A Hairy Situation

I feel like there's been a lot of talk lately around females and their body hair. It might just be action in my little corner of the internet, but I still feel compelled to talk about it. When I finally sat down to write this post I was just like- wait, why am I writing about body hair? Specifically body hair on females? It's so ridiculous that this is really even a thing. It shouldn't even be an issue because, well, why does someone else care about the hair on another person's body? I've come to the conclusion that  often times it's people who are insecure or bothered by their own body hair that feel the need to comment on someone else's. I'm not saying that I'm exempt from judging other people based on my own insecurities. I think we're all somewhat guilty of that. But it seems that for some reason, this body hair issue is so thoroughly engrained in all of us that we (myself included) often don't realize how much it affects us.

One of the most surprising aspects of this issue based on my own personal experience is the way women feel about other women with body hair. (Not to say that men don't have these opinions, but it's pretty commonplace for men to judge women on their appearances so I'm going to leave that subject untouched for now.) I just never really expected other women to so harshly judge others based on their grooming habits.

Girl on girl hate is real shitty thing. We should support and stand by each other because there are so many things in this world that are constantly trying to tear us down. Between companies trying to sell us crap by telling us we're not good enough and institutional sexism constantly working against us, we need a support system. When you call out another woman for the way she looks or grooms herself, you are doing no different than that creep on the street that cat called you. You are making that woman feel ashamed and attacked based on her physical appearance, just like that guy did to her before. Like it's been done to you before. My point is, as women we already have to put up with harassment based on our appearances. Why would we, AS FELLOW WOMEN, who have experienced that same ridicule, feel the need to make another woman feel bad about herself. It just doesn't make sense.

There are two sides to this problem though. While some women are ridiculed for not shaving, there are others who are judged because they do remove body hair. The argument often presented here is that "true feminists" (whatever that means) shouldn't shave. Some say it's a task invented and enforced by the patriarchy and if they choose to participate, they are degrading themselves and women everywhere. It sounds a little dramatic because it is. What this argument fails to acknowledge is that some women consciously choose to remove body hair for themselves. Like really, FOR THEMSELVES. And that's perfectly fine. In fact, it's fantastic! A woman should be entitled to her decision to do whatever makes her happy. As long as she's doing it for herself and it's not harming anyone, we shouldn't care about her decisions. The real problem arises when women feel obligated to remove their body hair to please others. I've experienced this dilemma firsthand, so it's about to get a little a lot personal.

Photo via sweetjellly

I have body hair. A lot of it. On my arms, legs, face, belly, back, and more. It's dark and thick. It grows back amazingly fast. Stubble crops up the same day I shave and it's visible and prickly. I've never directly felt pressured from a partner to meet certain grooming standards (thankfully) but I've been bombarded with comments about my body hair from every other angle. I started shaving my legs and armpits when I was in 5th grade. I had begged my mom to let me start sooner, but she thought I was too young. The weird thing about that whole situation is that my mother never once asked me why I wanted to shave. Although she was opposed to me doing it at a young age, she accepted the fact that it was going to happen. It wasn't a matter of IF, it was just a matter of WHEN. I think if shaving was presented in a different way to me when I was young, that if my mother or any other woman in my life had told me it was MY choice, then I probably wouldn't be writing this ridiculous post right now. Anyway, I was about eleven years old when I started shaving. I had to use one disposable razor for each leg because I had that much hair. I know. Then sometime in high school I decided I should take the razor to my belly and lower back. I had little trails of hair there and was told on numerous occasions that they weren't attractive. Showering took like half an hour because of this, and I did it every. damn. day. My grooming habits changed over the years because spending that amount of time in the shower daily was kind of ridiculous, but I always managed to shave my legs and underarms. I hadn't put down the razor for over a decade... until now.

I've been following Delightfully Tacky for a while now, and I was so inspired and happy to see her share her own experiences with body hair. This post sparked my interest in my own personal relationship with my body hair and became my main motivation for me to complete my own "experiment." But before deciding to ditch the razor a couple months ago, I had to think A LOT about my motivation for shaving. Did I do it for myself? Was it really just for me? I had convinced myself long ago that this was a choice I made willingly. It was only after I was faced with the decision to bare my body hair in public that I realized I hadn't been doing it for myself at all. Up until this point I had felt completely comfortable with my hairy legs and armpits. It was the thought of other people noticing it that created a sinking feeling in my stomach. I felt the immense shame and embarrassment that was all too familiar. The same fear of being judged that I felt as a child and pre-teen had resurfaced and let me tell you, even at twenty-three-years old, it still doesn't feel good. I had flash backs to being in KINDERGARTEN having girls in my class telling me I need to shave my arms and legs because I was nasty. The reality of it was that those girls had hair too, but theirs was light and wispy- practically invisible against their fair skin. I was five years old when I began to feel shame about my body hair. I couldn't wait to shave. Back to the story: part of me contemplated jumping in the shower real quick to shave from my ankle to my knee before leaving, but I caught myself before I realized I almost let the fear of other peoples' opinion take control of my life. Not like literally control my entire life, but the fact that I was willing to let other people dictate my time, body, and perception was a real wake up call for me. So I ventured out into the world in my skirt, feeling the wind against my leg hair for the first time in a long time (P.S. It's a totally bizarre sensation if you haven't experienced it in a while).

Photo via Carol Rossetti

Having body hair doesn't make you any less of a woman nor does shaving your entire body make you more feminine. Hair isn't a female or male attribute- it's a human attribute. Some hair is thicker, some hair is lighter. Some hair appears on places that it maybe doesn't show up on yours. We've all been brainwashed (by companies and porn, I guess) to feel the need to remove our body hair. Women feel pressured to do it and in turn men expect that women do it. So when a woman makes a conscious decision to leave her body in it's natural state, it's pretty radical to some people. But let me remind you, it's hair.

I'm happy that this movement is gaining momentum. But there's trouble brewing here that I alluded to earlier. A lot of body hair positive propaganda that we see on there internet features a fair skinned girl with wispy blonde, barely-there hair. Like girl, you do you, but that's become the poster child for women with body hair and it's not realistic. What about those girls who have thick hair? Dark hair? On dark skin? People don't like that stuff so much. For whatever reason, sometime back in human history dark skin (and by association, sometimes dark hair) was deemed undesirable. We've seen it time and time again. From skin lightening to bleaching and laser hair removal, there's something alluring and desirable about fair skin and fair hair- or better yet, the lack of it. After years of criticizing myself and experimenting with countless hair removal routines I finally realized that I'm never going to look like those light skinned, light haired, seemingly hairless women. It's just not going to happen because that's not my body. I had to start accepting my body as is because that's how it's meant to be. If I'm going to preach body positivity and feminism, then I need to start with me.

I think there's change happening. It might be slow, and it might not be radically inclusive, but it's happening and for that I'm grateful. I know this experience isn't only mine. I think most women (and even men) have dealt with this body hair dilemma at least on some level. Whether it's from peers, family members, media, or partners there's pressure from all angles to remain hair free. I guess in sharing this post I'm hoping to open a conversation regarding our own experiences regarding the "taboo" of women with body hair. How do you feel about it? Do you do it for you? Have you ever thought about why you shave? Or what would happen if you didn't?

Am I ready to ditch the razor for good? I don't think so. Not yet. Right now I'm glad to be doing this for myself and being able to experience another aspect of my personal body image. I'm curious about what I'll decide to do once the weather starts warming up, but for now I'm fine rocking my body hair just for myself. Whether it's exposed or not, I know it's there and that it's my choice. Viva la body hair!


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