized, harmful perceptions.

Photo: Girls

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  • http://nothinglikedownton.blogspot.co.uk/ Eliza Easton

    Hmm.. I actually think there are a lot of positives about Girls this season, and the need to self-caricature is something that I both recognise in my peers, and that is non-generational. But, I really like what you say about body hair. I have the same reaction, and chastise myself for it every week.

    http://nothinglikedownton.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Samantha Escobar

    TBH, I have a similarly “Oh!” reaction when I see women who don’t shave their underarms, and I personally don’t even shave my legs so it makes me feel reaaal stupid for reacting in a surprised manner. But as with all automatic reactions, what really matters is how you express that reaction and what you do with it–in your care, it’s clear that while you have an “oh, that’s different” reaction, you are in no way being a jerk or judgmental body policer; you just noticed it. And who couldn’t? Our society has instilled in everybody that men keep their body hair and women don’t, so anything to the contrary is normal to make you notice a little extra.

  • futuralon@gmail.com

    I think the best way to comprehend the american woman with armpit hair is to grow out your own. It doesn’t take long to do, it doesn’t actually get very long, your pits won’t really be that stinky, and it makes you realize how sensitive the axilla is when you do go back to using a razor on it.

  • stellabystarlite

    She was so cute in Uncle Buck. Yikes, she looks older than her age now, though.

  • Bruce Ricker

    I’m sure I’ll be stoned to death in the town square for voicing this opinion, but my personal preference is armpit hair AND a Brazillian below. I have never experienced it in ‘real’ life, and feel I shall probably go to my grave never having done so. I accept this, sadly. Put that in your pipe and shave it, Gang! xo♥∞.