I am a woman.
with a short head hair and long leg hair and occasionally long armpit hairs (depending on my mood/degree of laziness)
2016 was the year I took a vow not to shave my legs for the entire year. Okay so granted, for half the year I didn’t have any hair at all… hair loss being one of the unfortunate side side effects of chemotherapy. But, as devastating as losing the upper half of all my body hair was, losing the lower half wasn’t actually all that bad. Experiencing total hair loss at 22 did, however, cause me to reevaluate the relationship I had with my body hair.
When my hair finally did start to grow back, I remember sitting in the bathtub one evening, razor in hand, about to begin the laborious task that all women must endure when they undergo the ritual that is shaving ones legs, when suddenly a voice inside my head cried out,
“Who are you doing this for?”
I paused. I couldn’t answer the question. I put down the razor. I stared at the hairs on my legs, questioning my unconscious conditioning for the first time. If these hairs didn’t bother me then why was I doing it? For whom? Societies approval? To be considered attractive? To be more ‘feminine’? In that moment I realised I actually liked my leg hairs. After watching all my hair fall out, waking up with clumps of blonde hair on my pillow, golden strands falling in the shower, succumbing to a disease over which I had no control, having hair again felt good. I felt healthy. I felt like a woman.
It felt like a big old “Fuck you” to society and its repressive beauty constructs. And an even bigger “Fuck you” to cancer.
So I put down the razor and I picked up my power.
Recently I was at a party and feeling curious I decided to ask a male friend how he would feel if he took a woman home and discovered that she didn’t shave her legs. His response?
“Not cool. A woman should take care of herself.”
I’m sorry what? Having body hair equates to not taking care of yourself?
I was literally so angry I was at a loss for words (a rare phenomenon). I realise his response was just a natural result of his conditioning by a society intent on perpetuating conventional beauty norms in order to sell products with the sole intention of making us all feel utterly crappy about our very normal body features, like our stomach rolls, our cellulite, our body hair etc… His perspective was not a real representation of his character but rather a clear indication of how easily brainwashed we have all been by the system.
There’s no woman, that I know at least, who can truly say they haven’t been affected by capitalist driven media and its incessant propagation of these idealised and severely unrealistic women, you know what i’m talking about… the white, hairless, skinny, smooth skinned, perfectly toned and proportioned beings we see, literally everywhere.
So how can we really blame men for their unrealistic expectations of women. Have you seen the women in porn? Have you flipped through a women’s magazine lately? Or a “lad-mag” (insert cringe face emoji) ? Or simply scrolled through Instagram?
These idealised and artificial, impossible-to-obtain standards of how a women should be, look and act continue to be disseminated by the media and continue to infect the minds and perspectives of everyone, particularly vulnerable young women. Lowering our self esteem, these ideals increase the already alarmingly high rate of women with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia etc.
I know because I’ve been one of those vulnerable young women for as long as I can remember.
We don’t decide to shave our body hair on our own. It’s something we are told to do. We are told its not feminine, or ladylike,or hygienic to have body hair.
But why is it so wrong to possess something that occurs naturally on our body?
Its sort of like when you walk around bare feet and people stare at you weirdly as if we are somehow all born wearing shoes and the concept of having shoe-less, bare feet in public is just totally obscene.
“How dare you expose your naked feet to the world? Don’t you know there are children around?”
And let’s not even get started on women’s nipples! That’s a whole other essay for a whole other day.
My point is that it’s society who has the problem not us. We are born into these natural, hairy, squishy imperfectly perfect bodies and its time we started normalising them and embracing them and loving them as they are. If you want to be hair-free by all means please shave, wax, pluck, tweeze or lazer it all away and if you want to let it grow, girl let it grow. It’s your choice! I often wish I could go back in time, to my 12 year old self , to the little girl who decided to start shaving her arm pits and legs before there was even half an inch of fluff on her pubescent body, and grab that razor out of her hand and hide if far far out of sight.
Go forth and embrace the hairs!
And if you bring a guy home and he has a problem with it, well…
Show that man-child the door!
Because… we are woman and woman have hair!