body image

The World of Body Image: Body Hair

Body hair is a bit bonkers when you think about it. When you really think about it I mean. Funny bits of hair in funny places which our society had made a whole bunch of rules around in terms of what’s acceptable and what’s not.

the-world-of-body-image

Imagine you’re an alien coming to Earth. You see some two-legged ape descendants sitting watching other two-legged ape descendants on a noisy box, whilst one of them strokes a furry four-legged creature. The two-legged creatures have fur on their heads and two weird strips above their eyes, but a hairless bit around it. The male has a bit more fur, groomed into a shape around his chin. The two-legged ape descendants on TV tell the ones watching that they should purchase things to make some of their fur go away. They keep stroking the furry four-legged creature. You and your alien mates laugh and fly away; this planet is clearly in a state of delirium.

Back to the real world now (but if you’d like to read some satirical alien fiction there’s some here).

I thought body hair was gross when I was younger. I couldn’t wait to have armpit hair – to ‘become a woman’ – only so I could shave it off instantly. I just wanted to fit in with everyone else. I didn’t like shaving, but that was irrelevant. I knew I had to. I did it because I knew from magazines, friends, TV etc, that I would never get a boyfriend if I didn’t shave certain bits. It was normal, and I learnt never to question normal as that often didn’t work out well. Even if I got rashes, got itchy, had to spend ages in the shower, it didn’t matter as that was the price women had to pay to be beautiful.

Hairiness seems to be something which everyone has an opinion on for the opposite sex. When questioning if women should have body hair, often the answers are given by men, largely revolving around sex. The emphasis is on what your sexual partner likes, not what you like. I understand wanting to be considerate to your partner, but to what extent? I recently stumbled upon a delightful article in the Daily Mail about what men REALLY think of body hair – on women of course, not their own (why on Earth should men have to question anything they do? Preposterous!). The Daily Mail has it all worked out in this article; they’ve got pictures of women looking ecstatically happy to be shaving their legs, and some quotes from some random blokes trying to use metaphors.

“There is a common cliché of the carpet matching the curtains, but I’d rather she has laminate flooring.”

“I love when my wife gets a Hollywood, and her legs feel so soft without hair – I actually pay for her waxing as it’s so important to me!”

Body Hair

They’ve even got a formal looking bit at the end (we know it must be important as it’s in a box) telling women that a ‘strict weight-reducing diet’ should help too. Oh the horror of being fat and hairy! Thanks Femail section of the Daily Mail for yet again for reminding us mere ladies of our place in society.

Anyway, back to my hairy journey. As I got a little older I realised that some men just don’t care if girls have body hair. Some do, but then they probably would be the sort of guys I would have wanted to go out with anyway. I realised that I didn’t have to keep shaving if I didn’t want to. That it wasn’t such a big deal, and I wouldn’t have to put up with the uncomfortable itching and scratching. Some women say they feel ‘gross’ with body hair, like I did, but that’s often only because we’ve been taught to think that way.

It’s often seen as a feminist statement when women choose to grow their body hair. It doesn’t have to be a statement, and you don’t have to never shave again. Hair is part of your body which you have control of and you decide what to do with. I felt relieved when I decided to stop worrying about shaving, but I still do sometimes, just for the hell of it. I might seem a little weird now (but that’s okay, I like being weird), but it’s really quite satisfying to let things grow free for a good long while and then shave it off.

I took part in a local photographer’s project – The Body Hair Project – which aimed to start a discussion around how people feel about their body hair. This picture was taken for that project. I thought my legs were rather hairy at the time, but it can hardly be seen. I think that pretty much sums this all up. It’s just a bit hair, no big deal. It’s your hair so it’s your choice. Whether you want to keep it or lose it, do it for yourself, not because the media or your mates or your partner tells you to.

 

MEL CIAVUCCO

Author. Blogger. Screenwriter. Feminist. Likes cooking, yoga and cinema but not all at the same time.

 

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