The Dismissal of Womanly Pain and Pressure to be the Strong Woman

When I was thirteen, my fellow classmates made fun of my moustache and bushy eyebrows. The feminist woman I have become would like to say I ignored them and wore my facial hair with pride, but that is not what happened. I started waxing off the hairs on my upper lip and shaping my eyebrows – two things I continue to do today.

There is absolutely nothing remarkable about that. Women all over the world wax, shave, bleach and laser body hair to look smoother and more feminine. As a feminist, I have nothing against women who choose to remove body hair – after all, I do it myself – but it’s important for me to think about why I submit to the pain of waxing every month.

As I grew up from my moustached thirteen-year-old self, I started waxing other places too: my legs, my bikini line and even my toes. And it hurts. Oh, how it hurts. Why do I have to do this every month?

When I recently complained about this, someone told me: “Just don’t do it anymore, then.” That sounds pretty simple right? Just don’t obey the patriarchy. Just go to the beach with a hairy bikini line. Just look unprofessional with your bushy eyebrows. Just wear shorts and let your hairy legs show. Just make your body into a political statement.

The simplicity of that statement made me wonder about female pain and how it is often dismissed as unimportant. Both sides of this situation would bring me pain. If I own up to my body hair, I will be judged by a sexist, misogynist society. If I continue to remove it, I will have to deal with the pain of waxing and shaving and the medical issues that come with it.

This dismissal happens when going through pain to achieve smooth legs is considered normal and even required.

It happens when women are told street harassment is something they have to accept, even though women who are victims of it say they feel uncomfortable, objectified and afraid.

It happens when nine women accuse a man of abusing them, but we are still told to ‘hear both sides’.

It happens when nine out of ten women feel pain when their uterus is contracting to get rid of its lining but talking about periods and period pain is considered gross or ‘making a fuss’.

It happens when women are told they should’ve thought about the consequences of their actions when seeking abortion, even though all kinds of birth control can fail.

It happens when women are paid less but people argue that the wage gap is actually a myth.

It happens all the goddamn time.

While men are taught not to show their pain, women are routinely told their pain is not important. Women’s pain is normal because women are more emotional and hormonal, so why pay any attention to it? Often, women hide their pain away so as to not be annoying or be perceived as weak or too feminine.

We are asked to be the Strong Woman, which is an image I truly resent. No one ever says “He is a strong man” because men are presumed to be strong because of their masculinity – or the societal enforcement of said masculinity. This necessity to be a Strong Woman reinforces the idea that not being feminine and being more like men is better.

And let’s not forget that being the Strong Woman can be dangerous, speaking your mind, as a woman, can be life-threatening – on the internet or otherwise (Mary Spears was definitely strong when she told a man “no” and was killed for it). I see women who are perceived as Strong Women being harassed on the internet every day. Not to mention that a Strong Woman is often mistaken for a Bitch.

Women cannot win either way.

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