As I was scrolling through Instagram (and by the way somebody should ban this saying from any piece of self-respecting journalism, but I’m no journalist so…), I stumbled upon an image of an elegantly-dressed model with her one arm lifted showing a little fluffy bush under her pit. It was a post by Vogue Ukraine.
See, I’m from Ukraine, and I know that every cultural movement that started in the West took about ten years to get to my country. That’s why the age gap of 14 years with my husband makes little to no difference in how we experienced our childhood and teens. The shows that ran in the US in the 80s came to our shores only in the mid to late 90s. Same with music, fashion and, needless to say, social movements. We were too busy getting rid of authoritarian Soviets to be thinking of fighting for women’s rights.
Although our culture is rich with anecdotes of wife-fearing husbands and tough women who stand with pride, it has very little effect on how men see the role of a woman. First, she has to be pretty. Wait, no. She’s gotta be beautiful at least (!), gorgeous preferably. No matter how much of a good-looking man he is himself, that is a requirement. No wonder why a Russian woman (broad title for every woman from a post-Soviet hemisphere) is a long-standing meme of a fur-and-10-inch-heels blonde sex doll with the most ear-wrenching accent. And women buy into that, there’s one Russian internet famous saying that young women love to quote: “Mommy is pretty, daddy is working”.
Second, she has to be domestic, but still work. Now, that’s something that is a bit different from most other extremely patriarchal cultures. She needs to work, otherwise he won’t respect her. Third, an old tale that every woman reading this knows, she has to be smart, but not too smart. God forbid she embarreses a man with her wit.
This list can go on for awhile. To spare you time spent reading it, I encourage you to spend $1.99 on iTunes and see an episode of “The States of Undress” with Hailey Gates about Russia. Trust me, it’s money well spent.
So, back to that Instagram post. A picture of a more than beautiful, gorgeous model, with a tiny armpit bush. On Vogue Ukraine’s page. I knew right then, the comment section would be a thrill! And just like that, I clicked on “See more comments” and fell down the maddening hole full of angry men and women calling it “ugly”, “anti-hygienic” and a “lice forest”. And the most maddening of all was a comment written by a young woman, who offered us observers to think, how would a man, any man, treat a woman who doesn’t care about herself compared to how this X man would treat a squeaky clean and bald lady? “It’s all about how you project your image into society” she added.
Oh, how big was my lust for a fight. All my rough-neighborhood-girl anger was about to burst at that very moment. I don’t know where the courage to pace myself came from, but I swiftly scrolled away, stopping by for a second to tap “Save” under this post. Not to return after I’ve calculated a perfect comeback to all the women-haters, but to admire a bold image, a challenge-maker, with Vogue Ukraine beaming above it.
As I’m writing this, my own thin bush is well-hidden inside my bathrobe. Not that I grew it intentionally, I just got lazy, forgot about it, and then, one day dressing up looked in a mirror and thought to myself “it actually doesn’t look that bad”. It’s not monstrous, it’s not gross and dirty, and it surely does smell good after the small-batch brooklyn-made all-natural soap I’ve just used. In all realness, it’s just a few dozen thin dark hairs under my arm.