Body Hair is a Personal and Feminist Issue
Puberty? We can all relate. Just as you’re exploring what it is to be a woman you sprout body hair like some kind of infernal Ewok. Like, you whisper to yourself, a man.*
I am a hairy woman.
A statement once tinged with shame, now uttered with a sentiment bordering on acceptance.
I have always been hairy. Before I was a hairy woman, I was a hairy child, cursed with thick arm and leg hair at a pre-pubescent age. I learned early that it was unacceptable for a girl to be as hairy as a boy was at that age. As children are wont to do, they would cruelly tease and chase me around the recess yard, yanking chunks of hair from my arms. I would either come home crying, or give retribution in the form of chewed gum chunked at ponytails (I was no saint, either).
Thus began my devotion to the Cult of Hairlessness. For years, I devoted myself to an endless top-to-bottom routine of trimming, waxing, plucking, bleaching, Nairing and shaving. The ritual was endless. Every morning, I would assault my face with a pair of tweezers in hand. Was that a new hair? Why were they so dark? I cursed my fair-haired peers, blessed with near-invisible peach-fuzz and blonde body hair.
Fluffy? Bald? Animals don’t give a f*ck. Just sayin’…
My mother was a willing conspirator in my campaign for complete hairlessness. Countless products arrived at our doorstep: a home electrolysis kit for my facial hair, a sugar wax kit for my arms. We experimented with the wax on my Dads arms first. Trying to convince me that it wouldnt hurt, Mum dolloped the mixture on my Dads forearm, applied the wax paper and ripped it off in a single swoop. Despite himself, Dad let out a surprised F*ck!, rubbing his arm protectively and the wax sat unused in the bathroom pantry, as I decided to shave my arms instead.
Chewbacca knows that body hair is a feminist issue. He knows that deep in his furry little bones.
One night, during my daily hair removal ritual, I realized that not only were my arms an insatiable tangle of thick, dark hair, but so were my hands. I dragged the razor from fingertip to knuckle in a single motion and ran crying to my parents, trying to explain the reason that my hands were dripping blood at every knuckle was because I was so ashamed of being hairy. I still recall that moment every time I went to shave them in the shower. I often wondered, while the hot water hit my face, why I had and still was willing to undergo so much pain to make myself hairless.
Wonderfully striking image courtesy of Go Acidic
For a long, long time I was convinced that being hairy made me less of a female. Hairiness was, somehow, a man’s province. A hairy chest and a full beard was a true sign of masculinity. A female, in contrast, should be smooth, groomed, hairless. No matter that hair sprung up in every likely nook and cranny, just as it did for males. No matter that a child was the only being naturally unhairy. And then, a few months ago, I stumbled upon this quote in “The Politics of Body Hair“:
“Grown women are, after all, meant to have hair on their armpits, vulva and legs. There is nothing ‘unnatural’ about a hairy woman; if there were then the hair would not grow there in the first place. Likewise, there is nothing ‘unfeminine’ about a hairy woman; if femininity is defined as ‘like a woman’ then a woman in her natural state is by definition as feminine as she can be. Indeed, one could say it is the hairless woman who is ‘less feminine’, as she removes parts of her natural, womanly body.”
Where do you draw the line? Do you want a Hollywood wax or a merkin? Guess what – the majority of men don’t care. But if we start depilating when we’ve barely got our first period, if we ourselves start panicking about body hair, we are TRAINING men to care. Because a guy who’s slept with (unlikely) a million artificially 100% smooth women will be understandably bloody shocked when he comes across a single ‘freakish’ woman who’s only bothered to trim her nunu and hasn’t even shaved her arms down to the bone. He’ll quite reasonably think she is ill or a zombie or both.
So, after twenty-something years of plucking, shaving, waxing, and trimming, I have finally let some parts go back to their hairy roots not all of it, mind you. I still have an unhealthy obsession with a tweezer and a regular appointment at my “waxseusse,” but I am enjoying the feeling of not dragging a razor against delicate toes and fingers, slender hands and feet. And, wouldn’t you know it? I still feel feminine.
Editor’s Note: We are not in any way trying to infer that men are Ewoks. Infernal or otherwise. Men are BRILLIANT. Ewoks are…. (we draw a veil over the foul language and inventive hand gestures that follow).