FAQs: Body Hair

We’ve been having a blisteringly scorching summer and, in the moments that I’m not fretting over the ever-approaching threat of global warming, I’ve been loving it. I have been spending every possible moment basking in my parched garden, and have finally been able to wear the summer clothing I have been ambitiously buying from ASOS for the past four years. With the added skin exposure that this summer has encouraged, I feel there is an added pressure over summer to maintain a thorough shaving routine, grinning and bearing the red spots that appear on our armpits and bikini lines, that mark our effort to maintain hairlessness.

Regardless of these itchy spots, I love the way I look when I have shaved- my silky legs and my defined bikini line. However, I also love the way my body looks when I don’t shave. I love my underarm hair, and how my leg hair actually insulates me in a breeze. When I don’t shave, though, it seems to cause a bit of a stir for some people, and I get a lot of comments or questions about it. And while I am more than happy to have a chat about my hair, there are a few questions that I get asked that I just want to iron out.

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Image by Ben Hopper

“That’s disgusting, why would you do that?”

Because. I. Like. It.

I completely respect someone’s personal preference. Shave or don’t shave, go for it, as long as you’re happy with it. I actively do both, so I’m right there with you either way. But maybe, just maybe, don’t grimace and ask this question when you see a woman’s body hair. Especially because I highly doubt I would evoke the same response if I had done something as equally as personal as cut my nails.

“Isn’t it unhygienic?”

No, it’s not. With my body hair, the amount I actually sweat stays the same, but the amount I notice my sweat is actually far less. The hair helps ventilate my underarms by drawing the moisture away from the skin. It doesn’t make me smell any different, because the hair doesn’t smell. I still wash the same, so I’m still clean. I’m no scientist, but I honestly doubt that evolution decided to sprout hair out of the human race if was an actively averse to our health.

“Don’t boys have a problem with it?”

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Sophia Loren

When I grow my hair out when I’m in a relationship, this is the most common question. And honestly, I do not give a moment’s thought as to what my partner will make of it. Is that selfish of me? Should it be anything else? It’s my body. But people are more interested in my partner’s opinion of it. And, as it turns out, my relationships have not been on the condition that my body is hairless. But it unnerves me to think of how many times I get asked what a boy’s opinion is about my body hair, because it assumes that my grooming choices are for them, not me.

It is assumed that my partner would have a problem, and this has caused me to believe that we should take the same approach to body hair as we do with the hair on our heads. If someone I was with was telling me what to do with my head hair, saying they’d only date me if I had bangs, or convincing me get bangs when I didn’t want them just because they’d like it more, I would very soon be on the phone to my friend laughing about the close shave (ha ha) I just had with a shallow shit. There’s nothing wrong with liking bangs (obviously), but they shouldn’t be a condition in any way, and whether I get them or not is solely up to me. So, I’m not going to accept anything less for my body hair.

When I have grown my hair out while being single, I have been told to expect to stay single as long as my body hair is hanging around. Which is majorly inconvenient for me, considering every action I take is done on the basis that boys will like it (because, you know, they all like the same thing). But oh well, you win some you lost some. But between you and me, I think I’m winning this one.

     “You’re so brave!”

Wonderful, kind, supportive people say this to me when they see my body hair, and obviously I take no offence in it. However, the implications of this statement have made me feel uncomfortable.

Being brave means being able to stand up to danger, to face fear and overcome it. If I’m brave to have body hair, then doesn’t that make female body hair, and the response it gets, something to fear, something that is in a way dangerous? We are taught that we should cut it back, or tear it out, or bleach it to make it disappear. That it isn’t normal. I fully appreciate a supportive comment about my body hair, but on a broader level, it’s upsetting to think that some women feel uncomfortable about a natural part of their body because of the dominating beauty standard.

I love not shaving but, equally, if you prefer shaving, that’s great. I’m not saying your choice is a skewed one because of the preferences of the dominant beauty standards. One isn’t better or worse than the other. But, for a long time, even when I was happily growing my hair out, I wouldn’t put my arm up on the tube, or stretch in public, because I would get unpleasantly prolonged stares and frowns that would cause me to blush furiously, and I would feel annoyed at myself for not shaving that morning. Not at the person making me feel uncomfortable, but myself. Like I’d done something wrong. I just think it would be fantastic if, regardless if someone has forgotten to shave or if they’re just loving their body hair, we stopped teaching women to be actively embarrassed by their bodies. There are SO many ways that we need to do this, and this is one of them. Let’s give it a go.

 

-Alys

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