Saturday, May 24, 2014

Siobhan O'Loughlin's Natural Novice is a Must See!

Posted by: Rachel Piazza

Body hair isn’t something I spend a lot of time thinking about. I mean… I think about it when I shave – which is usually everyday.
I think about it when I don’t shave. I check for stubble when my shaved parts are exposed. I contemplate which parts to shave. But… that’s not a lot is it?

Ok, I suppose I think about body hair more than I thought. But after seeing Siobhan O’Loughlin’s Natural Novice, I will be thinking about it in a vastly different way. Written and performed by O’Loughlin, this one-woman play is a touching reminder that body hair and our decisions surrounding it are not innocuous, and that when it comes to body hair, the personal really is political. As she weaves her own story together with those of the diverse cast of women she channels, we realize just how mired in sexism body hair, and its removal really is.

Whether it’s the story of the woman who endured a barbaric back-alley waxing in a desperate attempt to prepare for her boyfriend’s surprise visit, the trans-woman whose chest hair was a barrier to true expression of her gender identity, or the black woman whose boyfriend viciously removed her pubic hair, the emotions evoked force us to think about body hair as a tool of sexist oppression.

O’Loughlin herself, who never felt quite right about removing her body hair, and rocks her “fur” (as the 2-year-old boy she babysits affectionately calls it,) is constantly reminded just how weird her body – in its natural state - is perceived to be. Her decision to forgo body hair removal is an act of rebellious self-proclamation in a world where the most minute details of a woman’s body and life are scrutinized and policed. In her public rejection of these prescribed definitions of femininity and beauty, O’Loughlin takes us on her personal journey as she bravely paves a new path towards body acceptance, and gracefully (though not without some comical hiccups along the way), redefines beauty on her own terms.

The magnitude and depth of the stories she tells and the revelations of gendered struggles and sexism are staggering. Yet, O’Loughlin masterfully entertains while providing riveting social commentary. Laughs and epiphanies abound as Natural Novice reveals the sexist undercurrents of our body-hair obsessed culture, and makes us question why we’ve been so intent on shaving, plucking, waxing, and ripping it out.

Somewhere along the line gender expression and body hair became inexplicably intertwined. Not surprisingly, we experience and live sexist oppression through our hair. Social pressures for women to remove body hair start at an incredibly young age. Girls are taught to think first and foremost about their appearance – specifically their attractiveness to boys/men. Further, our hairless bodies serve to portray us as infantile even as we grow into adulthood. Yet, without much thought, many of us obediently comply with these expensive, painful, and time-consuming rituals. While O’Loughlin makes no prescription for how one should handle their own body hair, it’s clear that these decisions should be contemplated, lest we wish to be pawns of the patriarchy.

Natural Novice is playing select dates in May and June at the Paradise Factory. The show benefits Young Feminists & Allies, and is a must see. Get your tickets today!

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