TV adverts, supermarket aisles and boys have told me since I was a kid that I need to shave it all off – but I want to unlearn it all and love it
Women – we all remember the first time it was brought to our attention that something wasn’t right about our body hair. Whether it was in the sixth grade when your crush was yelling, “Ewwww, you have so much arm hair!” in front of the entire class, or when you were at home watching hair removal ads, questioning why we had to have these products, or watching every female role model in your family get rid of theirs.
Disclaimer: It’s 100 per cent OK to remove your body hair if that’s what makes you happy (I would never say otherwise), but it’s hard to avoid questioning what society would be like if we weren’t forcefed this clean-shaven concept since childhood. What if every ten minutes you didn’t see a razor commercial with an unusually happy woman sporting a pair of clean-shaven legs? What if there wasn’t an alarming amount of products at every drugstore telling you to cut/shave/burn your body hair off regularly? Our perception of body hair on girls has been so twisted that it’s almost impossible to tell if it’s a personal choice that truly makes us happy, or another way we try to conform and fit in.
It’s difficult to tell if we actually want to get rid of our body hair or if we’re just trying to get by without shaking up the whole world’s view of us. From our lovers and partners to fellow women and random glares on the street, it’s hard to be carefree about your body hair while avoiding negative backlash.
Many myths about body hair have been used against women to make them feel dirty and inferior. It’s funny when people claim that having pubes is inherently dirtier than a clean shave, when in reality those hairs are there to protect and keep bacteria away. In fact, a huge reason why women became obsessed with a more clean pubic shave stems from the porn industry. Women with pubic hair were always seen as more mature which equated to sexiness. In 1974, a magazine called Barely Legal (yikes!) was published, which popularised the fetishisation of young women, a major reason why women suddenly decided to go bald down there and appease the idea of what men may want.
There is virtually no health-related reason for women to have to remove body hair, only personal choice. What about society’s opinion of our anatomy makes body hair unhygienic on women but not men? In a perfect world, it would have been left at individual preference, but body hair on women has become something so taboo, that girls as young as ten years old old feel the need to get rid of it. I was 11 when I first shaved my arms, but it never just stops there. As soon as you realise that there’s something people hate about it, you hate it too and you hate your body for creating it at all. Suddenly your eyebrows look too bushy, your armpit hairs are too thick, the little hairs on your knuckles are ‘unfeminine’. It goes on.
“What if every ten minutes you didn’t see a razor commercial with an unusually happy woman sporting a pair of clean-shaven legs? What if there wasn’t an alarming amount of products at every drugstore telling you to cut/shave/burn your body hair off regularly?”
Over the past couple of years, the internet has given young women a platform to display their true selves and pictures of women with body hair have swept the net. Whether it’s self-love or memes mocking hairy girls in love with their bodies, the conversation started happening. This feminism-centred movement, pushing the normalisation of girls with body hair gained traction and was something young women born after the 80s could relate to. But the movement has gone in cycles. Another reason women started shaving was because body hair became a symbol of feminism, which was seen as ‘manly’ and intimidated the male ego. I found solace in this internet wave for a while before quickly realising that even in a community that accepted body hair on women, there were certain standards you had to meet.
My first issue was only ever seeing pictures of white women with very thin blonde pit hair. I didn’t find it very groundbreaking and found it hard to relate to. I felt that women of colour with thick, dark body hair were rarely ever seen as cute feminist babes making statements, as if the sight of thick, dark hair undoubtably made people even more uncomfortable, making girls of colour feel the need to hide away and continue conforming.
This is a call to stop hiding. This is a call to stop conforming. This is a call to make amends with ourselves. This is a call to accept all body hair. No matter where it is or who it’s on. Let’s start by giving a platform to women who refuse to conform, let’s give platforms to trans women who don’t give a fuck about gender norms. When you see a women sporting some leg hair, instead of thinking ‘Did she forget to shave?’, just assume she loves her body hair. Let’s change this narrative that women who don’t shave don’t care about their looks. Let’s look within ourselves and try to unlearn everything we have been conditioned to believe about body hair on girls. I love your bushy eyebrows, I love your sideburns, I love your happy trail and back hair.