EDITORS NOTE: this lovely post has been written by a good mate of BPC's - Leona! Enjoy, folks!
I’ve been thinking a lot about waxing, shaving, and all the different ways in which people (usually women) remove the hair from their bodies. I’ve been thinking about the politicised and stigmatised nature of hair on women’s bodies, and about habits of hair removal as a feminist issue. Of course, I’m not the only one who’s had such thoughts, and what I’m writing here is not new or innovative, really.
[It’s also important to note that my perspective is that of a bisexual, cisgendered, white, feminist gal. So my experiences are definitely not universal, but (I hope!) at least mildly relatable]
Since it’s winter here in Sydney (and uncharacteristically, you can actually feel the cold in the air) I haven’t been studiously removing any and every follicle that dares to make an appearance from under my skin. Mind you, I’m not usually super diligent with body hair removal, so my winter legs look pretty much identical to my summer ones. There were a few years, though, when my internalisation of conventions was at its peak, and I obsessively shaved or waxed any hair below my eyelashes, as a lot of women do. And although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with removing hair from one’s body, it’s important to consider the reasoning behind it. At some point, probably as a result of epiphanies a-plenty in my life, I realised that I was putting in a lot of effort (and sometimes pain) to remove naturally occurring parts of my body.
A bit of history: both sides of my family are originally European (Austrian, German & Russian), so we tend to be fairly hairy, with fast growing hair to boot. When I was small, I was sometimes teased for my thick mono brow (and brows generally). When I was about 11 I realised that the hair on my legs was fairly long, dark, and thick. As I ingested the societal messages fed to me, I became aware that the images of beauty I looked up to were smooth and hairless.
~~I interrupt this li’l article with a PSA: I am in no way trying to criticise anyone anywhere who chooses to remove the hair from their body. I’m simply critiquing the ideologies and influences behind it. And now back to our program…~~
Body hair is not disgusting or unhygienic, and it’s wrong and harmful to lie about that. As this everyday feminism article eloquently explains, “If somebody had body hair…there was something inherently unattractive and unwanted about them…to have facial and body hair was basically a social death sentence.” This article also outlines some issues of trans folks in the context of body hair, which I think is really important; trans folks, and gender nonconforming people in general, are left out of a lot of important conversations even within the feminist (and LGBTQIA+) community. The article outlines a lot of complex issues to do with body hair, so I’ll leave it to the articulate Aidan McCormack to spell it out.
While we’re on everyday feminism, here’s another good read.
Re: body hair removal, I think this obsessive emphasis on it also has to do with the idealisation of eternal youth. I think that in some ways, this whole ideal of the hairless body links into the sexualisation of young girls, which is nauseating. It’s such a small age group in which women are accepted and, in a limited and exploitative way, celebrated.
A lot of these issues are echoed in this fantastic video.
I think companies are gross in the way that they are profiting off the manufactured insecurity of (predominantly) women. I also find it interesting (and interesting here means: pretty fucked up) that ads for hair removal products don’t show hair? Like, there’s no “look-how-amazing-our-product-is” moment? In the ads, the person is literally shaving a hairless leg!! Women’s body hair is stigmatised to the point where companies would rather advertise their product as ineffective than show a Scandalous! Hairy! Leg!
Ultimately, I think by critically evaluating these habits that are presented to us as normal I am doing what I can. And whether I wear the hair on my body long or short, bushy or non-existent, my value as a person is not impacted by the body I inhabit.