I have an almost 12 year old daughter, she is reaching the age where the usual puberty changes are happening, there are boobs and hormonal mood swings and there is the hair… Sprouting from armpits, legs and you know, everywhere.
And so it got me thinking about the relationship between young women and their body hair. It is such an odd thing when you think that though teens are desperate to grow into adults, they also want to remove the body hair that shows their maturity.
We live in a society where the norm is to remove every inch of hair from our legs, armpits and fannies and though I have no issue with women who choose to do this, it concerns me that the vast majority of images we see are of hairless women.
I watched The Devil Inside recently, a movie about demonic possession, there is a scene in this ‘docu-film’ (you know the whole film shown as a real documentary thing) where a woman has been locked in a basement, chained to a bed, she has dislocated her own shoulders and has the devil living inside her… Yet she seemed to have found the time to have shaved her armpits. What the fuck?
I’m a fan of The Walking Dead and it is noteworthy that all the female characters are totally smooth in the pit department. They are years into apocalypse, zombies are walking the earth, their days are spent killing monsters yet all the women have the time to make sure they have no body hair that could be deemed unattractive?
And so I come back to my own family, my eldest child is a boy and so the only shaving we have discussed is about the whiskers on his chin but now I come to my daughter and I suddenly feel so protective over her body as she has so much more pressure to deal with as she grows up. She has started to mention that other girls at school shave their legs and though she hasn’t outright asked yet, we have talked about it a little bit. I have told her that some women shave, some don’t. Either way her body hair is natural and she is a beautiful young woman and removing the hair or not won’t change that.
Then I look down at my hairless legs and armpits and think, oh snap… I grew up in a house of women with two sisters both a lot older than me and so I have always shaved. It was just the norm, it was what women DID. When I actually thought about WHY I shave I can’t really say why I do it. I care little either way, I don’t have a strong preference yet it is a habit that I have done for over 20 years!
And so I decided to ditch the razors for a while, my body is au naturel at the minute and it honestly has made no difference to my life. I am not making a big deal about it, we actually haven’t discussed that I now have hair on my body where it previously wasn’t, and that’s how I want it to be, not a big deal. I am not encouraging her NOT to shave, more silently showing her that some women don’t and the world doesn’t stop turning.
I think the legs and armpit shaving leads onto a trend that worries me more which is the pubic hair thing… In a study by Indiana University, it showed that two-thirds of women aged 18-24, had totally or partially removed their pubic hair during the past month, and a fifth had been hairless during that entire period. I talked to male friends and two had NEVER slept with a woman who had pubic hair.
It is all about personal choice, for sure, but more women remove the hair than those who don’t, making a hairy fanny a rare breed these days. Most of my friends remove the vast majority or all of their pubic hair and it got me wondering why, some say they hate the way they look with hair, others cite cleanliness and fashion as the reason they go smooth down below.
As adults we have the ability to make that choice ourselves, I am seriously not judging those who do shave or wax. But it does concern me that pre teens and teens see a very hairless society that tells them that hair removal for women is not only the norm, but that women with hair on their body are ugly, dirty or the punchline of a joke.
Some say the trend began in the pornographic industry, the vast majority of pornographic images show no hair at all and I suppose that is what concerns me, that pornographic imagery has seeped into mainstream life so far that our young teen girls are mimicking the looks of porn stars.
Perhaps it is simply a trend, one that is going to change with the times. Either way I feel really protective over the daughter and her body hair! Maybe that is daft and I need to calm down, but I have this feminist voice screaming in my ear that I need to show my daughter that her body hair isn’t ugly or something to be ashamed of, that many beautiful, smart, wonderful women have body hair and it makes not a jot of difference. I feel like I need to show her some sort of antidote to the barrage of hairless images and the messages she sees constantly that hair = ugly.
This post is not about stigmatising women who remove their hair, it is about a conversation that we often don’t speak of, if you have ever winced at the sight of a woman with hairy legs, think about WHY? What is it that you think is offensive or ugly. Women’s bodies are constantly being judged on weight, size, shape, colour and body hair is another way to marginalise women, to make them feel ashamed of the natural state of themselves.
I realise I do sound anti shaving and I am genuinely not. As with everything, personal choice is key but I like to think now that I am the mother of a young woman that I can do a little something to show her a different image to the ones that she sees everywhere else.
And so I am ditching the razor for the time being. So far my husband hasn’t mistaken me for an overweight, bearded man, but thanks Veet…
Love Sam x