I know I generally keep this blog to outfit photos and reviews, but it’s my space and I’d really like it to reflect me and my interests and my preoccupations. This is something a bit different.
So here’s the thing. I feel like I have to spend a lot of my time justifying my choices and explaining them to people (see also: being fat and how I arrange my romantic life), so I thought I’d cover one of the bases where I feel a point of conflict with the dominant culture. I’m a woman, and I don’t remove all my body hair. I don’t even remove most of my body hair. In fact, I don’t habitually remove any of my body hair.
As you can see in my outfit photos, I am very, very pale. My natural head-hair colour is dark and my body hair is even darker. What you often can’t see from those photos is that I have a lot of body hair. It’s pretty much everywhere. It’s not on the tops of my arms, the palms of my hands, the soles of my feet, my chest or the middle of my stomach but apart form that, it’s everywhere. Think of a place you could have hair, and I have it.
I’ve hot waxed, cold waxed, plucked, shaved, creamed, even lasered my body in the pursuit of ‘feminine smoothness’. The problem is that being hairless doesn’t make me feel any better as me. It only makes me feel better as a member of a society that expects me, as a woman, to be hairless. It makes me feel more palatable to a society whose standards I make a conscious habit of questioning, and on this occasion, I find those standards wanting.
I’m not judging anyone who does remove their body hair, at all. And I’m especially not judging anyone who has thought about the choice and decided that removing hair is right for them (for example, expecting all women to reject hair removal would undoubtedly make life nasty for transwomen). But I just don’t find it fun. I’ve been asked why I wear makeup when, essentially, I ‘ruin’ the effect when I lift my arms and reveal a thick, dark patch of almost-black hair. The answer is that I have a fun and playful relationship with makeup. I enjoy it, and I derive pleasure from it. And I have the same relationship with not removing my hair: I like seeing my furry underarms and my consciously unmanicured bikini line.
It hasn’t been a thing I’ve done overnight. At first I would allow my body hair, only if it wasn’t visible to anyone else. Long-sleeved shirts, opaque tights were ok, but the thought of going on a potentially promising date with unshaved legs was not a realistic one. Over the last six months or so, I’ve started challenging myself and those around me. Now I go to work in a sleeveless t-shirt and extend my arm to receive a cup of tea from a colleague. I wear a bikini on the beach with no regard for anyone who might be disturbed by my visibly hairy legs (note: not just light stubble, this is real, strokeable hair). I also find the hair matter a pretty solid filter for potential partners: if you’re freaked out by a fuzzy nether-region, then frankly I do not want you down there. And it has, at present, a 100% success rate by the time we’re hitting the hay, which may indicate that people care less than you think.
One of my moral low points of 2012 was when I complied with a magazine’s wishes and shaved my legs and armpits in advance of a photo shoot. I felt guilty and wasn’t keen on myself. We all screw up. It showed me that this must be something I really enjoy and something that I’m doing for myself. It’s a case-by-case thing. If one day I feel like shaving my legs, I’ll bloody do it. And I probably will bloody do it sometime, but at present I don’t really see why.
Although I’ve enjoyed writing this post a lot, I shouldn’t have to justify why I don’t shave. That hair is there in the first place: shouldn’t people be justifying why they do shave?
Oh, and here’s a photo for your viewing pleasure…