In November of 2014, I stopped shaving. It sort of happened by accident – I was unwell for a couple of weeks which naturally led to me neglecting my usual grooming regime, then a few months down the line I was still hairy and had absolutely no plans to do anything about it. Why should I do it when I don’t want to? Who does it benefit? It’s my body and my hair. It was something I had thought about doing many times before but had never had the guts to carry through. Why had I been worried? Oh the usual: people will shout rude comments at me, I can never wear shorts or leg-bearing clothes again, it goes against society’s norms, what will guys think? etc, etc.
But here’s the deal. It’s been almost a year and a half and so far every single one of these worries has been totally unfounded and rooted in ignorance. I’ve only ever had one rude comment about my legs, by a total stranger whose opinion I didn’t give the time of day; I regularly wear dresses, playsuits and skirts with pride at getting to show off my confident crop of hair; I get a kick out of making a political statement by doing literally nothing; and who cares what men think about your body anyway? If they’re worth your time they won’t care one bit about how hairy you are or aren’t. Admittedly I may have had an easy ride on this point as my partner is a wonderful man with an even more wonderful attitude towards these things, but the point still stands. Long story short, I feel great. What I don’t feel so great about is all the time I wasted trying to remove every inch of hair from the eyebrows down so that I could feel validated and accepted in society; I feel even worse about the times in my uninformed, ignorant teenage years when I joined in on ridiculing those who didn’t remove their body hair. For that, I am deeply sorry. However, the saddest thing of all is the fact that the negative attitudes of society and the media towards body hair were ever even present in the first place, and that they were prevalent enough to engrain themselves in the minds of already self-conscious and impressionable young people.
I don’t remember precisely when I began to shave, but I am certain that it was before I was even in secondary school. I was early to puberty, and with my French/Mediterranean ancestry blessing me with strong dark hair it was not at all subtle. My arm hair was my first body hair concern. There seemed to be a lot of it, but none of my friends seem to have it and the pop culture magazines aimed at young girls which I ravenously consumed displayed pages upon pages of smooth, hairless women (and men – this was the early 2000s, you see, the height of the bald body trend) which only confirmed my self-consciousness about it. My first memory of shaving is of tentatively examining my mother’s razor and trying a small, inconspicuous area of my arm. It seemed naughty and strange, so I quickly replaced the razor and abandoned my attempts.
This went on. Not understanding norms of shaving I cleared forests of hair from my arms as well as my legs. I was too young to really know what to do about my pubic hair – that kind of thing wasn’t shown in the magazines I read and nobody could see it anyway, so I left that for the time being. Keep that image in your mind – a clueless 11 year old girl experiencing the first changes in her body, unsure about whether to be ashamed about all her new hair, turning not to her mother or friends (too embarrassing at 11), but to the media she has access to, and inferring that the way her body is developing is Wrong. With a capital W. How does she deal with it? She’s seen her mum use a razor to remove her leg hair, so that must be what she has to do, too. She is a child, and already her perception of body hair has been turned negative by the media she consumes.
In writing this article I spoke to two of my younger sisters about their approach towards shaving. They are aged 18 and 14. Both of them echoed my current attitude pretty similarly. I also spoke to my mother, who echoed the sentiments of society and mainstream media about body hair. A generational divide? Quite possibly. But hopefully what this indicates is a positive progression in the way that young people are viewing body hair – perhaps the stigma of body hair as unfeminine or undesirable is gradually becoming dismantled.
Whichever side of the razor you stand on, the most important message is first and foremost to do what makes you feel comfortable and happy. Not what makes your boyfriend or friends or family happy; you. If you are hairy and that makes you happy, good. If you are not hairy and that makes you happy, also good. But don’t allow social norms to dictate what you do with your body hair. You’re in charge. You’re the boss. I encourage you to follow your natural instincts.
It is now April of 2016 and I am a proud, hairy millennial.