It is proven time and time again, on the internet and beyond, that to be accepted as a woman in our society we must conform to what our society, and in particular the men who run it, deem desirable. In most of the world at this point in time that equals slim frame, wide hips, small waist, flat stomach, full lips, slightly tanned skin, large breasts that sit just under our chin, long shiny hair on our heads and absolutely NO hair anywhere else. Sounds achievable, right? Sarcasm aside, I can fairly confidently say that the majority of women do strive to achieve these impossible standards every day of their lives, spending countless amount of time and money on tanning, gyming, hair treatments, cosmetic surgeries, facials and lots and lots of hair removal.
Most women spend what must add up to weeks of their lives waxing, shaving, plucking, sugaring, epilating, threading, veeting and lasering all the hair off of their bodies from the forehead down. When thought about in this way it sounds ludicrous but with the society we live in, it is completely understandable. It is very difficult to go against the grain and develop your own sense of what being a beautiful woman is without being influenced by the pressures we face every day. It is incredibly difficult to look at ourselves in the mirror and speak with love to the parts of us that the world says we should hate and try to ͚fix͛. We are all fighting that fight in our own way every day. I started by stopping shaving my armpits. Without even really knowing it at the time, stopping shaving was my first acceptance of my body being beautiful in whatever form it took. It was my first ͚fuck you͛ to a system that was working against me. It was my first push against my own ideas of what would make me ͚enough͛ as a woman.
I͛ll be honest, it took me a long time to actually learn to love the way I look with armpit hair, and even longer to not fear strangers seeing it and people͛s opinions of it. It wasn͛t like one day I threw away my razors and never looked back. On many occasions, I have been tempted back to shaving, as for a while I felt that it was one thing to have armpit hair as part of my low maintenance, everyday look, but I couldn͛t help but feel that armpit hair just wouldn͛t fit with an outfit for a fancy event. I felt it that on the rare occasion that I made an effort to look especially ͚feminine͛, I had to remove my armpit hair as it would detract. Even though I sported armpit hair 9 days out of 10, I still, deep down, thought that having smooth hairless armpits was an important aspect of being ͚feminine͛ and of being a woman. I guess this process was actually less about learning to love my body and more about unlearning everything that our society has tried to tell me about my body.
Even after I got past this, I still found myself apologising to people about my armpit hair, like it was something I was inflicting upon them. I didn͛t even notice myself making excuses for it. I wasn͛t really able to own it and love my body as a whole without putting in a lot of work. I read up on the lies I had been fed on why women shave and discovered how having hair made no difference in terms of hygiene and how it doesn͛t necessarily make you smell more or sweat more. I had to unpick what it was to be feminine and how damaging my internalised misogyny was. I had to take inspiration from other beautiful women who paved the way with their body nonconformity. The most important thing I learnt is that self-love, as a woman in a world that feeds and profits off of our self-hate, will never come overnight. It is an ongoing and not necessarily linear process that takes daily effort! The more you work on it, the easier it gets, but you may always have to work on it. As long as you are receiving negative influences and messages from your surroundings, you will have to continue to counteract them with love and self-acceptance.
I know this seems like a lot of fuss over a little hair but you try it and you͛ll see! Not conforming is very hard, being different is very hard, leaning into letting your body be what the majority of the world deems to be incredibly unattractive is very very hard! I was and am still so lucky to have an amazingly supportive group of people around me who never questioned my decision. I wouldn͛t have been able to do it without seeing their love for me and starting to imitate it for myself. Their support built a wall around me, protecting me from the abuse I would inevitably have hurled at me by the rest of the world until I was strong enough and confident enough in myself to face it. I thank everyone who made up that wall and urge anyone reading to be that for someone else.