I’m a feminist but please don’t ask me to chuck my razor and cancel my threading appointments. I’ve read about women choosing to let their hair grow, and have seen stars like Madonna and her daughter Lourdes support armpit hair. I didn’t think much – other than silently acknowledging I’d never copy. Now there’s a razor company called Billie who’s showing pubic hair on their shaving advert. Has female body hair become acceptable?
Challenging beauty ideals
When I was eleven years old, I was forced to eradicate my hairy legs. A girl in my year had noticed strands of hair showing through my black tights. After listening to whispers, I went home and begged my mother to use an epilator to remove them. I remember the irritating pain and the excruciating wait to feel smooth. The pressure to be hair free increases when your hair is not light and delicate. My only consolation remains my arms – never touched and silky soft.
According to publication Mic, shaving dates back to caveman days and waxing was popular for Egyptians who ripped off fabric from skin coated in wax (some things don’t change). The article explains how female body hair opinions adapted in different periods. Though the Romans demanded fuzz free, the 1900’s set the tone for beauty standards we continue to follow. The porn industry and fashion helped encourage girls to rid themselves of hair from both face and body.
What was once necessary for our cavewoman ancestors, has gradually enforced sexism. The brand Billie classify themselves as a “female-first” shaving company who place women before men. Their website notes how most brands are designed for men – women are an afterthought who get charged with “pink tax”. Women pay more for most beauty items so Billie has priced products equal to men’s shaving subscriptions. Celebrating a year of their Project Body Hair campaign, Billie launched an advert featuring women with hair on their armpits, legs and ‘private area’ – picture an untrimmed bush.
Sexism and hygiene
Writer Yomi Adegoke wrote for The Guardian a piece questioning the outrage over female armpit hair. Yomi highlights how hygiene links to women and not men, as though the “health hazard” belongs to one gender. People believe hair isn’t hygienic and use this excuse as acceptance for sharing disgust over women like Julia Roberts who famously forgot to shave at her Notting Hill premiere.
The NHS declare no benefit to eliminating pubic hair – other than preventing lice. The purpose of the hair is to “act as a barrier” and protect against “potentially harmful bacteria and viruses”. Ironically, while we falsely believe female body hair is not clean, not changing your razor enough can lead to various problems. Redbook state old blades can increase the risk of infection and cause inflammation and razor bumps.
When I posted: Free the Nipple Movement: Why I’m Torn, I felt dumbfounded at how an issue like female nipples could cause centuries of issues. And similarly, female body hair – as natural as plants and pregnancy, erupts passion and divided opinion. Keeping hair keeps you in pocket, redness free and arguably healthier. Yet society dictates hair belongs to men who look sexier and more manly honing it. Unless we’re talking back hair – Harry from Sex and the City?
Female body hair associations
The movement ‘Januhairy’ embraced female body hair and Vogue last year, described how a new generation of woman are ditching their extracting devices. I believe this is all in infancy. For a woman to flaunt hairy legs or armpits, she somewhat accepts prevalent stereotypes. We assume a feminist; an unhygienic, I don’t wear makeup or care about my appearance woman. The hair on our skin makes us question standards – a ridiculous judgement.
When women talk about their insecurities, I always wonder – at what age were you taught your natural aesthetic doesn’t belong? I made the dreadful mistake years ago of having my sideburns threaded. I’d watched YouTube videos of woman posting before and after’s, detailing how much prettier they now feel. I took a razor to the side of my face and then opted for professional help. I was left with an abnormal hair line and the traumatic effect of post-shaving hair. Plus, the pain itself felt unbearable. Each session caused my skin to bleed.
Equally I cut my baby hairs and spent 6 months trying to hide the damage. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian inspire me to consider laser hair removal. An old friend of mine detested hair in every area of her body. She patiently spent hours almost daily trying to eradicate what she saw. This including the back of her neck. For so long, women have grown accustom to skin gentle and feminine – are we ready to edit this ideal?
Can we accept choice?
We opened the floodgate with eyebrows. After girls in the 90’s copied Pamela Anderson and Kate Moss, Burberry introduced us to Cara Delevingne. Working at cosmetic counters, I daily listened to women complain about their sparse brows. Products for growing them back came at a high price, leading most to accept eyebrow palettes. If we can swiftly alter our eyebrow perception, why can’t we repeat with other body parts?
Maybe we do need more shock adverts such as Billie’s to really question our detest for female body hair. Supposedly not feminine, and yet gifted on every woman. I stand with my original opener – please don’t ask me to chuck my razor. I love feeling smooth – I’m unsure how to explain why. I’m regretful to admit I have judged other woman who don’t share my beliefs. And strangely, I also want to stop the shaming culture. In researching this piece, I realised how my mind has followed protocol, and how little of it makes sense.
What are your views on female body hair? Could you see yourself one day putting down your razor or cancelling your waxing and threading appointments? What influence do men have on women opting to remove? Could Old Hollywood and modern icons be glamorous with hair?