Women's body hair: The undiscussed rule
When I was in primary school, I remember sitting next to my friend in our pink and white chequered dresses with our little white socks. I looked at her legs and saw dark, natural hairs. I looked at mine and saw blonde, natural hairs. I thought it was cool that we both had hair on our legs, perfectly straight and fine. The only thing that ran through my head was that her hairs were brown and mine were blonde. Neither of us thought anything of our body hair, and I wish that innocence had remained the same.
Fast forward to Secondary School, where I became very aware that all girls and women should remove hair from their body. No one actually told me that women should remove their body hair and no one showed me how to or where to shave. Instead, women are subtly and indirectly told that women's body hair is not normal and is something to be removed in order to attain a certain standard of beauty. This is what I call The Undiscussed Rule.
I could write endlessly about the stigma around women's body hair. The societal pressure, the expectations promoted by porn and the media... but instead of focusing on what is generating the stigma, I feel it is more important to acknowledge that shaming a woman because she has body hair is unacceptable, and that society’s attitude towards it need to change.
I understand it’s a big task to try and get the conversation going surrounding women's body hair, especially when most of the responses women face are along the lines of: “So are you growing your hair as a political statement?”, “Are you a lesbian?”, “Does your body hair make you a good feminist?”. It’s difficult to change initial judgements, especially when such vast assumptions are made. At the end of the day, women's body hair are unfortunately no longer just a bunch of hair follicles, because they're tied down with everyday opinions and misconceptions.
You could argue it’s not very realistic for the world to suddenly change its view on women's body hair - I wouldn’t disagree with you. But through our thoughts, actions and body language we can start to make a difference:
First, think about your body hair in a neutral way. It’s not disgusting or gross, it’s completely natural. It can be left alone, or removed. The first step to changing the stigma surrounding body hair is to change our own thought patterns towards it.
We can also change a lot in our actions as well. Say you normally shave your armpits, but you haven't had time recently to shave. You can choose what you wear, which means you can choose whether to cover up the hair or let it be free. By not hiding your body hair, it means you exude a certain confidence with it as well as promoting the fact that it is completely normal.
Finally, it's essential that we feel comfortable in your own bodies, whether that’s with or without body hair. Understand that if someone else is uncomfortable with your body hair, then it’s their problem. If you are confident in your body language, people won’t doubt your decision.
The hair-positive women of the world remind us that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the hair that Mother Nature gave us. If they are proud of their body hair and don’t care what others think, more and more people will start to wonder what the big deal about body hair is, and soon those people will realise that it isn’t a big deal.
If you want to wax it, wax it. If you want to shave it, shave it. If you want to leave it as it grows out of your body, leave it! By talking about body-shaming and standing up to it, we can slowly break the silence of the undiscussed rule.
Written by Imogen.
Photograph by Fanny, featuring a few of our hairy and care-free Brighton Girls. You can find more of Fanny's photography on her website.