Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On Body Hair and Body Acceptance

I recently had a group conversation online about body hair. It started out the way these conversations usually go - someone admits to having a problem with "excess hair", others gradually start to chime in, and by the end of it everyone's saying "I thought I was the only one!"

This isn't always the scenario. Sometimes you're alone in a group of friends while they're talking about how they saw a woman today with unshaved armpits and how "gross" it was. You're just glad you're wearing a shirt with sleeves, because you don't always shave. Do they think I'm gross? you wonder.

This has come up for me even as part of the blogging world. All of the pictures of lingerie models I come across don't show any body hair. I look at pictures and feel vaguely out of place and even ashamed, because... that's not me.


Sometimes I shave my armpits. And sometimes I go weeks or more without shaving them. I like the feel and don't mind the look of fuzzy armpits, so I don't see a reason to always keep them shaved. That's just me. When I was on a swim team, I shaved a lot more because of practicality.

We have society today telling us that we should - we must - shave "excess" body hair. Ideally, according to some, we need to be completely hairless besides the hair on our heads. This was illustrated to me when once in the company of a (hairy, I might add) guy who expressed loud shock and disgust at the joking suggestion of a female friend that "we girls should participate in No-Shave November, too!" Apparently the thought of a woman with body hair was horribly disgusting to this guy.

Spoiler alert: most of us aren't completely hairless.

I shave my legs below the knee because I tend to like the way it looks and feels. I shave my armpits periodically mostly because of societal pressure. Even the minor backlash I got when one of my blog pictures was misappropriated and posted on a joke-type site (most comments were about how I must've had a breast augmentation, but others were focused on my armpit stubble) has made me nervous about showing any underarm hair in blog pictures.

Truth be told, some of us are just prone to more body hair than others. Certain ethnic groups are. I have pale, sensitive skin and generally dark body hair. In general, shaving tends to irritate my skin.

I apparently inherited my Welsh great-grandfather's awesome dark, full eyebrows, so I pluck and shape them.
(thanks, g-grandpa)
I chopped off my hair to donate and have kept it very short for over two years. I still have acne, even as a woman in my 20's. I have pockmarks and get random hairs on my face and have a thin, white scar under my lip from an injury suffered as an infant.

That's me.

If someone prefers things like smaller breasts, less body hair, long hair, or no tattoos in a significant other, that's great - but it doesn't make it okay for them to make body-shaming comments like "More than a handful is a waste", "Short hair is unfeminine", "People with armpit hair are disgusting", "People with tattoos are trashy".

Some women have dark body hair, facial hair, hair on their toes, hair on their thighs and/or butt and/or pubic region, hair on their stomach or chest or back. Some don't. Some women prefer to remove body hair. Some don't. And either way is great. Whatever we decide to do (or not do) with our body hair - that's okay. And whatever others decide to do - that's okay too.


Other posts and articles on the subject:
Voluptuously Thin
Arched Eyebrow
Article from Global Indian about Balpreet Kaur
American Apparel store mannequins
Woman with PCOS participates in No-shave November