Adeline Rapon hasn’t epilated her armpits for a few years now. The former blogger, now a photographer and author, who recently made a name for herself thanks to her series of self-portraits “Fanm Fô” on the identities of West Indian women, has also spoken a lot on the subject. This time, it is alongside the author Émilie Gleason that she decided to take the problem with humor. What could be more absurd, finally, than to see injunctions weighing on women about hairs that grow freely on male bodies?
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It is therefore in a salon dedicated to the care, hairdressing and coloring of women’s body fleeces, that the two authors of the comic book “Ruffling e s” set their plot. In this imagined world, hair removal is prohibited by law, as it is considered a form of torture. More than countering the injunction to wax – since, in this world, it no longer exists – comics ask themselves: what next?
SHE. Why did you want to start a project around body hair?
Adeline Rapon. Personally, I stopped waxing my armpits a few years ago. As I evolve in a very artistic environment, I was able to take this freedom much more easily than if I worked in a bank, for example. I talk about everything on my social networks, and I’ve never hidden my hair, without falling into the cliché of the girl who does body positive and raises her arms in all her photos to show her armpits. Following my speeches, I had many proposals for interviews on the subject in the media.
It wasn’t me who had the idea for the comic. Émilie and I were contacted by our editor who had a project in mind around hair removal. She wanted me to do something other than a classic testimonial. She offered me to work in duet with Émilie who won the Révélation prize at the Angoulême festival in 2019 and always does very detailed analyzes of social issues such as mental health, for example. At first, I didn’t want to be constantly assigned to this subject, but we got on so well with Émilie that I said yes! We managed to approach the subject of hair removal in a militant and funny way at the same time, that’s what I liked.
SHE. Why did you opt for an offbeat tone to talk about this subject?
AR Émilie is used to working with biting humour. Our working atmosphere was very happy, which translated into the comics, I think. It’s still a protest comic that forces you to think about certain reflexes dictated by the patriarchy, but the idea was above all to get the message across more easily. This comic is intended for everyone, convinced people as well as those who are not convinced at all! By focusing the book on the aesthetic aspect of hair in an imagined future, it raises several questions: who can afford to grow hair? Will having long hair be more and more valued?
I wanted to have concrete examples of hair styling. So we decided to embed photos. Every time an advertisement or a mirror is held up, there are self-portraits, or photos of our editor’s or Emilie’s hair. Even the format is a little off for a comic book, it’s a black and white paperback, a bit like a manga!
SHE. What did you feed on to imagine this absurd world?
AR Most of our ideas are born from dialogues and personal anecdotes. One day, for example, I thought I was going to bleach my armpits. We described the absurdity of this scene in the comic by showing the total discomfort of being lying with your arms in the air for half an hour waiting for the product to work. Émilie had also told me about a phenomenon that I didn’t know about: fungal infections under the arms that appear in summer when you no longer epilate your armpits. It’s an anecdote that we also wanted to integrate into the comic strip.
SHE. Today, what is your relationship to hair removal? Would you be ready for the world you describe in the comic?
AR I think I’m totally deconstructed in my armpits, but I have a love-hate relationship with my leg hair. But I leave myself more in peace and I leave myself the freedom to wax my hair or not. When it comes to an injunction, we can’t talk about choice, but it doesn’t matter if we don’t always get there, the important thing is to be aware of the dynamics and to understand that the injunction to hair removal is not normal.
I’m not here to force people not to wax, even I can’t do it completely! But more performances are needed. That’s what I explain in a text at the end of the comic: we’re not here to replace one injunction with another, or to lecture people. Moreover, comics are still evolving in a very capitalist and elitist system: we start with the idea of a maintenance room, not everyone can afford this kind of luxury!
Ébouriffants.es, Emilie Gleason, Adeline Rapon, Le Nouvel Attila