Actress and comedian Mo’Nique did more at the Golden Globes than take away a Best Supporting Actress award for her role in the movie Precious —she defied Western gender stereotypes by not shaving her legs for the big event.
The New York Daily News reports that the actress, dressed in a glamorous gold strapless gown and metallic high-heeled sandals, lifted up her skirt as she was walking, revealing her hairy legs. Whether it was intentional or an accident, Mo’Nique probably doesn’t care.
In fact, The News says that the talented performer first showed her unshaven legs in 2006 on The View. She told Barbara Walters and the audience at that time, “I must show America what a real leg looks like … because it’s too much in the morning, every morning, to shave, to cut, you got Band-aids baby.”
Mo’Nique is right. The reality is that a “real leg” is generally hairy. Both men and women have body — and facial — hair to different degrees, depending on their genetic programming. Yet the ideal Western woman has as little hair as she can possibly get away with, and painful remedies — waxing, tweezing, electrolysis — abound to make certain that she falls in line.
For some trans people, facial and body hair can be of particular concern. Many trans women go through expensive electrolysis treatments in order to rid themselves of body hair, while some trans men who long for a hairy body are not genetically programmed for it. And those who are might still find their hair thinning — on top of their head.
And these are not trans-specific problems. If non-trans women weren’t embarrassed by body and facial hair, an entire industry would collapse overnight. And if bald were suddenly truly beautiful — well, there goes another whole industry.
The Western obsession with body hair — who should have it, who shouldn’t, and where it should and shouldn’t be (think bikini wax) — is another problematic gender stereotype reflecting an ideal that most men and women — trans and non-trans — cannot live up to.
But Mo’Nique is apparently enough of her own person that she is unconcerned about unrealistic gender expectations — she can probably win plenty of awards without following them.
Kudos to Mo’Nique for proving that beauty comes in a variety of forms, that body hair is a human trait, and that people don’t have to follow rigid, culturally invented gender expectations in order to succeed.