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Style > Beauty

In Defense of Being ‘Hairy’

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Boston chapter.

One of my earliest memories of shaving was sometime in mid-elementary school, probably around the third grade. I was no more than eight or nine years old. I remember sneaking into my family’s shared bathroom and stealing my mom’s shaving razor. With one leg propped up on my bed, I gripped the pink plastic handle and raked the razor over my skin, completely dry, all over the front and back of my legs. I, of course, knicked myself a little as I frantically tried my best to erase the hair from my legs and return my stolen goods back to its rightful place on the tub’s ledge before someone noticed its absence. The slow trickle of blood didn’t matter to me, or the fact that my skin was now dry and irritated, what mattered to me, in my eight to nine-year-old mind, was that tomorrow, when I planned to wear my favorite purple skirt to school the next day, no one could see any hair on my legs. 

Already, before I even reached puberty or pre-teen status, I was deeply concerned with my body hair. I didn’t even have the dark, often coarse, and definitely curly hair I have now, all I had was some light fuzz coating my arms and legs. Yet still, I harbored the deep shame at knowing I had it and knowing I had to do everything in my power to remove or at least conceal it

Growing up, like many other young girls, countless TV ads and product promotions in stores pushed me to think that we needed razors and that our body hair was something that I needed to get rid of. Beyond our screens and in stores, I know I can attest that our mothers, older sisters, classmates, and boys also convinced us of the “truth”: As a girl, having body hair was unnatural. Of course, for men, it was natural and even celebrated, but for us, it was something we needed to hide and, at the earliest convenience, get rid of completely. The very same hair that we had was somewhat shameful, gross, and unhygienic just because it was on our female bodies. Coupled with the fact that the other women we saw in real life almost always did not have visible hair unless they were being portrayed as ugly or wanted, this notion became a reality. And we believed it

For the longest time, I genuinely believed I had some sort of hormonal condition because I had a few hairs here and there on my chin or above my lip. Only after expressing my concerns to a doctor did I realize that females having hair on their faces is perfectly normal, especially for non-white and Hispanic/Latina women like myself. And, for many years, before volleyball practice, almost every day during the summer, and always prior to going swimming, I made sure to set aside at very least 30 minutes for an “everything shower,” where I would shave away every inch of hair that was not either eyebrows or the hair on my head and give myself time to check over my “work” in front of a mirror. From my shins, to the back of my thighs, to my armpits, and to even my face, I dragged a razor across my skin in the pursuit of conformity, underlined by deep-rooted shame. It didn’t matter to me that there was no point in shaving my full body (as people might not even see the hair anyway) or that this process was the opposite of fun, I performed it like clockwork. I kept a mini face-shaving razor in my car and would sit in the car before I went to work, staring into every single square inch of my face for any hairs I needed to get rid of. And if I couldn’t, I would often become insecure and hyper-fixate if people would realize. 

From a very young age up until college, I believed society was not ready to openly challenge it when it told me that body hair on girls was something that should be a well-kept secret. Gross. Unnatural. Unsightly. Inherently tied to the caricature of an angry, man-hating feminist. And above all else, wrong. 

It wasn’t until this year, with a combination of expanding my feminist philosophy and my thoughts during the midst of any “everything shower,” fingers pruned from being under the water for so long and twisted in a weird, uncomfortable position shaving, that I thought, Why am I doing this? Shaving might give me temporary positive feelings, but soon comes the ingrown hairs, razor burn, and the hairs back in less than a week. Not to mention the whole ordeal of shaving itself and the price of razors, shaving cream, exfoliants, etc. Shaving had become an automatic compulsion, something I thought I had to do and did do for years, and never felt ready to challenge this reality outwardly. 

