Dear past me, do what you want with your body hair
You and your friends (all self-identifying women) were off to meet some boys in your year at school in the park. However, you all suddenly stopped and realised that it was hot, you were in shorts and your leg hair was visible. So you all decided you shouldn’t go. You remember being particularly embarrassed because your leg hair was always darker and thicker than a lot of your friends.
Soon you all began to shave or use hair removal creams. If your leg hair was growing back you would feel self-conscious in P.E. You would shave up to the top of your jeans if your ankles were visible in the winter. You all had to appear hairless.
Your peers used to rate each other based on appearance. In hindsight this was extremely problematic in many ways. During this process some of the boys commented on a certain girl and said she was ‘butters’ (butt ugly) because of her armpit hair. You were 12. This wasn’t an isolated incident. These comments really stuck with you.
Some people love to shave because they love the smooth feel, others because they feel more comfortable with it. This is completely fine. However, I am incredibly aware that our comfort with being as hairless as possible is based on societal expectations. It is not natural for women to be hairless. It is a social construct. A myth created by razor companies, the fashion industry and the media; these entities realised they could make more money if they encouraged women to shave too.
The more and more aware of this I have become, the more I have urged myself to let my body hair grow. Unlike a face mask or a long bath, body hair removal is not a part of my beauty routine that makes me feel happy or pampered in any way.
I realised that if I personally am only shaving because of social embarrassment I need to retrain my perspective. I also had to train myself to think that if a potential partner doesn’t like my body hair they are not worthy of my time. They can have a ‘preference’ because of what society influences us to have but if they don’t love my body both ways they don’t deserve to be with me. This is incredibly difficult to do. But I like to think I have reached this place.
It is important to clarify that there is a difference between hygiene (looking after body hair, making sure its controlled and clean) and removing it.
I urge my past self to attempt to ignore societal and social pressure. To only remove body hair when you genuinely want to (its hot weather and it makes you sweatier, you fancy a change, you genuinely enjoy it). Anyone saying otherwise doesn’t deserve your time.