Guest contributor Madison McKeever is a writer and increasingly radical feminist who is obsessed with gluten free cinnamon rolls, conspiracy theories, Zadie Smith, living vicariously through The L Word, and incessantly ranting about the orgasm gap. Her work has been published in Atlas, Reading A Bit, Shapes, and Slutmouth Magazine. She probably wants to ask what your favorite book is.
Samantha was twenty-one the first time she felt confident enough to let her pubes grow out, and found she enjoyed the risqué nature of defying what she’d always been taught. What she enjoyed considerably less was having a Tinder date hair-shame her during a hookup. “He not-so-subtly told me that I could give him a blowjob, and that once I shaved he would go down on me. That was the first time I realized how pervasive the double standard was.”
Despite the strides that have been made toward body positivity in the beauty industry, our culture is still saturated with misconceptions about body hair and its relation to femininity and sexual appeal. It’s for this reason that Billie’s Project Body Hair is so impactful. Billie is a women’s razor company that’s been commended for launching an inexpensive shaving subscription service, fighting back against the pink tax, and encouraging women to make autonomous decisions about their body hair. Project Body Hair was launched to normalize the taboo of female body hair, which may seem counterintuitive coming from a company that sells razors. But, Billie cofounder Georgina Gooley said in a recent press release, “We have always said shaving is a choice. It’s your hair and no one should tell you what to do with it. We’re excited to launch a campaign that will help normalize body hair and change the one-dimensional way in which women are portrayed in mass media.”
Billie’s campaign takes a humanistic and reassuring approach, with slogans like “We all have it” and “however, whenever, if ever, you feel like shaving… we’re here”. Through this, Billie is rejecting the well-established capitalist strategy of emotional marketing, the same one that has preyed on bodily insecurities as a way to sell more products. By depicting womxn with agency over their bodies, they’re encouraging countless others to utilize their right to choose.
Feminist and body hair advocate Ashley Armitage is the photographer extraordinaire behind the project. In a recent interview with Teen Vogue she talked about the impact of representation; “By repeatedly representing people with pubic and other body hair, we’re showing that there are other options…when I was a young teenager hitting puberty, I didn’t know I had a choice. I thought that once you started growing hair, you got rid of it, and that’s just how it would always be.”
Not only is Billie’s campaign working to depict real bodies in their natural states, but it’s also working to promote intersectionality by including all womxn in the conversation and dismantling the trope of “the hot, hairy, hippie girl”. We all know the type; perfectly toned, impossibly tan, doing Crow pose on the side of a mountain while her leg hair glistens in the sunrise. Instead of further promoting a white/ableist/conventionally attractive agenda, Billie is depicting ALL kinds of bodies in various stages of hair growth. They’ve released a promotional video and hundreds of gorgeous images of womxn of different colors and body types, showing everyone that your body and its hair can take whatever form you want it to.
The choice to mobilize #projectbodyhair across Instagram is a strategic and powerful one. Instagram is an invaluable tool to share images and find communities of support, but it’s also a hotbed for internet trolls, negativity and criticism. Billie’s campaign is encouraging womxn to appreciate and revel in whatever they want their bodies to look like, despite whatever ignorance may exist. To defy culturally-embedded stereotypes of what female bodies should look like is a radical, empowering act that imbues womxn with a confidence that can carry over into real life. In this sense, Instagram is acting as a catalyst for change, and Billie’s choice to launch across a visually-based platform is an effective one.
Billie’s #projectbodyhair library is open for anyone to upload their own photos to. The catalog thus far includes an amalgam of proud hairy humans; womxn of color, plus-size and skinny womxn, non binary beauties, womxn who have thick patches of hair from PCOS and other hormonal disorders, womxn who are new to being happy with their body hair. There are countless images of overgrown bikini lines, hairy legs in bathtubs, armpit staches long enough to braid, and everything in between (literally). [Note from editors: the library is still growing and burgeoning. Some of the representations listed here by this guest author are already present in the promotional material from the company, and some are appearing in the #projectbodyhair library, but many are not yet visibly represented.] It’s thrilling that womxn have this visual lexicon as a resource for bodily acceptance, and simultaneously disappointing that we’ve had to wait so long for this kind of encouragement.
So many of the #projectbodyhair postings have been of womxn sharing their own photos, with a resounding echo coming in the form of captions like, “I’m so glad we don’t have to hide this anymore”. For so long we’ve been told that female-identifying bodies are expected to be smooth all over; that body hair is masculine. The message we’ve been taught is that femininity and body hair are mutually exclusive. But, just as society is becoming more comfortable with gender and sexuality as a spectrum instead of a binary, the same ideology has slowly begun to bleed over into Western standards of beauty as well.
Taboos are hard to overcome, but Project Body Hair is an encouraging and inspirational step in the right direction. As Samantha points out, “I wish these were images I could’ve seen years ago, but I’m glad my younger sisters will come of age knowing that body hair is normal, and even badass.”