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An Ode to Body Hair: Why I’ve Stopped Shaving My Legs

I’m a hairy gal. I’ve always had an abundance of body hair. In a lot of ways, my body hair (or lack thereof at times) has been an important lens through which I see myself and how I express my identity. Growing up, I used to get bullied for my thick and bushy eyebrows (which has now become a fashion trend, young Amy) and my noticeable arm hair. I started shaving my legs and armpits at a very young age because of how thick and visible my body hair was. My relationship with body hair is thus a complicated one. There is love and hate. There is celebration and loathing. For a long time I saw my femininity and my self worth reflected through my level of conformity. If I wanted to be feminine, if I wanted to be accepted, if I wanted to look ‘like other girls’, I needed to shave.

My skin is fairly sensitive, and years of constant shaving has led to many scars and marks on my legs. The solution seemed pretty simple. If I stopped shaving, I could heal the skin on my legs. This did not seem to me an option however by virtue of the nature of my hair. So dark, so thick, so noticeable. What will people think? What will people say? I was scared, especially in my conservative city in Ontario. It didn’t seem to matter what I wanted or what would be best for myself: the only opinion important to me at the time was that of society and those around me.

It wasn’t until my close friend told me she was going to stop shaving and grow out her body hair that I decided to take the leap myself. I mean, really, what did it matter if I didn’t shave? I recently learned that shaving was not a norm with women until around WW2 due to a shortage of material for nylons due to the need for fabric and other materials for the war machine. The history of women shaving is a short one, one intrinsically bound to the male gaze and pressures of conformity to imposed views of what it means to be a ‘woman’ and ‘desirable’. 

This past summer I started to consider my relationship with body hair and shaving. I started to question my reasons for it and how it made me feel. The more I thought about my history with body hair as well as the larger history surrounding women’s body hair, I realized I would be doing myself a disservice if I continued to shave. I knew it would be best for my body, my mental health, my confidence, and my gender expression if I let my body hair do what it does naturally. I was still scared, but armed with the knowledge that my body hair would remain removable if I changed my mind, I let it g(r)o(w) and do its thing. 

If past Amy could see me now, embracing one of the things I was most insecure about, I like to think she’d be proud. She’d be very confused, why would you want to do that, but I would teach her that the most important opinion out there is your own. As RuPaul once said, what other people think about me is none of my business. In 2021, after a hard year, I’ve come to embrace that the only person I need to impress is myself. If someone is uncomfortable with my body hair, that’s their problem and not mine, because I am loving it, and it’s here to stay! If you shave because you like it, then great. More power to you! As long as you’re happy and comfortable, that is what’s most important. However, if you think you’re shaving your body hair for someone else, reconsider why. If you’re scared of going against societal norms for women, just remember: you’ll at least have Amy at Her Campus McGill on your side and cheering you on.

Amy is a fourth-year student at McGill studying English Literature, East Asian Studies and History. As an aspiring high school teacher, she is passionate about making academic studies diverse in content and accessible to all. When not writing, she can be found learning languages, teaching ESL, watching Killing Eve, listening to Harry Styles and loving her cats.
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