A Hairy Subject
Some people feel weird talking about it. Some people think it’s gross or disgusting.
Unnatural. Repulsive. “Unladylike”. (Ugh.)
Some people think that if women leave their body hair that they are dirty or unkempt.
Some people think that they are man-hating lesbians.
CAUTION: F-Bombs Ahead ❤️
While leaving one’s body hair is in itself a rebellion against the traditional, Patriarchal views of beauty and womanhood, it is not directly in opposition of men (how self-absorbed to think that what any person does to their body they do for you, man). How funny, too, that body hair on a man is considered normal, masculine, and/or sexy, while the same natural feature on a woman is considered gross, dirty, and/or unattractive.
And while many women who enjoy the company of other women do not remove their body hair, the notion of having body hair does not automatically define anyone’s sexual orientation.
Like with anything on any body, the option to leave or remove one’s body hair is just that: an option. There is no one way to have a body. The way you have your body is just the way you should have it. If you choose to alter your natural state, great! It’s fun to play with how we express ourselves through visual illusions like hairstyles, waxing, wearing makeup, and different clothes.
And if you choose to leave certain features, ‘cause you like them, or just want to, then you have the right to do so, and you are not any less worthy of love, respect, or sex appeal than anyone else.
Society has taught us how to be pretty. Movies, magazines, advertisements... they’re all plastered with tips and tricks to look “our best”; ways to change who we naturally are in order to appease a higher order: men. Because if men think we’re gross, then we’re hopelessly unlovable. If other women think we’re gross cause they know men think so, we’re outcasted.
These are social roadblocks.
If we can get past these initial deterrents, we may be able to break into conversations surrounding progress and reform that would enable personal liberation and healthier relationships with other humans. If we can get past the initial exterior judgement and consider who that individual is separate from our own projections of what it means to be them, we may be able to survive a more peaceful existence. This philosophy goes well beyond body hair.
“If we can get past the initial exterior judgement and consider who that individual is separate from our own projections of what it means to be them, we may be able to survive a more peaceful existence.”
Hair on a body is sexy. Self-ownership (autonomy) and self-confidence are sexy. Being oneself, being unique, being different, expressing one’s own light however-the-fuck-they-feel-like-shining-it, is fucking sexy!
Expressing one’s own light however-the-fuck-they-feel-like-shining-it, is fucking sexy!
Personally, I don’t want to be friends with anyone that thinks anyone else is disgusting for being in their natural state. No space for haters here. I have no tolerance for body-shaming of any sort and you shouldn’t either. The only way to create a more compassionate, accepting, and tolerant (at least!) world is to start by looking at ourselves and how we treat others.
What do you see, what do you think, when you see a woman with body hair? What judgements, what pre-determined facts have you made up about them before ever asking them about themselves? Would you ask someone why they have their arms? Why they have a stomach? Why they’re a certain class or skin tone?
Cue: Mean Girls cafeteria scene, introducing Cady to the Plastics...
“If you’re from Africa, why are you White?”
“OMG, Karen, you can’t just ask someone why they’re White.”
I’ll admit, it’s taken me some time to feel comfortable with my own body hair.
While my parents didn’t enforce it on me, and my mom in particular allowed me to wait until I was ready to start shaving, I was raised in a society that told me I had to. Silky-smooth skin was expected. When my hair was first growing in, around 9 or 10 years old, I remember feeling around for bare spots on my legs, thinking, “I wish all the skin on my legs was as smooth as this one little spot between these hairs...”
At age 15, I remember feeling so embarrassed and apologetic for having prickly legs while going for a massage... thinking, too, though, that they’ve got to work on hairy men all the time, so what’s the big deal with a teenager with some hair on their legs? Why am I apologizing to this stranger that I’m paying to help me relax and feel secure? Also, don’t they know that bodies are naturally hairy?
When I lived in Las Vegas, the land of relentless pressure around sex appeal and 100+ degree summers, I spent some time (and serious cash) waxing. I liked that it was clean and quick, however temporarily painful it may have been. “Beauty is pain”, right? I hate that saying.
It’s also disgusting to me the way that a silky-smooth-downstairs fetishizes young girls. Why should my body be as smooth as a young child’s? It’s just weird.
I used Nair, and liked that it was thorough and easy enough to use, but so messy! And who knows the repercussions of a chemical base that can strip hair from its cuticle...
I finally found resolve with this issue in my final year-and-a-half in New York City. I determined that I was going to stop removing the hair; I was going to leave it, accept it, and love it. I intentionally wasn’t doing it to “make a statement”, though I knew by doing so, I would. It was still baffling to me the rarity of seeing other women with body hair. In a city that is so forward, progressive, daring, and independent, so many individuals are still so confined to the standards and norms imposed upon them by the booming, billion-dollar beauty industry.
In a city full of cynics, it takes courage to stand apart from expectation.
Like the brassiere, thong, and stilettos, razors were another (painful) trick invented by men to make women more appealing to them; realizing this made it easier for me to stop catering to it. I was also evaluating my consuming tendencies and how they were contributing to larger environmental factors, and decided that disposable razors were out of the picture for me. In a time when money was not free-flowing, I had to consider my spending habits and for whose benefit they were. Did I need to spend $60-100 on waxing every few weeks? Was the trauma of having prickly legs so horrendous for me to endure? When a social standard deters one’s freedom of expression, it’s cause for evaluation. I can’t wear shorts today even though it’s hot as the devil outside? Leggings, tights, pants under a dress ‘cause someone else is gonna have a problem with how my body looks? No-fucking-thank-you.
When a social standard deters one’s freedom of expression, it’s cause for evaluation.
I’ve only been publicly ridiculed a couple of times for having hair on my body.
Nat: posts a picture of a bruised, broken foot attached to a hairy leg
A childhood “friend”, in LA: “OMG, girl, you need to shave! I thought that was [your brother]’s leg!”
Nat: “But it’s clearly my post!”
Her: “Okay, Sasquatch!”
Nat: *stops following on social media, haven’t talked-to since* 👋
“Why’d’ya have hair under yer arms? You know you need to shave that, don’tya?” - an old Irish man outside of my neighborhood pub in Astoria, New York. 🍀
“Nope! I don’t have to!” I reply confidently as I walk away. 🍃
Why’s it up to other people to tell me what I need to do to my body?
Cut it out!
For the most part, I don’t hear anything about it. People may have thoughts about it, they may not. People look and then they look away.
And while I don’t keep my body hair as an intentional act of public defiance or a symbolic “fuck you” to the Patriarchy and all who support it, I do think it’s important to normalize it. Representation matters across many spectrums, including body hair.
I don’t live my life for other people. I will not cater to the expectations of strangers! How exhausting! Post-people-pleasing, my only goal when it comes to my body is making myself happy. Nothing I do is for anyone else. It’s especially not for the over-arching “male gaze”.
This ain’t for you, honey, move along.