To answer the question ‘What is Privilege”, I’ll start at a privilege socially barred to females, the one of body hair, a defining trait not only as humans, but as mammals.
I haven’t shaved my legs in 5 months. I’ve gotten comments that are less about how manly I look, to how much of an savage I am. I’ve been tomboyish most of my life, but as I allow this part of my body to become “naturally lush”, I suspect that what transgresses cissexual male norms renders a male into the realm of women, while what transgresses the cissexual norms for women doesn’t place them in the realm of men, but of animals.
What is the symbol and privilege that hair engenders?
For me hair has been an indication of vitality (fertility) and an accepted standard of feminine beauty. So what does it mean when a woman in a heteronormative society denies her symbol of fertility and shaves her head? Is it an autonomous action? Does such a thing exist?
Privilege exists as a function of hierarchy, but the curious thing happens with the privilege of personal grooming. To be bodily hairless is to represent youth, free of the responsibility of power. The freedom of the ‘girl’ is envied in some cultures (Japanese pop culture), but even then there is this shepherding of females into a fantasy outside of the human (male) realm. If a female is not a fantasy, she is an animal. If a female is not hairless, she is not young and pre-pubescent, therefore old and undesirable. How the placement of hair (and weight, on another note) determines the social treatment of females as humans or animals is a particular facet of misogyny that helps its’ identification.
The silent assignment of privileges contrasts violently with the spectacular consequences of not fulfilling these assignments. Through more exploration of these questions, this silence loses its hold and is eventually broken.