15 January 2018

Does My Body Hair Offend You?

I remember bargaining with my mum in my early teens; she wanted me to do something and I said I'd only do it if she let me get my eyebrows waxed and let me start shaving my legs. You see, being Cypriot, I've grown up with very dark, very obvious body hair. Although I dodged the worse of the stereotypical Cypriot mono-brow, my arms and legs were a source of great insecurity for me, particularly when most of the girls in my school had fine blond hair, barely noticeable compared to mine. I dreaded PE lessons and just wanted to fit in with the other girls; they were allowed to shave their legs, so why couldn't I?




When you consider the portrayal of female body hair in the media, it's no surprise I grew up resenting my own. Hair removal brands sell their products with adverts of already-smooth women, body hair is negatively reported on throughout all forms of media and deemed as unnatural, unattractive and not sexy and there's always someone ready to tell you that your body hair disgusts them. If you dare wear a skirt without shaving your legs or bare your underarms with even the slightest hint of fuzz, you're deemed a radical feminist who is just out to stick it to the man! Because body hair is gross, right?

Don't get me wrong - we're all entitled to an opinion and you can, of course, dislike body hair. Disliking something is fine, but it's when people claim body hair is unnatural, then I'm left baffled. How come something natural, be unnatural? 

We constantly discuss body hair as if it's some unknown alien invading women's bodies as if we're actually surprised women have body hair, and that baffles me. Body hair is natural, in men, in women, we are born with body hair; it is natural. Just because you dislike it, doesn't mean it's not natural and it doesn't mean that every woman - from when they are merely young, impressionable girls, should be body shamed because of their body hair. Why are we putting pressure on women of all ages to go bare?

"The removal of natural body/facial hair is a constraint put on women by a patriarchal society and is a method of control that restricts women. We waste our time and money in the ridiculous pursuit of hair removal to effectively look like children. Time could be better spent elsewhere. It is simply a trend encouraged by businesses/the media to make money. If they suddenly made it trendy and sexy to be hairy, women would suddenly feel good with their natural hair for the first time. I currently have hairy legs and underarms and have begun wearing t shirts with hairy underarms in company. I’m trying to increase my confidence so that one day I get to the point where I can feel confident hairy in a dress or whatever. After social conditioning since birth though, it’s hard to get there. I’m following body positive Instagram accounts like Pit Angels to condition myself that hairy truly is beautiful. I wrote about this a little in my feature 'How the patriarchy ruins sex.'" - Nyomi from Nomipalony - A Feminist Family Lifestyle Blog

"I was really shocked to read recently that such a high percentage of under 30s have absolutely no pubic hair. I've always found that such an odd trend - aside from the fact it makes you look like a little girl, its also wholly uncomfortable and surely not very hygienic? The whole point of pubic hair is to protect your vagina in the same way your eye lashes do you eyes - and we don't remove those do we?!" - Colette from We're Going On An Adventure

Now, when I'm not being lazy, I am all for smooth skin, less so because I want to look appealing to others and more so because I'm heavily tattooed; simply put, my tattoos look better without the fuzz, and so when I do shave I include places other people might not shave, like my arms. I am lazy though, incredibly so, and I'd much rather have a quick shower and get on with other things than spend another 30 minutes exfoliating and shaving. Plus, I'm a hairy woman, there's a lot to get rid of and sometimes (most of the year, actually), I just can't be arsed.

Yet, I still feel conscious if someone sees my hairy underarms or fuzzy legs, because although I may not be fussed about my body hair, society and the media have so strongly conditioned the majority of people that hair is a bad thing, and so I am often left worrying what judgments people are making of me if I let even one hair on show.

"I have no problem with any kind of body hair on anyone, it just doesn't bother me. I also prefer my armpits to not be shaven but I allow society to prevent me from doing so in the summer. I wish the world was a kinder, more relaxed place where we could do and be what we want, but there's so much judgment and ridicule." - Kelly from Kelly Allen Writer

"Getting ill, and having really reduced mobility, means that I just can't maintain my body hair like I used to. I don't love it but it doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would - I really dislike the expectations put upon women and even if I suddenly became healthy I don't think I'd be quite so bothered about hair removal as I used to be." - Laura from Petit Moi - Big World 

When I had Willow, I realised things like body hair and body shaming towards women's natural bodies, was something I would need to talk to her about as she grows up. A lot. I don't want my daughter to grow up feeling ashamed of her natural body and yet here we are, living in a society which shames women at every given opportunity, that puts unrealistic expectations on women and how we should look, think, feel. I'm raising my daughter as a strong, independent feminist - and I'll be damned if I let society make her think her natural body and every single hair that comes with it, is wrong. Society is wrong, not our bodies doing what is natural to them; society is wrong.

If anything, since having a daughter I have felt it even more important for me not to remove my body hair, because her first examples of women will be me - and I want that example to be one that is not ashamed or afraid of something natural, who does not feel shamed into changing the way her body looks. I want her to grow up knowing her body is hers, to do as she pleases, whether that's waxing herself to within an inch of her life or dreading her gloriously long armpit hair. My body, my choice - her body, her choice.

