Having body hair – anywhere except on the scalp – is seen by most women as a drag, a pet peeve, or even disgusting. It’s something to be ashamed of, something to get rid of, something to cover up. I understand that; I’ve grown up with that societal expectation around me. From friends, from family, even sometimes from people I don’t know very well. It’s seen as more attractive for a woman to have little to no body hair… Why? If you don’t have hair, you’re a pre-pubescent child. I guess we largely have porn to thank for that.
Before I delve any deeper, I want to stress the autonomy we have over our own bodies. It’s fantastic if people do want to shave, if they don’t want to shave, if they take it all off or keep it all on – that is their decision. No one deserves to be shamed for their choices.
A Rite of Passage
At twelve, some of my friends started shaving their legs for the first time. Suddenly these innocent hairs on my body I had never previously given a second thought were something to be gossiped about. Naturally, most of us followed suit. A girl in our group decided she didn’t want to, and her decision was quickly discussed in detail when her back was turned. I remember being curious as to why she chose not to, but ultimately relieved I wasn’t being talked about in this way. I knew what we were doing wasn’t nice, but it also felt like shaving was something grown up and sophisticated. A rite of passage to womanhood. Looking back, it’s pretty messed up that we did that.
It’s interesting, delving deeper, as to how and why this has become a norm for women around the world. So much so that there is a multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to hair removal, largely aimed at women. You can wax it off, shave it off, laser it off, sugar it off, tweeze it off, thread it off, even chemically dissolve it off. It wasn’t always like this though:
My main gripe is the backlash that so many women who reject these social norms receive, both directly and indirectly. Can we please normalise this shiz? It takes guts to go against the grain. That, and the fact that women’s shaving habits can be directly traced back to a marketing ploy by razor manufacturers who wanted to double their market. What the actual fuck? As the video states, until the 1920s, women who shaved were rare. To the point where it made national headlines when a teenage girl cut herself when shaving her legs.
Body hair on women is considered so repulsive that even on advertisements for hair removal there is not a follicle in sight. When someone pointed it out to me for the first time, I couldn’t unsee it.
Even women who, as adults, have chosen not to remove some or all of their hair, are impacted by this standard. I myself began deconstructing the reasons I was shaving at the age of 19, when my first girlfriend was proudly hairy. I found it attractive – both her self-confidence and how it looked. I experimented with letting it grow for a month, which became months, and finally years. Despite being sure of my decision and feeling a profound sense of freedom, I still carried – and occasionally still now carry – a feeling of shame and self-consciousness about how others would perceive me.
To sum up, the choice is – and always should be – ours, and ours alone. Speaking more broadly, if people in your life are making you feel ashamed of your own personal choices, fuck ’em. You are the maker of your own dang destiny. Not to get all girl-power-zigazigah about it, but here are a few golden words from some queens:
“Don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at things that shine” – Taylor Swift
“I don’t wanna be a hot girl, I wanna be iconic.” – Beyonce Knowles
“At the end of the day, the person that has to be happy, is me.” – Miley Cyrus