I recently watched Cherry Healey: How to Get a Life (FYI - I love her). This episode was all about looks and part of it was focussed on body hair and how the majority of both men and women feel that women should get rid of it.
|Image source: The Guardian|
I started shaving my legs young. I was 10 *waits for you to get off the floor*. Yep 10 years old and I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was supposed to be going bowling for my cousin’s birthday and told my Mum I didn’t want to go as I didn’t have anything to wear. She suggested an outfit (my purple tshirt with orange cut off dungarees - high fashion I’ll have you know in 1994) but I refused because I didn’t want to show my legs.”Why not?” she asked me and so I told her - “My legs are too hairy”.
I can’t remember whether I asked my Mum if I could shave them or she suggested it; either way I was really upset. I remember Mum doing it for me though and showing me how to make sure I didn’t cut myself. I wore my orange dungarees that night and I went bowling - and all I could do the whole night was sit and stroke my legs; I couldn’t believe how smooth they were! I was so happy! A marked contrast to the few weeks prior to this event; when I came to realise I was in fact hairy.
It was on the school playing field at lunch break and we were all mucking around when my “supposed” best friend at the time noticed my legs and started taunting me “Hairy legs! Hairy legs! Hairy legs!”. That was it; that was all she said - but it was enough to make me incredibly self conscious about it.
Like most people who are unhappy with a part of them - I was always on the lookout. I used to constantly stare at other women and girls’ legs to see if they were hairy. I felt like a freak. Even though I was embarrassed I had to start shaving my legs, I was also so incredibly happy I wasn’t hairy anymore. A few months later “supposed best friend” and I were hanging out with some other girls when one of them turned to me and said “Do you shave your legs?”. I was mortified - I didn’t think anyone knew! Blushing, I told her I did and to my surprise she replied “Yeah me too”. I felt such relief that I wasn’t the only one and felt kind of cool knowing we were both doing something grown up!
From there it was a slippery slope, as through puberty, hair started sprouting up all over my body and just like society taught me; I whipped it off as fast as I could.
So why do we do it? When I think about it I want to say “Yeah - but I really don’t like being hairy” and maybe that’s true but is that only the case because it’s the norm? My whole life everyone around me has said “body hair on women is disgusting and must be removed”. Now I’m in my late twenties (and therefore should know better) I’ve tried rebelling against this - and if I don’t want to shave my legs I won’t. In fact sometimes I’ll stick my legs in Tom’s face yelling “Look how hairy I am?” just to see him be disgusted so I can throw the figurative book on feminism at him (Tom actually isn’t disgusted just in case anyone is getting cross at him). The point is, that even if Tom said he didn’t mind, at the end of the day I would still go and shave my legs. I’d make
my stand but then once I’d proved my point, I’d go and do it anyway. It doesn’t make sense.
What I find hilarious is doing my bikini line - I mean it looks good for about 5 minutes and then it rapidly transforms into a big old angry red rash which to be honest is just as bad as it looking like a forest. Yet I still do it.
Whenever I get an opportunity to let my body hair grow (aka when Tom lived in London, or goes away without me) I do it. But it’s not the hair growing I find liberating, it’s the act of removing it all when I decide it’s getting too unruly.
I certainly don’t have the answers. I hate removing body hair. I hate how long it takes, I hate that it never actually looks nice and I hate that I feel I have to do it. Yet I also hate being hairy (and I am in a lot of places I don’t care to admit) and find it unsexy and unappealing. But do I only feel this way because it’s how I’ve been taught to think? Because I hate the idea of that even more!
What do you think? Do you remove body hair or do you keep it? Do you think women should remove it or do you rebel against the idea?