By Philippa Crooks
Who decided that a bald body part was so attractive?
Shaving is strange. We put so much time and effort into removing hair from our bodies that relentlessly grows back. It’s a constant battle! Also, who decided that a bald body part was so attractive? Hair removal is a random human construct that we’ve gotten so used to that we think it’s normal.
Yup, society had me by the short and curlies
I was lying on the waxing bed, clenching my fists in pain, when I had an epiphany. The beautician sighed “Ah, the things us girls have to go through.” I winced and nodded, but I was actually thinking, “Have to?” I don’t have to do this. It is completely my choice to lie here and have the hairs yanked out by the follicles.
I have since decided to grow out my leg, underarm and pubic hair. Here’s why: 1. Hair removal sucks. It takes a lot of precious time, it’s expensive, and it hurts! It’s uncomfortable at the very least (do I have to mention spiky stubble, ingrown hairs, skin irritation?). 2. Hair removal is a made-up social convention which I see no point in taking part in. 3. Because… feminism. Most people have hair on their bodies (whatever gender you identify with). Women shouldn’t feel obliged to shave because we’re told it looks good.
People’s reactions have been an interesting part of the experience. I have thick dark hair, which grows in healthy abundance. Against my pale skin, it’s striking. I think most people find it quite shocking to see a girl with hairy legs or armpits. Some people may even find it offensive.
Part of me is rebellious and enjoys the shock factor, while my softer side doesn’t want to upset people. But I’ve come to believe that making people uncomfortable is preferable to tiptoeing around sensitive issues, and may even lead to more open-mindedness in the long run. I’d like to challenge what people think of as “normal”, “right” and “beautiful”.
My siblings and friends give me a healthy dose of teasing to keep me on my toes, but I think they ultimately respect my decision. My dad, however, thinks body hair on a woman looks horrible. He says it looks like I’m not looking after myself. This was a tough one to deal with because I’m a daddy’s girl, and his opinion matters to me. In my opinion, ‘taking care of myself’ is learning to love my body as it is naturally. Sorry daddy.
Another interesting reaction came from a little girl hanging out with her mum at the gym. I was doing some stretching with my leg extended in her direction and she asked, “Are you a boy or a girl?”
A fair question, I suppose. I think body hair is commonly associated to masculinity. When I first stopped shaving, I found it difficult to see my legs and feel sensual and feminine. I’ve had to train my internal voice not to criticise, but to praise. I can be hairy and sexy! It’s all about perceptions.
My partner, sex… and all the positive vibes
My partner supports me, and has never put pressure on me to shave. What I found interesting was how my opinion of myself shaped my confidence. Insecurity in the bedroom came from my own self-doubt. I remember being in a steamy position and cringing at the sight of my own leg hair – it was a total passion killer! It takes practice to be able to look at my body and love it the way it is, but those better moments come with an amazing sense of empowerment.
Another confidence booster has been the reactions of admiration from other girls. A specific instance that stood out for me was at a dinner party with friends. It came up in conversation that I had stopped shaving, so I lifted my arms in jest to expose my hairy underarms. The girl sitting opposite me was amazed. She said she thought I was so brave and had never had the confidence to do it herself, but had often thought about it. She made me feel cool and proud.
It was a conversation starter to say the least; leading to a table-wide discussion about gender equality and the politics around beauty standards – a topic which always needs more coverage. I hope these types of conversations spread beyond my circle of friends and reach people who might never have considered such things.
It’s not always rainbows and frolicking, though. There are always those dark days that creep in. In moments of doubt, a good remedy for me is to remind myself of other women who have let their body hair grow, like Jemima Kirke. It helps that she’s gorgeous! But if she can rock it, so can I. I hope that by embracing my body hair, I am making it easier for more women to do the same thing… if that’s what they want to do.
Growing my hair has been liberating in the sense that there is one less part of me that I have to restrain. I can focus on developing positive attributes about myself rather than minimising ‘negative’ ones. I think it’s important to do what makes you feel good. Let it grow or wax it away – just make sure you’re doing it for you.