Last year, the issue of body hair arose in my family. My daughter had started secondary school and other girls were discussing hairy legs and armpits.
It really made me question my own choices and I decided to stop shaving my body, just to see how it felt. I have always removed the hair on my legs, bikini line and underarms but couldn’t really give a reason why. I suppose it was the pressures of society and it seemed the ‘norm’. It was what women did.
In a world of smooth, hairless women, I wanted to show my daughter that some women choose not to remove their body hair. That it wasn’t neccesary and to provide her with a hirsute role model.
I was amazed that people actually had an opinion on my body hair. I’ve had friends and family members recoil, my hairy pits have become a joke (that I laugh along with!)
I worked away over the summer in a job that required a load in/out of materials they were easiest to lift over the head and I couldn’t believe the amount of stares and whispers my underarms garnered.
I’m glad I experimented and questioned my reasoning behind this weekly chore as I learnt that I don’t care! Sometimes I want a smooth and hairless body, other times I love my hairy legs and pits! The result was that I lost the embarrassment factor, I no longer stress about going out with hair on my body and this is the message I pass onto my daughter.
She asked recently if she could shave. When this question arose the first time, it threw me into a spin. I started thinking about societal pressure, peer pressure, feminism and body image. My response was to stop shaving myself and to just ask her to question why she wanted to.
This time I feel much more relaxed about it all. I tell her the most important lesson in life.
I tell her that her wonderful body is perfect just as it is, but that if she wants to modify it, then that will be perfect too.
I ask her to question herself as to whether it’s what SHE wants, or whether it’s because others think she should do it.
We talk about attractiveness. She’s almost 13 and cares about her appearance, I don’t want her to think that it something to be ashamed of but want her to know that it comes from within and that confidence is the most attractive attribute.
We discuss why she thinks boys don’t want to see hairy legs and how that isn’t her problem.
We talk about choice.
Her choice. Not mine.
Because I want her to learn that her body belongs to her alone and that she should never be pressured into doing anything she isn’t comfortable with. This lesson is about more than body hair, it’s about her future sexual experiences, it’s about her knowing that if she says ‘no’ then it means no and she doesn’t have to explain or be ashamed of it.
I don’t want her to do what I think is right, I want her to have her own mind and make decisions based on good information, support and great self esteem.
My hairy pits may suggest to you that I enforce this ideal on my kids. I don’t. I just want them to have the confidence to do whatever the fuck pleases them!
And that is why my girl can shave or not shave. Wax or be natural. Say yes. Or say no.
As it happens, she currently doesn’t bother but when she makes HER decision, I’ll be behind her 100%