"Hippy, lesbian, feminist! Finding a label and categorising eased my understanding and allowed me to accept what I saw"
What's the first thought that intrudes your mind when you see a woman with natural body hair? Honestly, think about it. I'm not asking this to judge or criticise - before I started this journey with body hair, I thought GROSS, I thought DIRTY! I thought hippy, lesbian, feminist! Finding a label and categorising eased my understanding and allowed me to accept what I saw.
I was only in primary school when I began to recognise the feelings of self-consciousness about the hairs on my legs. I begged my mother to let me shave as if it was something foreign that had to be removed immediately, something that didn't belong to me. I felt embarrassed, ashamed. I felt judged. I would look down at the blonde wispy hairs that I was so offended by. But we had a deal, my mother and I, I would be handed my first razor when I turned 12. I counted down those days as if my life depended on it and the night I shaved I was electrified, my fingers traced my legs and I questioned if I had ever felt anything smoother. As the years went on, my obsession with being smooth as silk faded. I became lazy, I shifted from begging to shave to feeling as though I had to shave. I then began to shave my body hair out of embarrassment. A passing comment, a slight touch or, even a stare would result in me pulling out the razor and doing what I had to do, what I thought I was meant to do.
A quick google search will tell you that the issues around body hair is nothing new, a practice that has been shaped by centuries of history. Dating as far back as the stone age, cavemen would shave their hair as a safety measure in combat to avoid it being grabbed. This was thought to be done with whittled stone, animal teeth, and sharp flints. Shaving was also thought to be necessary to avoid frostbite in the harsher seasons.
But the idea around cleanliness and sanitation emerged with the Ancient Egyptians, the trend set by Cleopatra herself, who shaved her entire
body including her head to signify social class. Body hair, especially pubic hair, symbolised the lower class. It was seen as unhygienic, dirty, and uncivilised, commonly seen amongst servants and slaves. During this time, the sugar waxing method was invented, something we still practice today.
The years went on and I never thought twice about letting my body hair grow. Leg hair, ew. Underarm hair. DISGUSTING! I would take advantage of the winter months, wearing long pants with a dread of ordering new razors as the warmer seasons come around.
This mindset started to shift in late 2020, I had quit my job and had 3 empty months ahead of me. And that's when I did something crazy... I stopped shaving. The hair that covered my legs was the easy part - it was the underarms that turned heads. Each yoga class I attended, inhaling as I extended my arms toward the ceiling, exhaling as I grounded through my heels, but as my teacher told me to bring my attention to the present moment all I could think about was visible hair in my armpits. What if someone saw? I quickly threw my arms down by my side putting a jumper on - easy fix. I gave in, I shaved my armpits. But my leg hairs were kind of growing on me, literally.
Fast forward and there I was sitting in Sydney's lockdown. Nowhere to go, no one to see. My leg hairs and I were friends, we got along... most of the time. But I was still having a few issues with the pits, I saw an opportunity to explore this frenemy. I put down the razor and tried again.
Now, why the fuck would I go through all this? This consistent feeling of embarrassment and shame that would follow me every time I stepped out of the house? I knew that what I was feeling wasn't right. The judgemental thoughts at the sight of a woman who had visible body hair, the sickly shame I felt when I wore a bikini with unshaven pubic hair, a compulsion to walk out of a yoga class because of underarm hair! I cared more about what other people thought of me than they did and I projected my ugly thoughts onto other women in the form of judgment. It had to change.
It was early days into my journey of being all-natural and I was spending my afternoon down at the local park. I had the slackline up between 2 trees and I was flicking through a book when a young woman began walking over to me. My eyes flickered straight to her legs which were exposed from a knee-length dress, she had leg hair. My immediate reaction was judgemental but I was quick to catch these negative thoughts looking down at my legs which hadn't been touched by a razor in over a year. She was intrigued by the slackline and we began chatting, our conversation flowed and we began talking about body hair, she smiled as she told me she stopped shaving as she entered high school. I was honestly speechless! I had begged to start shaving at the same age she made a conscious decision to stop.
Times are changing, with the #bodyhairmovement sweeping the internet, more women are choosing not to shave. This is no longer a political statement but knowing you have a choice and changing the definition of beauty.
Big names are now hitting the streets and even the red carpet flaunting their unshaven bodies giving the press something to talk about but most importantly inspiring others to leap. Whatever decision you decide to make, shave it all off or let it grow wild, know the choice is in your hands and no one should ever be judged for that.
I speak more about this with Rikki in a two-part video series within The Feminine Rising with Rikki Facebook group. This is a women-identifying only group.