So here's the crux of this post, here's my reason for wanting to talk about body hair; I want you to stop worrying. I want you to stop worrying about your own body hair, I want you to stop worrying about other people's body hair. I want you to stop waiting until you've shaved your legs to go out and enjoy the sunshine and I want you to wear that dress even though it shows your fuzzy underarms in all their glory. If you prefer how your skin feels hair-free, then shave, wax or pluck to your heart's content! If you prefer to embrace the fuzz? Then keep doing what you're doing, try not to worry what other people might think and remember that it is your body, your hair, your decision.

P.s. For anyone wondering why I haven't covered what my partner thinks to me embracing my body hair? It's not his body to decide what I do with it... 



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20 comments

  1. Amen to this! I used to be so conscious of my body hair and I'm totally more chilled out about it all now! Not that I've ever minded about what anyone else chooses to do, but personally I do prefer when I have "de-haired" but if I don't want to for a while, I'm totally fine with this now!

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    1. Oh I do love the feel of freshly smooth skin! But the upkeep... I'm sure it gets longer the older I get haha! xo

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  2. Love that last note. I have quite hairy arms but I have never shaved them nor will I ever. I just try to embrace it :)
    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

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    1. If it wasn't for my tattoos, I wouldn't shave my arms at all, even though my hair is black and very obvious! xo

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  3. Oh god I love you for saying this. I feel like this is so so important, especially showing children that the natural body is normal and okay before society gets them and tells them it's wrong. Since having my two girls I have outwardly embraced my "flaws" including body hair. It's normal to be hairy and it's normal to be smooth. I think it's so important for them to see real and not airbrushed growing up and find their own preferences rather than being told what to do by society. X

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  4. I know this isn’t the point if the post but it always blows my mind how many people say to you “have you booked in for a wax?” When you are pregnant. Like no, I couldn’t give a hoot and also as IF i am going to subject myself to more pain when I don’t have too? My last concern when it comes to childbirth is my body hair but it’s so many people’s first?!

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    1. Haha! I had to be shaved for my c-section, that's how much I cared about whether I had hair or not! xo

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  5. LOVE this & hell yes! It’s so important to me that as an auntie to three girls, they know that having bodily hair is completely normal and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Whether they choose to shave it all off or never take a razor/wax to it. They are perfect regardless.

    Rachael

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    1. Thank you, Rachael. Exactly. However we choose to look, we are all perfect regardless xo

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  6. I love your so confident with this :) I am an obsessive shaver unfortunately!

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    1. Thank you Kira! It's not unfortunate... it's your choice! :) xo

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  7. I love this and so wish that I could feel the same! I DO feel very self conscious if I haven't shaved my legs, and I would feel really embarrassed had I not shaved my underarms. I think that's something I have allowed society to make me feel, I need to adopt your attitude!

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    1. Definitely. After all, shame and embarrassment is learnt through our experiences and examples set for us. I hope one day you feel more positively about your body hair Laura xo

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  8. YES YES YES! I love this post! My friends all think I'm crazy because I don't want to do laser hair removal but fuck I don't mind a bit of hair.... And I shouldn't feel bad about that. Totally agree with tattoos looking way better without fuzzy hairs! I'm starting shaving my arms also for that reason haha.

    Sarah | More Than Adored

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    1. I find it so sad that your friends are even trying to push you into something like that, well done for standing your ground!! xo

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  9. I love love love the positive message through this post! I was the same at school and it got me all hung up about it! I'm so much more laid back and relaxed now!

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    1. Thank you Sophie! I'm glad you're more relaxed about your body hair now xo

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  10. I think it's fabulous that you haven't included your partner's view and it made me think, why was I thinking about my own partner so much? All the way through I was thinking 'I'm lucky because Mike is OK with my masses of body hair at the moment' but should that make me lucky? No it bloomin' well shouldn't, we shouldn't consider ourselves lucky because our OH isn't bothered. Even then, I still feel the need to apologise every time we go there and his hand wanders down to an unpruned garden and I'm ashamed of that, I really am. Like you, I am a feminist and I'm raising my daughter in the same way. I am definitely more relaxed about it than I used to be and I don't feel pressure to shave anymore and I don't feel lesser for having not shaved. My whole introduction to modern intersectional feminism is because of her. I want to be the best I can be and raise her in the best way that I can. This is a great post with a wonderful message and I think times are, slowly, changing. I'm actually starting to like my body hair just like I like my partner's body hair (and his beard although I'm not suggesting I want one myself!)

    P.S. This reminds me of a rupi kaur poem — 'The next time he points out the hair on your legs is growing back, remind that boy your body is not his home ,he is a guest, warn him to never outstep his welcome again'

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    1. Love that poem!! Thanks for sharing Lucy. I nearly didn't add the disclaimer about why I hadn't mentioned what M thinks to my body hair - but I knew someone might ask otherwise so thought I'd just be upfront and say HEY! It's not his body to decide whether or not I have body hair! xo

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