Let's chat female body hair
"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.