Students producing documentary about the taboos of female body hair

Bottom (left to right): Emma Greig, Stephanie Sturino, Amika Coopercameramake Canonheight 3840orientation 1flash 16originaldate 10/30/2014 2:14:01 AMwidth 5120cameramodel Canon EOS 5D Mark IIThe project started last summer and is set to finish in February.flash 16cameramake Appleheight 3264dir: 71alt: 111lat: 43.658886long: -79.376939camerasoftware 7.1.2originaldate 11/8/2014 6:38:59 PMwidth 2448cameramodel iPhone 5The documentary will feature conversations from every point of view. They are also hoping to attack the larger picture and not just focus on students, bringing in professional women and academics.flash 16cameramake Appleheight 3264dir: 105alt: 112lat: 43.658908long: -79.377036camerasoftware 7.1.2originaldate 11/8/2014 7:01:01 PMwidth 2448cameramodel iPhone 5The project received a $400 creative development grant from chair of the School of Radio and Television Arts, Charles Falzon.flash 16cameramake Appleheight 3264dir: 58alt: 112lat: 43.658825long: -79.376900camerasoftware 7.1.2originaldate 11/8/2014 8:28:22 PMwidth 2448cameramodel iPhone 5Maija Ahonen was featured in a custom-made calendar that the group sold to raise funds for the documentary. flash 16cameramake Appleheight 2448dir: 64alt: 112lat: 43.658761long: -79.376944orientation 1camerasoftware 7.1.2originaldate 11/8/2014 8:54:43 PMwidth 3264cameramodel iPhone 5Jynessa Marczuk is one of the voices of the documentary. Producer of BUSH, Emma Greig says the issue of women’s body hair as a feminist issue hasn’t really been covered in a documentary form and it’s really important to talk about. flash 16cameramake Appleheight 3264dir: 46alt: 112lat: 43.658803long: -79.376983camerasoftware 7.1.2originaldate 11/8/2014 9:16:29 PMwidth 2448cameramodel iPhone 5Greig says she wants the documentary to be quirky and funny, like the issue of body hair. She thinks that will resonate better with the target audience: youth. flash 16cameramake Appleheight 3264dir: 60alt: 111lat: 43.658828long: -79.377036camerasoftware 7.1.2originaldate 11/8/2014 10:03:43 PMwidth 2448cameramodel iPhone 5Marketing manager Gagan Sagoo was selling BUSH underwear to raise funds for the documentary in the Rogers Communication Centre.cameramake LGEheight 2448dir: 85alt: 0lat: 43.658535long: -79.377632width 3264originaldate 11/19/2014 8:43:59 PMcameramodel Nexus 5The underwear sale is just one of many fundraising tactics. The group has also created an Indiegogo account, which has raised just under $400. They are aiming for $2,500.cameramake LGEheight 3264dir: 133alt: 0lat: 43.658501long: -79.377457width 2448originaldate 11/19/2014 8:44:53 PMcameramodel Nexus 5BUSH, produced by Factory Productions, held an open casting call for anyone who wanted to come in and speak.cameramake LGEheight 3264dir: 108alt: 0lat: 43.658482long: -79.377480width 2448originaldate 11/19/2014 9:01:52 PMcameramodel Nexus 5The interviews were funny and filled with personality and shared intimate moments. cameramake LGEorientation 1height 2448dir: 0alt: 0lat: 43.658989long: -79.377014width 3264originaldate 11/19/2014 9:08:57 PMcameramodel Nexus 5The open casting all was very successful and brought in many voices. This student said she didn’t really care what others thought but it all depended on her mood and her partner.cameramake LGEheight 2448dir: 44alt: 0lat: 43.658997long: -79.376938width 3264originaldate 11/19/2014 9:18:46 PMcameramodel Nexus 5

Self-proclaimed “hairy feminists” are putting together a documentary about other hairy feminists.

At least that’s the perception many have towards BUSH, a half-hour documentary produced by a group of RTA students about the taboos of female body hair.

“I just started thinking about women’s body hair in western society and how much pressure is put on us to be hairless. It’s so ridiculous because it’s so mundane,” said Emma Greig, the executive producer.

The documentary production began this fall and is part of a fourth-year thesis project due early February.

It comes at a time where hundreds of thousands of men are growing out their facial hair to raise money for the men’s health organization, Movember. Now women are following suit with their own renditions.

Greig says she came up with the idea when she was shaving, despite not wanting to.

“I feel like body hair is a feminist issue because there is a lot of pressure on women to get rid of their body hair. Women with body hair are often seen as unprofessional or dirty,” she said.

Women are often the ridicules of society – as was Balpreet Kaur, a Sikh woman whose photo went viral two years ago for having excessive facial hair.

The photo was uploaded to Reddit, where it received hundreds of comments, most of which weren’t flattering.

Kaur commented on her own photo: “I’m not embarrassed or even humiliated by the attention that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am. Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women,” she said. “However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will.”

In Sikhism, cutting hair from any part of their body is considered disrespectful to the religion, and this goes for both genders.

Kaur continued to fight back. “It is not as if I have rejected all of society and its canons … I’m still a normal girl, making mistakes, going to college, having friends, reading Harry Potter,” she wrote.

Kaur’s story is one of many. And BUSH hopes to illuminate stories like Kaur’s by bringing awareness to the issue.

“We’re following and interviewing pretty much every single character under the sun – men who don’t like it, men who do like it, women who get rid of it, women who don’t get rid of it,” said Greig.

The documentary is meant to be fun, entertaining and in the pop culture stream, featuring quirky illustrations alongside intimate interviews.

It may have the essence of a topical documentary, but “with the questions we ask some of our subjects, as well with the animations, we’ll kind of give it more,” said Greig, who believes this approach makes the issue more relatable. “BUSH is meant to be a little bit quirky and funny because I feel like body hair is also a little bit quirky and funny, especially when you start talking about it with people.”

The origins of body hair removal date back to ancient Egypt – when Egyptians shaved to avoid disease and lice and, like the Greeks and Romans, hair removal was an indication of class. But its popularization in western society became a trend for a different reason.

According to Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture, a 1982 article from the Journal of American Culture, Christine Hope says women began getting pressured to shave their underarm hair in a marketing assault that began in May 1915 in Harper’s Bazaar.

The first ad featured a waist-up photograph of a young woman with her arms over her head in a sleeveless dress, revealing her shaven armpits.

Before this, sleeveless clothing for women was uncommon and the word “underarms” alone was taboo. Advertising later moved onto legs and pubic hair.

In her book, Going too far: the personal chronicle of a feminist, American author and journalist Robin Morgan calls the idea of being pressured to shave your legs and suffering from its burns as a teen, “one of the barbarous rituals” of being a female in America.

Greig said, “I feel really strongly about this and I know it sounds like kind of a small part of feminism but it’s the story I’m choosing to tell.”

Emma Greig discusses the documentary in an exclusive interview.

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