Everyone’s relationship with body hair is very personal (I mean, it’s been growing on you since the day you were born, you can't get any closer than that). But from a young age, women are being policed into removing their body hair or repeatedly shamed when they choose not to follow society’s standards.
Allure, as a part of their "Dispelling Beauty Myths" video series with StyleLikeU, recently teamed up with Alexandra Marzella, Monica Hernandez and Ayqa Khan — three awesome female creatives in their own right — to challenge these bullshit body hair norms.
When asked what they think the ideal female body is they all, without hesitation, replied the same thing: smooth, baby soft skin. Is this realistic at all? No, not unless you buy the right products (hello, capitalism). We live in a time when body hair is so stigmatized that most shaving ads don’t even include images of hairy legs or armpits.
It’s a very sexist double standard. While girls are expected to drop thousands of dollars on buying razors, shaving cream, Nair (which feels like a kiss from Satan BTW), or drop ridiculous amounts of money on being professionally waxed (I’m both too busy and broke for that one), stubble on men is not just acceptable, it’s attractive. The only time we’ve ever heard about a man going through the same hair removing pains as a girl is when they’re about to swim in the Olympics.
I’ve been called "disgusting" by my guy friends multiple times since I stopped shaving my armpits during the summer (which is such bullshit especially since I shower every day and I’ve watched them pick up dirty shirts off the floor and sniff them before putting them on).
The issues of body hair positivity, although traditionally associated with the privileges of white feminism, have created serious problems for women of color as well. Hernandez herself comments that this isn’t some passing fad: “Right now you’re seen like a hipster trying to follow a trend.” Some of my closest friends of color, whose hair was always darker than mine, have been removing their sideburns, stray patches of chest hair, and even their arm hair long before I was begging my mom for a razor.
It’s both amazing and heartbreaking to hear these girls’ stories and realize just how relatable they all are. Marzella, a sex-positive performance artist, talks about how her sexuality was tied in so deeply with hair removal (“Why do I think that having no hair on my legs would make me more sensual?”). Khan, on the other hand, tells her story of growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood. While her blonde-haired friends could go out carefree, the Muslim artist found herself spending hours getting ready, shaving down her body to try to emulate them. Hernandez also talks about growing up in a conservative community and how, during puberty, her period was never talked about and she was suddenly taught to shave her hair because “that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Photo from Ayqa Khan's Instagram
No girl should be placed in the position of sitting in her mother’s bathroom with a razor because someone (a fashion magazine, friends or family) told them that removing body hair will make them more beautiful. Girls as young as eleven shouldn’t feel insecure about wearing shorts in the summertime because their mom said no or be teased for having darker hair and have to spend hours shaving from head to toe in order to avoid more bullying.
These girls realized that they were wasting so much time keeping up with this ritual. They found self-love through the act of simply stopping and setting down the razor, choosing to spend their time doing other things they enjoyed instead. Letting go of social conventions brought on this new kind of self-acceptance for every natural part of their body.
If you go onto social media and you see a girl post an image with visible body hair (armpit hair, a mustache, pubic hair, you name it), there’s always this massive wave of backlash of comments (usually from male users) as they call her ugly, manly, gross, unhygienic. It’s ridiculous. It’s not like these girls are kicking puppies. As Monica puts it, “I’m literally doing nothing,” so why do people keep reacting in this angry way? It’s just hair! The problem is not a sanitary one. It’s because these women present themselves with visible body hair and disrupt the flawless-is-sexy narrative.
If you’re the kind of girl who enjoys body hair removal, who finds something soothing in taking the time to shave in the shower, then do it! But if you feel like you’re wasting time or don’t want to keep enduring the pain of razor bumps or getting your hair ripped off, then don’t feel pressured to keep removing your body hair! Don’t conform to someone else’s idea of beauty! We need to love our bodies with all of its hair, bumps and stretch marks.
Photos via Instagram, Allure
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