THE BEAUTIFUL BODY HAIR DEBATE
THIS BLOG WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR REEK PERFUME. PLEASE FIND THE ORIGINAL BLOG HERE.
We asked Danni, a Body Positive Advocate who runs the Chachi Power Project, to give us her wise words about body hair. Oh my.
At a recent all-female networking dinner event in Glasgow, the conversation came around to body hair removal. How pathetically stereotypical of a women-only event you may groan, but wait… it’s not that old cliché. After starting my Body Positive Side Hustle: The Chachi Power Project in 2017 I’ve realised just how much women are dictated to about how they are supposed to ‘be’. What I find most shocking is the form we are ‘supposed’ to take isn’t only a slightly modified body… at times it can be the complete converse. It’s as if we’ve been told to hunker down in a corner and make ourselves busy with unrealistic, impossible tasks so the big boys can play.
Body hair has been a big player in my conversations with fellow females throughout my whole life. Only in the past couple of years did the conversation flip from ‘do you wax or do you shave?’ to ‘why should women need to exist as hairless pre-pubescent lust-filled objects?’ And that’s exactly where that conversation went that night in Glasgow.
Up until a couple of years ago my almost robotic reaction to seeing hairy female legs was ’”ewwww she doesn’t shave her legs”. These days it’s tough not to Hi-5 women with a curl under their arm or scream ‘YES SISTER’ across the street when I see a pair of hairy pins.
I’m still bewildered at my previous reaction. I mean, how fucked up is it that women are controlled and brainwashed to the degree that ripping out our natural vulva hairs isn’t just a thing we do once in a while but it is expected and we’re demonised if we don’t partake.
Internalised Misogyny is incredibly powerful and I’m glad I am slowly but surely unlearning its Women v. Women vibe and escaping its toxic grasp.
There are so many facets that play into why we remove (and are expected to remove) our tache, beard, leg, arm, underarm, vulva, ass, foot, finger, brow, tummy, tit hair… and YES for some women it is ALL of the above… Hours and hours, hair by hair just so we can get through the day without being stared at, laughed at, called names and told to go back to the circus.
Here’s a wonderful essay which discusses where body hair removal started, what caused it, what hair implied about women in different times and how hair was removed from the body in days of old… check out how horrifying it got:
“How to Remove or Lose Hair from Anywhere on the Body
Boil together a solution of one pint of arsenic and eighth of a pint of quicklime. Go to a baths or a hot room and smear medicine over the area to be depilated. When the skin feels hot, wash quickly with hot water so the flesh doesn’t come off.”
Nowadays the abuse, the judgement, the worry, the self-criticism often remain too much to bear. So we still epilate, shave, wax, pluck, pull, depilate and laser. It seems a painful and expensive price to pay.
I’m not pretending I’m not one of those people. Sometimes fighting the fight is more tiresome than removing the hair.
Whilst being a Body Positive advocate sometimes makes me angry, most of the time I’m taking part in heartfelt conversations, showing compassion and understanding and finding the humour in ridiculous, unreachable standards.
Last year I took part in a magnificent hashtag on Instagram: #botanicalbodyhair
With this hashtag they made something beautiful out of an important topic which encouraged vulnerability, shone light on something which women find shameful, while poking fun at impossible beauty standards.
They started the hashtag by replacing the hair they removed from their body with beautiful botanicals and took artistic photographs of the results. Slowly but surely other’s followed suit and an excellent hashtag was born.
You can see my contributions in this article… beautifully styled and photographed by my sister Lisa. You can check out the hashtag and it’s 263 beautiful inspired posts here. Sarah Louise Ferg’s blog regarding her reasons for starting it and some of her favourite posts here.
As humorous and light hearted as the hashtag may seem I think it was a beautiful and important piece of feminist and body political activism created in a gentle and accessible way.
The conversations it started were enlightening, empowering and sometimes frustrating – the best type of conversations. We don’t all have to agree but let’s open the floor for different voices and opportunities to learn from and challenge others.
Perhaps the fact that all the images created were visually stunning and typically beautiful but with an important underlying message made it easier for people to enter the conversation who may otherwise have stayed quiet. Who knows?
I just know it was a fun way to spend a Sunday with my sister. We nearly wet ourselves laughing at the ridiculousness of figuring out how to attach purple fronds to my upper lip… in the end we just shoved them up my nose.
Because I believe in our right to bodily integrity I respect everyone’s right to do with their body as they see fit.
So, I say, do what you like when it comes to your body hair. Grow it or take it all away- it’s your body- do what feels right to you.
If you are going to remove your hair then great but let me ask you this: you may think it is nicer/ cleaner/ sexier/ preferable but… if everyone else in the world didn’t remove their body hair… would you still do it?
Sometimes it’s a good idea to question our motives. To dig deep and ask interesting questions about our choices. Sometimes the answers are uncomfortable. That’s ok. Asking the question is the important bit.
To broaden your idea of what a normal female body is, why not follow bearded model and body political activist Harnaam Kaur (her Instagram is great but if you wanna get a real taste of her wit and vibe then head over to her Twitter). Also learn from Dana from @dothehotpants as she traverses round NYC with her gloriously hairy pins and figures out her thoughts about the male gaze and socially acceptable bodies.
Perhaps invest in a cute pin from the @yourwelcomeclub and show off how you celebrate body hair.
And one last suggestion: No more commenting on other people’s body hair. No more commenting on other people’s bodies full stop, unless you want to exclaim how beautiful the being in front of you is.
Danni lives in Edinburgh and holds talks, workshops, events in Glasgow and Edinburgh and an annual retreat in the Cairngorms which encourage people to be part of the Body Positive Movement and figures out ways we can all have better body confidence.