I’ve always had a complicated relationship with body hair. One of my earliest teen memories is plucking out hairs on my stomach with tweezers, terrified of the drag of puberty. When my mum noticed my first armpit hairs, she loudly and embarrassingly crowed ‘You’re a woman!’ (Scoff, the irony of becoming a woman via a masculinised trait is not lost on me).
So, like every other woman on this good earth I developed the traditional stigma and hatred of whatever sprouted from me. I shaved, waxed, foamed and plucked my whole way through my teens. I’d break out in a cold sweat if I forgot to shave before a night out. The only accessory I cared about was a bald vag. So what changed? And why does having body hair not make me a radical?
Once I stopped feeling like I’d be dumped for having pubes, I had the freedom to actually consider my relationship to my body hair. It was a process. While travelling, a razor was the last thing on my mind, and it allowed me to break the habit of literally a lifetime. A habit passed from generation to generation. Once my priorities were shifted from what I looked like to enjoying my life, shaving became less and less of a thing. And, on the inside, I realised that what my body looked like bore no relation to my identity or womanhood. It was sick.
Although my journey with hair has been empowering, it doesn’t make me radical, or brave, or boundary pushing. Amongst a lot of my peers, I feel in a kind of post-shave generation. But, speaking as a light-haired, white, cisgendered person, my choice not to shave has little bearing on the rest of the world. It is a complete privilege that how my body looks doesn’t infringe or conflict with my chosen identity category. #blessed. For the most part, how I move my body through the world is no big deal.
For womxn of colour, the choice to keep or remove body hair is an altogether different conversation. POC are far more likely to experience discrimination for their body hair than white people, often by other womxn, and yet often POC are written out of this feminist story. From shaving adverts to feminist photo shoots, white cis gals are marketed for their ability to appeal and assimilate within either category, their blonde and brown wisps of whatever just subtle enough to appear on the average insta scroll.
When it comes to folk who’s bodies exist outside of the cis matrix, body hair and what they choose to do with it has a massive significance in their day to day life. For many people, the removal of body hair can be empowering. Trans female activists regularly document their laser hair removal processes on the gram, celebrating leaving the trappings of masculinity behind. For trans men, the growth of body hair symbolises a right of passage into the male world from which they were previously closed off from.
And for those who face racial and gender prejudice simultaneously, things get even knotty. Gender non conforming or trans people endure violence, discrimination and harassment for their physical appearances. Without the privilege of passing for cis, or white, the choice to display body hair can have massive ramifications for the safety of those who refuse to conform to the rigid societal boundaries of gender. Artists and activists Alok Menon and Travis Alabanza have stormed through the raging waters of gender to create a path for GNC POC, and I would recommend heading to their socials and shows the minute you finish this.
What I’m trying to say is that bodies, and what we do with them, are political. Want to learn more? Then stop glorifying white womxn for not shaving their legs. Everyone’s journeys are unique but honestly, if your feminism doesn’t go beyond Miley’s multicoloured pits then it isn’t feminism. Open your eyes to your trans and GNC sisters. Open your ears to POC when they articulate their experiences. And for gods sake, the world won’t end if you forget razors at Boots.
Hiya! I’m Daisy, a part-time postgrad student and full-time hustler. I write about gender, sexuality and culture and can usually be found eating brunch or enjoying bevs in Manchester. Slide into my DM’s for collabs and/or banter (I take 5-7 working days to reply to any messages) x