Coming soon: The Body Hair Project
Like many women, I’ve been on a journey with my body hair. The turnaround in my thinking and feeling about it has been huge; going from the unthinking conformity of regular shaving, to the freedom to choose to let it grow in my mid-twenties.
It was my younger sister, Anna, who opened my mind to the possibility of there being another way, and her story will feature later. As it became apparent to me through the interviews I did for this project, the presence of role models is often vital for any change to occur in our thinking.
Over the years of slowly unraveling my own layers of conditioning, and eventually getting comfortable with body-hair, I wanted to share the stories of other women to help normalise this as an option, because unless we see representation of the alternatives, we may never even consider their existence.
To embrace body hair (especially your own) is not always an easy journey.
With programming so deeply rooted in our society against tufty pits, bushy pussies, furry legs or a fuzzy upper-lip, it’s no wonder we often face such strong resistance within ourselves and from others for ‘being different’, despite the fact that having hair is a perfectly natural bodily state.
The palpable pressure to be shaven has most of us brainwashed into believing that for a woman to be attractive, she should be hair-free — that to have hairy legs or armpits for example is to be unhygienic, lazy, manly, offensive, even revolting.
Since the removal of body hair for women was popularised in the 1920’s due to changes in fashion, we’ve almost only ever seen smooth-skinned women represented in media. When we do see portrayals of women with body hair in the media it’s often in the context of comedy, shaming them for it, as as if it were some problem, some failure as a woman.
No wonder that; to remove body hair appears to be the singular option when you’re growing up.
No wonder that the rituals of removing body hair are obligingly passed down from mother to daughter, with the best of intentions.
No wonder that the resistance many women face from partners, friends, family (and strangers!) for having hair is so prevalent, and sometimes even abusive.
Every time I bring this topic up in a conversation, it blows my mind that it’s even one we still need to have. But when you’ve found yourself experiencing disgust for something so completely natural, never-mind whether you remove your own or not, I feel it’s something we must seriously look at.
It makes me question what other trends, traditions and ways of being we embody, simply because it is the norm.
Finding myself in the ‘Brighton bubble’, I am lucky to live somewhere safe to express myself and share these stories. While having body hair as a woman is a fairly uncontroversial flag to be flying in certain places these days, I know that the process of allowing your true self to be expressed, however that looks, can be painful as we go against tradition, especially for those living in more conservative or restrictive places. It is important though, and can be a very liberating one.
Whether we choose to shave, wax, sugar or let it be, I want us each to own our freedom in any direction. To express ourselves honestly, in a way that feels right to us.
In this series I’m chatting with some amazing women on their relationship with their body hair whether they keep it or not, exploring their challenges and triumphs, secrets and stories, and it’s been fascinating. The photos and interviews are coming soon, and in the mean-time, if you’re interested to get involved, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear your story. xx