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Original photo by Anna Bertino

Learning To Love My Body Hair

I started shaving my legs when I was 12. 

I started shaving my legs because a boy in gym class asked me why my legs looked like “boy legs.” I was mortified and confused, and made my mom buy me a pack of razors the next day. 

Like menstruation, body hair isn’t something that’s comfortable to talk about, especially during early puberty. We learn about “proper” body maintenance from mothers, sisters, friends, snide comments and targeted Venus commercials. It feels like a taboo. 

Adult bodies grow hair. Traditional beauty marketing tends to ignore this fact, and instead presents us with the narrative that if you identify as a woman, you should be completely smooth and hairless. This standard is harmful — the implication is that there is something inherently shameful about how your body natural functions. 

Shaving your body in any capacity should be a personal choice you make because you want to, not because you feel like you should. This article is not about shaming others for shaving. Rather, it’s about coming to terms with believing that a person who identifies as a woman can be beautiful no matter where on their body they have hair. Normalizing autonomy choices over our own bodies starts with the ability to have open conversations and leading by example. 

Unlearning internalized pressures is hard and takes time. I didn’t know it was an option for female-identifying people not to shave and still be considered attractive until I was 19. It doesn’t have to be a super deep revelation, either. For example, my personal catalyst was seeing Bekah Martinez from Arie Luyendyk’s season of The Bachelor posting pictures of herself in a bathing suit with visible leg and armpit hair and realizing that someone I looked up to as a beauty goal had body hair. 

I stopped shaving almost entirely about 6 months ago. Originally, I just wanted to cure the eczema on my legs, but when that worked I decided to try going cold turkey. Now, I only shave my underarms, and only when I feel like mixing up my look if I’m bored. It’s taken me some time, but I’m at a point with my body hair where I’m comfortable. I feel sexier, more in control and more adult when I don’t shave. I’m a grown woman determined to reclaim my body and my sexuality. 

Speaking from personal experience, it’s a little uncomfortable to go out in public at first if you decide to stop shaving. I’m Italian — I have pretty dark body hair. Shorts weren’t too bad, since legs aren’t in a stranger’s line of vision. It took me a while to work up to feeling confident enough to wear a tank top to Target, though. I also felt incredibly conspicuous going to the gym. But eventually, I got more comfortable and confident as I reminded myself to be gentle with my self-image. It helps sometimes to remember that someone who judges me because of my body hair probably isn’t a person I want to be around anyway. 

It’s your body, and only you get to decide what it looks like.

Anna Bertino

George Mason University '21

Anna is a Communication major at George Mason concentrating in Public Relations and minoring in English. She is a social media editor for the HC George Mason chapter. Anna is also the president of Mason's Equestrian Club and Show Team. When not writing or riding, she can be found drinking tea, satisfying her sweet tooth, or planning her next vacation.
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