I've inherited several great things from my Dad. We share a similar work ethic, a dry sense of humour; and a craving for green olives. Most importantly, however, I've inherited his immense eyebrows.
I haven't always championed this aspect of my appearance. When I was 13, I locked myself in the family bathroom and shaved my eyebrows in to oblivion. Why did I do this? What does this have to do with feminism? Well, I believe my moment of madness stemmed from societal pressure to look a certain way, based on my gender.
When I was in secondary school, a 'popular' girl kindly pointed out my eyebrows were 'massive' and therefore 'manly'. I was mortified. I felt too embarrassed to ask for advice on how to change my troublesome natural eye-wear, which prompted the aforementioned shaving incident. As an anxious 13 year old girl, I was convinced I would never have friends/a boyfriend/a life if I did not control my unruly eye hair. When the new hairs eventually grew back, I became obsessed with tweezing them away. I plucked my brows in to tiny, thin lines, and monitored the hair growth on a daily basis. I did this for a decade.
Top Tip: if you over-pluck your eyebrows, your face loses its natural definition and you end up resembling the Pillsbury dough boy in photographs.
I am not alone in this over-tweezing behaviour. My Mum's been tweezing her eyebrows in to barely-there lines for most of her life, too. It's something she now regrets, but it was a habit she's never been able to break. Unlike me, she's learned to live with it and doesn't over-analyse her decisions about her appearance. I however, attribute my actions down to the subtle yet pervasive nature of patriarchal society. Why were Dad's eyebrows never told to 'sort themselves out'? Why did Mum feel she had to remove hers? Why on earth did I wreak havoc with a razor on mine?
One of the key things feminism has taught me is that the personal is the political. People who tell you different from this are trying to make you shrink out of sight. They want you to feel insignificant because you aren't in a position of significant social or economic power, and that your actions and ideas don't have meaning. Well, eyebrows shape your face - everyone can see them. Women's bodies are judged on the most minuscule of levels, to the point where even the choice about how to grow your body hair essentially becomes an act of defiance. I wanted to write about this because I believe in the power of the small story, and its ability to reach and help other people in a similar situation.
When I asked myself why I spent twenty minutes every day removing hair which didn't need removing, the answer was shockingly simple: society conditions women and girls to think bald bodies are beautiful. From beauty magazines to the porn industry; women's bodies are only aesthetically valued when they're stripped of all their natural elements. The worst part is, this outlook has become so 'normal' it's convinced women and girls it's okay to shame each other about their personal choices to be bare, or to wear their hair with pride. This is why my eyebrows were deemed 'manly' at the age of 13, and probably why I spent most of my teenage years worrying about how to hide the fact I was human.
I decided to grow my eyebrows back. It took an absolute age, but now when I look at the dark hairs sitting above my eyes, I don't feel embarrassed. My big brows frame my face in ways copious amounts of liquid eyeliner never could, and make my feminist scowls all the more foreboding. I am proud to have inherited the strong eyebrows of my Dad; they are a daily reminder that I don't need to alter my appearance to please other people. Even on bad days when I consider re-sculpting those furry bastards, I remember how unhappy I was when I had a bald brow-bone, and that memory is enough to make me see straight. If anyone tries to shame you about your eyebrows/anything regarding your appearance, make sure you do everything in your power to defy their insults.
Top Tip: Women are mammals, and mammals have hair. It's about time society acknowledged that.
This was originally published onBelle Jar