They have been a cause of debate for decades. But why does something that grows naturally on women’s bodies cause so much controversy? In the end, it’s all about feeling comfortable, right? An essay from Cosmopolitan’s The Music Issue
Like most women, I started shaving since my early teens.
Buying my first razor was a milestone in my transition from girl to adult , just as much as stealing a sanitary pad from my mom’s underwear drawer, or realizing that buying the bra, not caring about cup size, wasn’t quite the size. ideal.
But it’s only now, at 34, that I begin to wonder who I’m shaving for, and why.
SMOOTHER = MORE HAPPY?
We all know the commercial, the one with the Bananarama song. “I’m your Venus, I’m your fire, your desire”, intones the band, and some women appear intent on having a good time on the beach.
The commercial lingers and zooms in on the individual parts of the body while the girls pass a razor over their legs, already very smooth as silk and long kilometers .
When I search for the commercial on YouTube and today about these girls in bikinis, so stereotypically beautiful, blowing soap bubbles while a voiceover tells me about integrated moisturizing blades, I get a hysterical laugh and my eyes bleed at this absurd vision.
But why, then, can’t I part with my razor? Why am I ashamed when I let my armpit hair grow?
Why is being seen in public with hairy legs still a problem for my brain, and I even scold my father and brother for being sexists when they comment on women on TV?
How did the intolerance for something natural become so deeply ingrained in me?
“A MATTER OF HYGIENE”
“I often use the examples of Chinese foot wrapping or the Victorian corset,” says Professor Heather Widdows of the University of Birmingham, author of the book Perfect Me , when we meet on Zoom to discuss this issue.
“People say there’s nothing wrong with shaving, but there is actually something wrong.
In the case of the two extreme cases I mentioned, only a small percentage of women, from higher social classes, wore corsets and bandaged their feet, so yes: it was still about adhering to certain beauty standards, but there was no confusion. nor a widespread diffusion.
Today, however, we live immersed in an ideal that is valid all over the world, so they all shave, and shaving has become so normal that it is considered a hygienic practice ».
Seeing shaving, waxing, laser or hair removal as brushing teeth would explain not only my reaction to shaggy legs, but also the responses I got from my Instagram followers when I asked them how they would feel if they dared.
Let the hair grow. « Lazy », « dirty », « would be like giving up taking care of myself“.
I would like to personally respond to each and say how ridiculous all of this is, but I can’t, because I know I feel exactly the same way.
Professor Widdows describes this stern moral judgment as a “sanction”, ranging from verbal abuse, to not wanting to be near a woman with unwanted hair as considered “dirty”, and even to opposing her role in a workplace. .
“Only now I wonder who I’m shaving for and why”
Hairy legs? Either you are scruffy or you are a frantic political activist, there is no middle ground.
Judging by the comments of my followers, it is clear that these limits are a reality, up to those women with whom the partner does not have sex unless they are perfectly smooth .
Is it any wonder we’ve internalized this shame about our body hair?
EXPONENTS OF THE HAIR
Paisley Gilmour is one of the most progressive people I know.
As a sex editor at Cosmopolitan UK, she encouraged me to question all my beliefs, from the gender language I use to the relationships I have.
If it weren’t for work, our worlds would never have met and collided, but I’m so glad it happened.
And keep in mind that, although Paisley once got a strap-on delivered to the office and tried it on at her desk (she was fully clothed, better make it clear), showing off her leg hair on Instagram remains, at least for me, the most shocking thing I’ve ever done .
“I stopped shaving my legs and armpits when I was 28.
As for the pubis, I have always kept the bikini area in order, while now I do nothing at all »,
she tells me in no uncertain terms. So what was the drive for her to quit?
“There were times when I let my hair grow when I went out with men. But I always had a bug in my mind: that they would be disgusted by it.
When I came out and started dating women, I finally felt free to let them grow up without fear of being judged .
They find it much more acceptable and, indeed, I find that women are very aroused by my hair ».
Although for a while I switched my Tinder profile from men to women, inspired by Paisley, I realized that I was, unfortunately for me, heterosexual.
Ergo, if I know there might be a chance of ending up in bed with a man or at least having a quickie in the car, how else can I learn to accept, let alone love, my hair so that it feels like mine comfortable with a stranger?
Are we really talking about this? Yes, think about where society has led us.
THE POINT ON BODY POSITIVITY
Miley Cyrus, Ashley Graham, Amandla Stenberg, or even Gigi Hadid
Looking at them, they all appear to be successfully fighting patriarchy, or at least struggling to keep their armpit hair.
Ashley took a very spontaneous selfie, in the bathroom, with all the fur on display, Amandla exhibited it while parading on the red carpet, Gigi shot an entire Reebok photo shoot without shaving, and Miley dyed her hair pink.
Having grown up in the era when Julia caused a sensation and made headlines for daring to show herself with hairy armpits at the premiere of one of his films, this is really progress.
Hand in hand with that of the stars, the world of advertising has also changed, and brands of razors and hair removal tools are moving on this front, even if the road in most cases is still long.
«Usually an ad showing someone with body hair is quite pretty and shows a beautiful young woman with small and delicious tufts of hair under her armpits, and who fulfills the four characteristics that make her desirable: to have curves. , be smooth, firm and young.
This is not acceptance of the body, indeed I would say that it almost pretends to be. Where is the real hair, where are the old bodies, the fat bodies? ‘
A long Instagram scroll confirms his theory and the one hair on display could have won a beauty contest.
Yet we are witnessing an opening on the “world of hair”, both with regard to brands willing to talk and expose themselves on body positivity, including sizes, ethnicities and “real” hair, and with influencers who show themselves naturally and make themselves almost ” ambassadors “of the cause.
There’s @januhairy, an account that encourages women to let their hair grow for a month and post photos, @aaliyahramseyy who not only grows armpit hair, but dyes and exposes them, and again @murielxo who talks about all-round body positivity and @leitalienne that makes body acceptance its mantra.
FEEL GOOD WITH OURSELVES
Inspired by my conversation with Professor Widdows, I decide not to shave for the pap smear. My “rebellion” was somewhat liberating, yet at the end of the visit I cannot say that I am ready to completely abandon hair removal.
Being a plus-size woman, it took me a long time to find the courage to show myself bare-legged in public, including cellulite, visible capillaries and all, so adding hair to the mix doesn’t seem like the best idea of the world.
Does that mean I’m a bad feminist?
Am I letting everyone and everyone down? “If we want to unhinge beauty standards, we should care less about what we do or don’t do and more about how we oppose the prevailing culture, so that removing hair is no longer a duty,” says Widdows.
As a woman who replied on Instagram said: «I don’t wax for men and no one else.
I do it because, just like when I darken my eyebrows or put on a red lipstick, it makes me feel good in my body.“.
So while I doubt you’ll ever see me with a month of showing off underarm hair regrowth on Instagram, I’ll test myself in other ways: by doing a self-examination if I realize I’m judging another woman next to me in the locker room, scolding my nephew if he points out that I have hairy legs (reminding me he is four years old) and speaking in complete freedom with my future partner about his expectations about my body.
But above all, I want to test how I perceive myself .
I will never wake up at 5 am chanting morning mantras in the mirror but maybe I will stop feeling “dirty” just because I have some loose hair.