‘Beard the Bully’ is a literary memoir about female facial hair, currently in development. This work explores the decision to grow instead of remove facial hair, in opposition to social norms about gender. It also traces the development of a non-binary gender identity as a way to accommodate this highly visible form of marginal sex variance.
In my research into narratives of female facial hair, I mapped two main ‘genres’: the cosmetic narrative, in which facial hair is removed for aesthetic reasons; and the medical narrative, in which facial hair is diagnosed as a symptom of illness, and then removed. While hair removal is intended to reduce stigma, I argue that both narratives are unable to address the source of stigma: binary gender norms. In ‘Beard the Bully’, I present female facial hair as primarily an issue of gender: the hair confronts the gender binary, and it demands that the bearer find a way to articulate their non-binary subjectivity.
A desire for a deeper investigation of gender in narratives of female facial hair led me to the work of gender theorists Judith Butler and Jennifer Germon, and to a number of sociological and medical studies on the experiences of women with hirsutism linked to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). The theoretical framework arose from themes within this research: images of freaks and mirrors, debates about terminology and self-definition, and the voice’s ability to articulate the human have informed my creation of an alternative narrative of female facial hair.
By offering my own experiences in this literary memoir, I hope to contribute to shifting conversations around female facial hair, allowing for the possibility of discussion, representation, and growth.