Does My Body Hair Offend You?

15 Jan 2018

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...