cathy terranova blog abuse

This week my mom sent me a link to a blog post that hit me really hard. The message came with simple instructions, “Read this blog”, but I don’t think either my mother or myself were prepared for the intensity of the message I needed to receive.

The post by author, Ksenia Anske, is simple enough. She talks about how she is choosing to grow out her body hair and the overwhelming resistance she has faced because of it. How she has been criticized and policed by other women, how internet commenters have made statements that range from passive-aggressive to full on aggressive. Anske talks about how her body hair shouldn’t be as defining as the world has made it. She’s right. 

I’ve been going back and forth about shaving my legs for a few years now. My skin is fickle and shaving causes a host of issues for me. On the third day after I shave- however gently or with whatever fancy cream or organic this or that- my legs catch fire. It honestly feels like my hair is trying to grow through pores that are too small. It keeps me awake. No amount of organic, therapeutic, lavender lotion helps. My skin is dry all of the time. I have tried everything and nothing seems to fix it. I’ve tried medicated lotions, unmedicated lotions, baby oil, coconut oil, not using soap, natural everything, but it doesn’t budge and the leg-shaving-agony continues. Fabric will rub at my skin and irritate it even more. So leggings and jeans can’t be employed to make my situation more palatable for the average eyes. But why does it matter so much?

When it comes to women not shaving I have even found myself saying things like, “I can see if a woman is caused discomfort by shaving…” but why do women need some sort of medical excuse not to shave? Why is this area so critiqued? 

The history of hair removal is long and quite interesting. In the US, its story is curiously intertwined with the marketing of razors and fashions. It seems to have been born more from clever advertising making it seem embarrassing to have body hair rather than any real need. Given that Parisians were some of the first in western culture to remove body hair since the Elizabethan era and high fashions during the time of the introduction of razors for women were so connected to that tiny part of the world, it’s easy to understand what made women so prone to want to be hairless. But why now? Is it merely habit?

As interesting as a sociological discussion shaving makes, I realized a more personal reason to unpack the topic. Shaving is just part of a set of standards that I have been trying to align with my whole life. As a teenager I wanted a flat stomach, thinner thighs, straight hair, and clear skin. Now, I find it hard to not want fuller lips, clearer skin, whiter teeth, and no cellulite. I tweeze my eyebrows and my chin. I make sure to exfoliate and moisturize. I fight my under eye circles. I have only really just embraced the natural hair on my head. But acceptance goes even deeper than that.

Abuse wrecks our relationships with our bodies in a way that nothing else does. Abuse tells us lie after lie like; if I was stronger I could have fought back, if I wasn’t a girl he wouldn’t have raped me, if I was bigger they wouldn’t have hit me, if I was anything other than what I am now –I would have been okay. Abuse teaches us that our bodies are the enemy, not our abusers. Those who have been abused physically or sexually often struggle with hygiene, healthy self-image, eating schedules, and exercise regiments.
In the words of Anske,

     “I’m on the path of liberating my body that’s been battered and hurt and abused, and that I grew to hate.”

Those who are abused learn to hate their bodies. Then, we struggle inside a society that validates that hatred and gives us new ways and criteria to hate our bodies all the more. So it’s no wonder Anske is finding so much peace and liberation in flipping the tables and defying those standards. Starting over completely with her natural body and learning how she sees and loves herself with an undistorted image looking back at her from the mirror. Where else is there to start?

How do I know how I like my eyebrows without pushing aside expectations for them? How do I know how I like my skin if I can’t see it because of makeup? How do I know whether or not having leg hair bothers me if I keep shaving it off?

For those whom have suffered abuses, our bodies were violated. They were treated as objects– we were treated as objects. What we wanted didn’t matter. To escape the bondage of abuse just to suffer a different kind at the hands of society’s “standard” of beauty is nonsense.

The next time you catch yourself thinking about someone else’s body or looks or clothing–we all do it– ask yourself something, “Does it define them as a person?”

Is your charitable aunt less charitable with leg hair?
Is your supportive brother less supportive if he isn’t muscular?
Is your loving friend less loving because of a mole on her nose?
Does your coworker make you laugh less because he can’t grow a beard?

These are real people, and so are (most) of the people on the internet. Challenging your own standards of beauty when it comes to other people could help you be more graceful with yourself. You don’t know what each person was told as a child, a teenager, after they bore a child, after they had surgery. You don’t know what their life has already told them about themselves. Do you really want to join your voice with all the negative they’ve already heard?

If you want to make the world better for people who have been abused, it can be as simple as choosing to see them as beautiful, even when they can’t. 



photo credit: <a href=”″>Mitzi Strother, Miss Florida 1941, posing with a seaside backdrop</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

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