So why do we convince ourselves that we need to shave? Well, of course, as I mentioned previously, it’s due to the shame brought onto us from a young age by society around us. Starting in 1915, razor manufacturers looked into how to expand the razor market to women. Their grand idea? To tell women that they needed to start buying razors and shaving because their body hair was masculine, the opposite of ladylike, and not hygienic. Now, while the message may be less explicit, countless companies are still buying ad space to depict shaving as something that will give women “piece of mind” and a refreshing, clean feeling (all the while not even showing any hair on women, of course, because that would be too displeasing to the eyes!). Furthermore, in the 1950s, with the rise of Playboy, the women who graced its pages created the new beauty standard of a clean-shaven woman, as they were portrayed as both sexy and with minimal body hair. The ideal, sought-after women in film, TV, the modeling industry, and other media still are portrayed as lacking any visual body hair, keeping the beauty standard to a hairless, “well-groomed” woman. Even with more diversity and acceptance these past few years, many female celebrities’ body hair, such as recently with Rachel McAdams Bustle interview photos, still becomes the center of online discourse, disgust, and ridicule whenever on display. 

Powerful marketing campaigns and beauty standards amounted to the reality we find ourselves in now, where the very same hair is accepted on men but rejected on women. Coupled with the fact that women on the big screen, in beauty ads, and most women we see in our everyday life usually do not have any visible body hair, it can truly make us believe our body hair is unnatural even when study after study shows that body hair on women is totally normal. Our body hair, in general, can aid in protecting our skin, healing our wounds, and keeping our body’s system balanced and working the way it should. More specifically, body hair on our armpits or pubic area can control bacteria and reduce the negative effects associated with movement and friction. In fact, body hair is not only natural but beneficial for our bodies. When we don’t see body hair, are pushed to believe we must shave it to conform or to be accepted by our peers, significant others, and society as a whole, even if it is contrary to science or our inner thoughts. 

Where do we go from here? The first step is unlearning and challenging the shame, the false information, and our own beliefs. I know when I first started to wrestle with shaving or not shaving, I hid behind the thought that shaving made me feel “clean,” but never unpacked why my own body hair made me feel “dirty.” These are the automatic thoughts we need to “put on trial.” Furthermore, adopting a body neutrality approach can be freeing on so many levels and reprogram how we think about our bodies. Body neutrality argues that your value is not derived from your body, full stop. You should not hate or love your body but simply accept your body and be grateful for what it does for you. The existence of body hair should not be the reason someone does not feel at peace in their body. 

So why am I writing this? Well, I can 100 percent say that I am not writing this to tell you that you need to throw away your razors ASAP. Or that you’re a bad feminist for shaving. I am arguing, in this new era we find ourselves in, when our generation, Gen Z, is challenging so many preexisting institutions, beliefs, and stigmas, why can’t women’s body hair be a part of this conversation? The false narratives and shame around body hair on women are real, pervasive, and devastating for one’s perception of oneself. No one should feel ashamed of the normal function of their body and grow up deriving their self-worth from their body or the thoughts of others. I encourage you to put your beliefs on “trial” and come to peace with the body you have been given, regardless of the immense stigma and conformity that has been ingrained in our heads since childhood.    

If more women around the world started to embrace their body hair, we could break the cycle of shame and conformity for the next and current generations of girls. With a shift in how we act and think, choosing not to shave could become as much as an acceptable, realistic option as choosing to shave is now.

Kaleigh Lizotte

U Mass Boston '26

Kaleigh Lizotte is a chapter member at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Her Campus chapter. She is currently a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Boston, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Wealth, Poverty, and Opportunity. Beyond Her Campus, Kaleigh works as a Resident Assistant for the university, where she enjoys making a positive impact on the dorm residents through everyday interactions and floor events. She has interned at the Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice as an Immigrant Advocate, worked at her local YMCA summer camp as a camp counselor the past two summers, and is currently a student activist and president for the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Amnesty International chapter. Kaleigh hopes to put her community activist experience, legal knowledge, and passion to help others to practice one day as a defense attorney (public defender or similar field). In her free time, Kaleigh enjoys reading, listening to music and podcasts, thrifting, going on outdoor walks, and volunteering in her community. If not studying, she probably can be found obsessing over her new fixation of the month with her expertly curated Spotify playlist blasting in her ears.