Why Do We Care About Body Hair?

About a year ago, I laid in a bubble bath tracing a razor over the dark hairs on my legs to catch any stray ones I had missed. I thought leg hair was embarrassing, unacceptable since the age of 10 because of people at school who laughed at my hairy arms and legs. I had spent much of my life removing my body hair meticulously, all the while wondering why I even did. My hair relentlessly continued to grow back thicker, like a wild forest, after every shave. I had no problem with the aesthetics of my hair until it was pointed out to me, and I quickly learning that in order to be accepted by school and society, I had to remove it. Finally, standing in the mirror with itchy underarms and bleeding calves from razor nicks, I started to question why I was still bothering. I’ve come a long way since then.

It was a difficult choice for me to stop shaving. Although I personally found shaving unnecessary, I was worried what other people might think. Would I be branded as lazy and unattractive? Would potential partners run screaming at the sight of my unshaven legs? A year later, however, I look back on it as one of the most empowering decisions I ever made. Simply because I did it for myself.

Since I’ve stopped shaving, comments aren’t uncommon. Some are from people who are curious while others are disgusted. Really though, most people don’t care all that much. A big worry of mine was what potential sexual partners might think of my body hair. A crucial lesson I’ve learnt over the past year is that anyone who has an issue with your own personal choices is entirely wrong for you, and they probably don’t deserve to get to know you at all. This has actually been a great way of spotting misogynistic red flags and weeding out unhealthy relationships.

As women in the UK, we are conditioned to think that shaving makes us sleek, hygienic and desirable. Except, of course, this has never been the case. Our body hair has a biological purpose; there is nothing unhygienic about it. Advertising companies latch onto insecurities and use our ingrained desire for hairlessness as a selling point. The more women I speak to, the more I realise few of us truly enjoy shaving. It is a chore, something we do frantically before parties or a date, in fear of judgement. Of course, if you genuinely enjoy shaving, keep doing you! Just opening up a conversation around shaving is helpful because it is still most definitely a taboo topic in 2021. Through discussions, we can begin to allow women’s personal choices about their body hair to be accepted, whatever they may be.

In going against the grain, we have the power to reshape the meaning of social norms. I am among many who are tired of women being held to unattainable standards that lead us to pretend hair does not grow on our body the way it does on men’s. I’ve learnt that the smallest personal choices can be just as effective as big gestures in changing the status quo. In a world where women’s choices are so often policed, remember that what you do with your body hair is only your choice.