Here’s some news that may be shocking: some women have more body hair than others and some of us don’t want to remove it. However, unfortunately, not all body hair is considered equal.
A few weeks ago I proudly told my friends that I hadn’t shaved any part of my body for almost a month. As a self-confessed ‘hairy girl’, this felt like a momentous move – after less than a day, dark thick stubble was already clearly visible.
However, as I explained my newfound acceptance to my friends, I was surprised by their response. Not only were they shocked, they asked whether my boyfriend had a problem with me leaving my body hair to flourish (side note: if your partner does have a problem with any natural part of your body, then they are the problem). Their response highlighted that while I’ve accepted my body hair, society still hasn’t. It emphasised that, as a hairy girl, I’m expected to regard this natural aspect of my body as unsightly and unattractive.
Problematically, repulsion towards body hair isn’t universal. When Gigi Hadid bared her armpit hair for her Love Advent shoot, she was regarded as empowering. Elle magazine commented that Gigi had embraced her “natural body hair… and she looked incredible.” Her fair body hair didn’t seem to offend – it was discreet, acceptable and didn’t detract from her beauty. But what if, like me, your body hair is more noticeable?
Unfortunately, this represents a problematic inequality in how body hair is regarded. While Gigi’s fair body hair is acceptable and there has been a rise in body positivity about female body hair, the acceptance only extends to white and fair-haired women. Often, the pro-body hair narrative only features women with blonde, wispy underarm hair that they’ve dyed a pastel colour.
While society may have started to accept some types of body hair, this acceptance isn’t equal. This is because light body hair is seen as more acceptable than dark body hair. Often, this asymmetrical acceptance excludes WoC’s body hair – which can be coarse, jet black, curly and plentiful.
One major indicator of this inequality is that the focus remains on leg and underarm hair. However, many women grow hair on their chin, back, cheeks, feet, belly and on every inch of their bodies. If you’re a hairy woman, removing this hair is not only regarded as a social norm, it’s also a laborious, painful and costly process. Problematically, the pro-hair narrative fails to show women whose hair isn’t light enough for them to dye (like Miley Cyrus) or the girls who spend each Sunday cooling the chemical burn on their upper lip, chin and cheeks after using Nair. It fails to empower the girls who get stared at on the bus because their prickly legs are poking out their trousers or the girls who are too afraid to wear backless clothes due to their fluffy backs.
Another indicator of this inequality is that hair removal is typically advertised by a white, hairless woman shaving her hairless legs. Again, this makes it difficult for us fuzzy women to feel confident and to accept ourselves. Many of us would have also been subject to the occasional mean comment at school and/or spent evening’s googling if we had abnormally high testosterone; when, it’s a normal part of being a human.
Overall, there has been process in the removal of some of the stigma surrounding body hair, but we shouldn’t stop before all women and all types of bodies are included. The pro-body hair narrative rightly tells us that body hair is natural, beautiful and clean, and it shouldn’t be tied to our femininity. However, this positive narrative also needs to expel the idea that women are unladylike or unhygienic if they show noticeable, ‘excess’ body hair.
Looking back on my personal insecurities about my obvious body hair, I wish I had not been so upset by it and felt so alien compared to my peers. With that said, how can a young girl reassure herself in a world that considers her features as a flaw? Why does a young girl even have to be made insecure about a normal part of her body? It’s not enough to only accept certain types of body hair. All women deserve for their bodies to be accepted, and this starts with normalising all types of body hair.
Written by Alexandria Hodge