Body Hair Makes This Pansexual Femme Creator Feel Whole
It’s 12:30a in Chinatown New York.
Outkast pours from our hotel windows onto the busy streets.
We pass around a milk gallon of vodka carried with us the 15
miles walked that day.
IT’S SPRING BREAK BABY!
Freshman year of college is like an extended unsupervised sleepover, everything is fair game.
There are five of us in a room of this heavily wallpapered hotel room: Elizabeth, Nancy, myself, (and two others whose names no longer exist in my mind.)
We have driven from our small town liberal arts college in the cornfields of Indiana to the cold winds of Maine, down to springtime in New York, which smells like “not quite hot yet” garbage.
I watch as Nancy moves round the room, swaying in perfect rhythm, radiating.
This is the first of many adventures we will go on together.
Paris, France, getting lost and eating bread.
Bentonville, Arkansas, wondering why we are in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Louisville, Kentucky with sparkles on our face.
Coney Island, baptizing ourselves with the voice of Erykah Badu
Florida with sun poisoning
Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Austin, Pittsburgh, Athens, Asheville...
There are people you are meant to explore with, breathe in new places alongside of.
Nancy is one of those people,
One of my people.
Nancy just wants all womxn to love their bodies whether they're shaved or unshaved.
Nancy Epling is an artist, creator, advocate, music lover, dancer, adventurer, and friend originally from California who now lives in Athens, Ohio. Her work centers around collaborative community art projects and making spaces where people feel inspired and activated. She is currently the Program Director of Passion Works Studio, a studio space for makers of all abilities and the co-owner of Great Guys Entertainment. She is constantly getting her shit together and squeezing all of the goodness out of life.
Do you have body hair? Why or why not?
I do have body hair. I have all of it. It grows in all the places. Sometimes it is tamed, sometimes it is not. I began shaving my armpits and legs when I was in middle school because I thought that's what I was supposed to do. I would get razor burn and break out in rashes on my bikini line and in my armpits. Shortly after that I realized it wasn't worth the pain. I found I had a sensitivity to shaving and was allergic to metal so I just stopped. I questioned it. Why the hell did we really need to do that anyways? I started noticing older women who had it. I questioned them. Duh, it made so much sense. Just another way to make money off of insecurity and poison us against our natural selves.
How has your body hair contribute to your feelings on femininity or sexuality?
My body hair makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel whole. I do love the feeling of my perfectly shaved legs once in awhile but to tell you the truth that is for me and only for me. I trim my armpit hairs once in awhile but I leave them long enough so I can twirl them while lying in bed at night. It is comforting. My body hair makes me feel sexy. It makes me feel like I'm the way I'm supposed to be, an animal. Being naturally me makes me feel sexy in itself.
What motivated your choice to grow your hair?
The comfort of not having rashes and bumps but mostly because I don't care to put that much effort in something I find useless. I love uni-brows and really all kinds of untamed hair.
How have you dealt with criticism? How have you dealt with praise?
I have had a lot of people over the years say things to me about my armpits especially. Because I am the way I am, I usually confront people about it and talk with them or rub it in their faces if they've been passive aggressive or snide about it. I really love to explain my choice and talk with young kids about why it is okay. It is only strange to people who aren't used to it or who have not seen it before. The praise has been funny at times when it seemed like a fad but then also empowering at times when you know you've got that solidarity with others. Yay fuck the man!
What do you think is important about women having body hair?
I think it is healthy. I think it is important to love your body the way it is but also have the freedom to decide what you want to do with it, shave or no shave. I do I think that the body hair around your genitals is there to protect you. I think it is important for womxn and anyone to decide what they want do with any part of their body whether that's hair or not.
*featured artworks by Nancy Epling
Like this interview? Thank Emeran.
Hailing from the mountains of Kentucky, Emeran Irby is a writer, storyteller, and oral historian whose work explores the power of community around the dinner table. She holds a Masters of Food Studies from Chatham University, where she focused on the intersection of labor and gender through practices of food preservation in Appalachia, from which she is working on a series of podcasts making space for these women to tell their own stories. Currently, Emeran is the Oral History Coordinator for the Center for Regional Agriculture and Transformation (CRAFT) at Chatham University where she is building at Western Pennsylvania Foodways Archive.