Don't beat around the bush.

26 July 2017

** This post features artwork by incredible female body-positive artist badasses.
All names etc. in captions **

There was a time when my friends and I would sit on the steep bank above the school games field, dressed in our summer PE kit of shorts and polo shirts, hair pulled back in elastic bands and our bare legs stretched out in front of us on the grass. We'd compare our leg hair almost weekly, and we'd see how long each of us could leave it before we caved, and shaved. 

At 13, I didn't care. Sure, it sometimes annoyed me that the fairly pale hairs on my shins would often peek out from under my navy tights, but that was the extent of it. Then suddenly, the other girls in my year started shaving, waxing and plucking. 
Why? Well, mostly because they'd heard a fable that boys liked girls with less hair, but also because some mums had told them it was more feminine to be free of fuzz. 
Soon I found myself doing the same - but not for a boy, or because my mum told me to. I did it because every other girl was, and I didn't want to be the only one not. I came home from school one day and asked mama to fetch some hair removal cream for me so I could sit in the bath tub and get rid of every little bit of fluff, which took a bloody long time and sometimes over the years led to me feeling faint due to the hideous smelly fumes that cream would give off. Just to feel...accepted? Ladylike? Normal?! 

Ayqua Khan, 20 year-old Pakistani-American artist, 
who I found via amazing Buzzfeed feature.

It's one thing to wonder when young teenage girls become so self-conscious about their body hair. But looking at the bigger picture here - when did women of all ages having hair become such a problem? When did we ladies start having to spend a small fortune being professionally plucked or turning our bathrooms into private budget salons for using waxing kits and razors? 

I'd say porn has no doubt played a role in the prescribing of women's modern body goals. Every other woman in mainstream adult films has a very tight, very bald situation going on - and men are no doubt now finding that attractive from a young age, mostly due to seeing all these films. But I am assured by my male friends that this isn't the case for many of them, and one even echoed my thoughts on the subject of a clean shave downstairs: 'it's weird, because it's like...childish?!' 
But of course, that's my personal opinion, y'all. You are welcome to argue. 

Natalya Lobanova, a cool London-based artist I followed on Instagram and 
have since developed a friend-crush on. She's also a junior staff writer at Buzzfeed.

Now, as always with these kinds of posts, I'm gonna delve into the media for some guidance or opinions on this... 

Well, my first thought was one of Robin Scherbatsky (HIMYM) bent over a sink in a restaurant toilet, begging and bribing a waitress to run to the nearby pharmacy and grab her a razor so she could shave her legs and thus have sex with her dinner date. She'd preached at Lily earlier that evening as she zipped up her thigh-high boots 'if I don't shave, I must behave!' 

...Okay so, basically she'd decided that if she had hairy legs, she wouldn't – couldn't – have sex. Is that correct, or did I totally miss the point? I hope I did. Because let me tell you, hairy legs do not in any way prevent the physical act of sex. They're not so repulsive and un-sexy that a potential lover would scream and recoil as you undressed and revealed them. Also, fair play to the dude dating Robin in that episode because wow, if she has to resort to weirdly drastic mental and physical methods to restrain herself from mounting him at the table in the restaurant...he must be a god. 

Another body hair mention in the media that I recall for some crazy reason is a home waxing kit advert that probably hasn't been shown on TV for the best part of a decade now...but it stayed with me when I was a young'un. 
I remember how the fascinating scene was set in this ad: a woman is having a hen party, she and her pals are dressed to kill and she's got the BRIDE TO BE sash etc. on and they're all having a right giggle. Then a slightly more 'mature' woman appears, apparently called in by one of the many friends this bride is lucky enough to have, who simply had to crash the party because she's been told – by the odious friend – that this bride is a 'wax virgin'. The bride-to-be is then pressured into putting one sleek wax strip on her leg (as the friends all yell 'smooth down, hold down, pull back!'), yanks it off and marvels at how smooth her already shiny leg now is. The mature saleswoman claps her hands together and shrieks 'you'll be fighting him off!!' 

...I remember finding this advert upsetting as a teen, because it was basically teaching me at a young age that men don't like leg hair – and that if you remove it, they'll attack you with lust immediately!? Also, that if you get to the stage of life when you're about to become someone's wife and you still have never ever got any body hair waxed, well then you're a disgrace. 

Carol Rossetti is an illustrator and graphic designer. The above image is part of an incredible feminist collection; other works of hers can be found (and bought) right here.

I did some Twitter polls recently (I say recently, it was forever ago when I first thought of this blog post topic, oops) about removing body hair and, well, things got very overgrown with opinions. Most of them positive! 

(it's a thread of questions!)

Firstly, I found it fascinating - but not that surprising - that 96% of 450 people do remove their body hair. It also wasn't really a shock that shaving is the most common method of hair removal (85% of 444 people). Then most poll takers said they'd started removing their fuzz in their teen years - but 18% of those 463 people said pre-teen was when it began for them! (Same guys, I was about 12 when I started using good old stinky Veet cream) I was relieved to find that only 27% of 463 people had been asked to remove hair by a romantic partner, but then there was no clear answer when I asked if anyone would consider doing so if their partner requested it. Interesting...

I am lucky in that I follow so many folks on Twitter who not only share my thoughts but champion the alleged 'rebellion' in leaving hair to grow, and letting others make what they will of it. Right on, my gals. 

But also, if like me you feel that much lovelier sometimes when your legs are freshly waxed and your tache is newly threaded (ouch, tho), that's not bad! You're not adhering to the patriarchy for feeling good about your body, and doing what you feel makes it prettier. 

The one thing you must never do is spend time and money changing your appearance in any way for another person's enjoyment and not your own. Don't let him/her send you to the beautician and part with your own cash to make yourself more desirable to them. Argue if and when they hand you a razor and you're not wanting to shave your pits. And if a partner sneers at your pubes, pull your pants right back up and march out of the bedroom. 

Lauren Goodland, Dork Features on Etsy and @ paradedesignuk on Insta, 
creates and sells the most fabulously blunt greeting cards. 
(When I visited her shop to fetch this image, I totally bought one, oops)

Your body is freaking awesome. It supports you, grows with you, fights for you, heals time and time again for you. So why should it be changed and altered, painfully, at someone else's request? 
Yes, your body will naturally grow some hair, and you are totally allowed to keep it there. 

1 comment

  1. Interesting post and brilliant artwork - love Amanda!


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