AN ILLUSTRATION BY LOUISE BYNG Birmingham, UK
Birmingham, UK After following Harnaam Kaur’s story in the media I wanted to reflect my impression of her with a portrait - one exhibiting power, grace and femininity. She exuded radiance and love in the face of shallow questions from TV hosts about how she would find love as a heterosexual female with a beard as a result as a polycystic ovary. She wasn’t constructing her identity to be attractive to others and that must have scared the shit out of them. I admired that her faith was what had put an end to her shaving the facial hair away and that had helped give her peace in embracing who she was, which shone out of her like a beacon to women everywhere. The colour pink interests me in that until 1940 it was the colour associated with boys, at which point it seemingly fell out of fashion and switched over to fresh association with girls. “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” - June 1918 edition of the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department. Similarly the original ancestor of the high heel is a fancy Persian riding boot worn by men designed to hold the rider’s foot in stirrups. For me these transitions and evolutions demonstrate that associations of gender are pretty arbitrary, and only feel fixed when they’ve been collectively constructed and agreed upon. Of course these ideas have to be understood as subject to change and shift; push and pull and break, and we are rewriting them all the time. Of course there is no reason women shouldn’t have facial hair, we’ve just developed a context where hair on the female form is generally perceived negatively which, frankly, sucks. We need to rewrite the story of the other as no longer a signal of the freakish or unsettling or amusing or disgusting, (like some kind of residual reaction to traditional bearded ladies at a carnival freak show) but rather allow our differences to help us question our own responses and unravel accepted norms to promote greater acceptance and confidence not just in others, but also within ourselves.
Appeared in ISSUE #2