Women’s body hair is not always celebrated on the internet as we know
When a Twitter user shared two images of astrologer and DJ Marissa Malik last week alongside the caption: “I love body hair on women and those of you that don’t are WEAK,” the post, as you can imagine, garnered a lot of attention. 60k likes and almost 900 comments to be exact.
It seems crazy to say it since there is pretty much nothing more natural, but women’s body hair still remains one of the most polarising subjects on the internet. From advertising campaigns to celebrities sporting a bit of underarm fuzz, even a mere hint of hair on a woman’s body can elicit a lot of strong reactions and feelings of outrage from both men and women alike. Last year, for example, a Nike campaign featuring Annahstasia Enuke was deemed “disgusting” by many on social media for its display of armpit hair.
With representation of a more diverse range of bodies increasing in the media and the success of body positivity movements, however, mainstream narratives around women’s body hair are changing and more and more women are embracing their au natural selves.
Twitter user @k_illua’s post tapped into these wider conversations we are having as a society around body positivity, around women reclaiming their bodies and the narratives that surround their bodies, and around who gets to decide what a desirable body looks like. But while these are broad, macro ideas, there was also one woman at the centre of it who suddenly found her body being discussed and dissected on a microscopic level. To find out what that feels like we spoke to the London-based Malik about the tweet, her stomach hair, and her message to those people who have a problem with it.
How does it make you feel to see the tweet go viral?
Marissa Malik: The biggest emotions I feel are: gratitude, excitement, happiness, and anxiety. I had this idea in my head that me being hairy is old news, and that ‘body positivity’ movements have pushed us farther into this dialogue. I realise now that this is a product of me being very immersed in the radical political lefty bubble I live in. Going viral has made me come up for air and see the majority view on body hair.
Especially in this moment of quarantine when there isn’t really access to external beauty services for hair removal, people still need to see themselves/their natural bodies reflected in positive ways in the media. Stomachs with ‘happy trails’ and public hair is one that’s largely missing from the narrative, and I’m excited to be someone pioneering this.
You’ve posted images of your body hair before, why do you think this particular one got such a big response?
Marissa Malik: I’ve been posting photos of me with hairy legs on my Instagram since 2016. I think these images went viral because stomach hair is not usually included in the narrative of promoting body autonomy and normalising body hair as much as vaginal pubic hair, leg hair, and armpit hair. This is partially due to the fact that less people have it to the extent that I do, so it is a slight rarity, but not so much of a rarity that it’s ‘abnormal’. It’s also worth noting that due to online censorship and policing of AFAB bodies, we see less images of pubic hair in general.
It’s 2020 and damn – we’ve still not #freedthenipple. I wish this wasn’t the case because my nipples are hairy and I’d love to help embrace that, too!
Was the reaction different to what you usually get?
Marissa Malik: Yes. Because the reach of my photos was larger, the range of reactions varied a lot. There were lots more (presumably) cisgender heterosexual straight men feeling it was their place to weigh in on my choices this time around than the reach my platforms usually provide. Lots of memes about me being a ‘quarantine’ mood. Lots of ‘Would you fuck? Y/N’ captions on shitposting platforms – all of which I found very amusing!
I also received a lot of messages from queer people of colour and women revealing their body hair journeys to me, and explaining that I’ve helped them to love and accept themself. Their words have lifted me up so much and really encouraged me to keep doing my thing.
Body hair is so natural, why do you think people have such a strong reaction to it?
Marissa Malik: The societal norms and mass media don’t show us hair on women/nonbinary people/femmes in relation to being or feeling sexy, and we live in a very sex-driven world. When we see people going against norms, there will always be a strong reaction.
Also there’s a lot of capitalist revune in telling women/nonbinary people/femmes that they need to remove their body hair to be sexy. Waxes aren’t cheap. Razors aren’t cheap. The ‘Pink Tax’ is real! This is further propped up by encouraging people (a vast majority who are non-white) to fit into a standard of whiteness, which is less hairy.
What would your message be to people who view body hair on women negatively?
Marissa Malik: I would say this: Ask yourself why you feel negatively about a woman being empowered to do whatever she wants with her body. If you don’t find it sexy, ask yourself why. Really think about it! Interrogate your perspective, babes.