It looks like global warming has finally lived up to it’s name… It’s mid-May and we’ve already had 3 hot weekends, one of which was on a bank holiday!
As with most of England, as soon as the weather pushes past 15°C, I start digging out my sunglasses, culottes and the most revealing outfits I can get away with at work. And as with most women, as soon as I do, I’m immediately reminded of the little black hairs that have been resting soundly under my tights all winter.
As adults we all experience and react to our body hair in different ways. As soon as my little brother turned 15, he spent his days hovering by the mirror looking for peach fuzz, “short and curlies”, whatever he could find to signify his burgeoning manhood. For girls, the story is often rather different, and that’s before we even begin to look at the experiences of trans and non-binary adolescents.
As cis-gendered females, we are bombarded by images of the “perfect body”; an unobtainable thing with a euro-centric lens, designed solely for the male gaze. That body has near zero body fat, long flowing hair, and completely smooth skin. So smooth in fact, that “the body” is often shown shaving an already hairless leg.
“But, why?” I hear you asking. That’s a great question, you smart bunch! The short answer is money. Whilst there is evidence of Ancient Egyptians and Romans removing their body hair, female shaving didn’t permeate the zeitgeist until 1915.
The first female razor brought with it a flood of negative language surrounding this natural part of the female (and every!) body. Our hair became an “embarrassing personal problem” and the reason we couldn’t secure a husband.
Luckily, the tides are turning. In 2016, Mintel found that almost a quarter of young women were keeping their underarm hair, up from only 5% in 2013. Of course, I’m not one to stand on a pedestal with a holier-than-thou attitude. I will never judge a woman’s decision to remove, or keep their body hair. But it’s important to know the reasons we do things, and to be aware how society can influence and completely re-frame our thought processes.
Sometimes I like shaving. When I get in bed after I have, my legs feel like two dolphins wrestling under a blanket! But I won’t shave when I don’t want to. I will never again be the 10 year old that hides in the changing room after her classmates notice her hirsute bikini line, nor will I be the 13 year old begging my Mum to let me shave or the 15 year old that is so anxious about her regrowing body hair she spends her holiday wrapped in a towel while the rest of her family explore water parks.
Hopefully one day, no one will be that girl. And if I catch a glimpse of your body hair, I’ll be sure to flash a hairy ankle of solidarity.