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