Performance by Danielle Cascaes
Text by Karine Jansen and Danielle Cascaes
It was 3:30 pm, when the doorbell rang. Camila Vieira arrived for what could be another ritual of embellishment of women, of those that occur in the four corners of the world. Depilation can be done by several techniques: by flata or line, common among Arab peoples; by tweezers, used on eyebrows and finishes; with ointments or hot wax, and now we have the option of laser, which is much less painful, but not always affordable for all women. Definitely, it was not just a hair removal session, but a performance act in which, Danielle would submit and reflect on the action of plucking her own hair.
“I don’t remember if anyone told me that I had to shave, I came from a family of women, I saw my mother doing it, then my grown sisters were subjected to this act and then my turn came. As something common, necessary, cultural”, says the performer (CASCAES, 2020).
The place of the performance was at Danielle’s house, in her room, in her comfort area. Before, she thought a lot about doing it in public, but modesty did not allow it. With that, the public was summoned through the camera of her best friend, Gabriela Morgado, who has known her since childhood and has seen her naked. Danielle still thinks about performing in public, but her modesty goes beyond nudity, as she is ashamed to have her hair visible to people.
The performance had a rule imposed by the performer: there could be no words, no speech, no groan of pain, no communication between people. To ensure this process, she placed a packing sealing tape over her lips.
The performance script started. We can say that it has two approaches: one that goes from the places where the pain is milder, to where it intensifies. The other would be linked to voyeurism, where it would start with the parts of the body that are socially visible, even the parts of the body that are not shown to the public, are intimate, shared only with those people we trust and love. The techniques used for hair removal were tweezers and hot wax. Starting with the eyebrow, then the fluff, armpits, leg, lateral groin and the outer vagina and then … the inner vagina was no longer possible to continue.
The beautician started on the sides, and in the second streak of wax, some pores of my skin started to bleed and hurt a lot. My skin became very irritated and very red, and the explanation I received was that the hair was thicker due to razor blades and scissors. The beautician decided to stop there, because the further inward she was, the more sensitive my skin would become and the risk of bleeding was greater. (CASCAES, 2016)
In addition to the bleeding, in the interview with the artist, she reports that she took Camila’s hand asking to stop, for the pain, and for the whirlwind of sensations that invaded her body at this moment. Danielle’s performance wanted to expose this brutal form that makes us exercise the role of women in society. The forms that demand us, the feminine standards of beauty. For her, leaving the body without hair is to equate it to the child’s body, since only children do not have body hair. Why do women need to infantilize their bodies? Why do we naturalize this infantilization? Why do we ignore pedophilia as a horrendous evil in society?
The second part of the performance consisted of the exhibition of photos of the act, together with a text on pedophilia, which is shown below. Along with the photos, there was a pen and the public had the possibility to interfere in the photographs. And it did, as you can see in the photos.
The audience ended up attributing to the performance objects some symbols considered by the artist to be quite pertinent, such as how hot wax was considered to be sexism, the spatula the phallus and the tape, the gag.
Danielle continues to shave, but she does not stop thinking about this whirlwind of values that invade her body every time she gets pulled out! She remembers the first time she took her hair off, when she was twelve. It was with a razor blade, underarm hair. He cut himself twice, but kept running the blade over his skin. The armpit blistered, itched, bled, but she kept cutting her hair once a week. At fifteen, he discovered a more painful technique, however, that hurt less: hot wax. Since then, he started plucking hairs from his armpit using this technique, whenever he visited a beauty salon or aesthetic clinic.
Gradually, the wax spread through Danielle’s body. After the armpit, came the eyebrow, fluff, leg, groin, vagina, anus. She felt like she was submerged in hot wax. Sometimes the wax was too hot and burned the skin before mutilating it. The pain varies depending on where the hair is being pulled out and, without a doubt, the most painful place is the vagina, as it is the most sensitive. Danielle was starting to get nervous before doing pubic hair removal. It turns out that when she gets nervous, the inner and outer wall of her vagina creates red, painful plaques, the result of a rare kind of nervous candidiasis. Sometimes, candidiasis was manifested by the nervousness she went through before doing pubic hair removal, but even so, she did it. On those occasions, it hurt much more, as the sensitive spot had been previously injured. It was a wound caused by what was going to hurt him, before he hurt him.
After going through this experience a few times, Danielle began to wonder about the reasons why she practiced epilation. But in spite of all the reflection, she was unable to completely detach herself from the act of shaving. But why? Why does she continue to cause pain on purpose? Why is she ashamed of her body hair? Why does she feel it is something she must do? Why is she embarrassed to be seen with fur in public? Why doesn’t she feel attractive and wanted, unless her body is flat? Wolf (1992) seems to have some answers:
From the beginning of history until just before the sixties, the sex of women caused them pain. (…) Love hurt, sex could kill, the woman’s painful job was a job of love. What in the man would be masochism, for the woman meant survival. (…) Sex began to lose its sting in 1965 (…), when the changing social customs and the defense of female sexuality by the women’s movement began to make it imaginable that the pleasure that sex brought to women could overcome the pain in a final and definitive way. The threads of sex and pain in women were finally starting to separate. (WOLF, 1992, p. 291)
With this strange and recent absence of female pain, the myth has put beauty in its place. For, as far as women could remember, something about being a woman always hurt. (…) Today, what hurts is beauty. (WOLF, 1992, p. 292)
Beauty hurts because something needs to hurt a woman in order for her to be a woman, or so they are told. The concept of beauty itself was created to cause pain to women who did not fit the standard. The performer cannot get rid of self-flagging attitudes because it is something that is intrinsic to her, something extremely difficult to break completely. Each time Danielle shaves, she spends a lot of time thinking about why. He reflects a lot, and despite knowing that it is a self-destructive act, he can’t help doing it.
However, reflection has helped her to practice waxing less and less. One day she hopes to be able to stop having to undergo such cruel acts. Or, he hopes to be able to understand that I don’t need to shave, that he can shave or not, without feeling guilty about one or the other, because today, he feels guilty for not shaving, but he also feels guilty when he shaves. This is what patriarchal society aims at: controlling female bodies, no matter what their choices are.
CASCAES, Danielle. Entrevista concedida a Karine Jansen em 05.06.2020. Não publicado.
CASCAES. Danielle. Memorial da Performance Pêlo que Sou 2016. Não publicado.
WOLF, Naomi. O mito da beleza: Como as imagens de beleza são usadas contra as mulheres. Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 1992.