I first shaved my legs when I was around 10 years old. The boys in my class would make fun of my hairy legs and I was DONE with them. I hated them, I hated how my leg hair seemed to be so much darker and thicker and more noticeable than the other girls (on reflection I’m sure they weren’t as dark or thick as I thought.) So, I begged my mum to let me shave them and ironically, once I did, I was equally made fun of for having shaved them.
I remember when I discovered my first few pubic hairs and how excited I was about this new development, so excited in fact that me and my friend ran into the school toilets to compare our pubic progress. At this point, I hadn’t yet been exposed to the idea that this particular patch of hair could be anything other than a wonderful sign of maturity. At this point, I may have learnt to be ashamed of my leg hair, but my pubic hair was untainted by the judgement of the outside world. As you can imagine, this didn’t last very long.
As I moved up into secondary school shaving became the norm. In fact, shaving EVERYTHING became the norm. Imagine that, 12/13 years old and suddenly every strand of hair that exists anywhere other than your head is expected to go. What an effort. Over the next few years I consistently shaved my armpits, my legs and the line of hair on my belly (because those were the areas people would see). Some girls were even going as far as shaving their arms, but that’s where I decided I was most definitely drawing the line.
One day when I was around 13 years old, I remember asking my mum whether or not I should shave my ‘lady parts.’ I can’t remember her response exactly, but it was said in a pretty blasé fashion, and went something along the lines of ‘do whatever you want to do.’ I’m grateful for her response as I think it probably aided me in my hairy rebellion later down the line.
Unfortunately it was to be expected that the boys would criticize our natural bodies, and throughout my time at school I heard a fair few degrading comments about girls’ ‘bushes’ and how horrific it would be if they were to venture ‘down there’ and be greeted with anything other than a freshly mown lawn (need I say I never had much interest in this particular breed of man, and still don’t.) But the thing that got to me, and that I struggled to really understand, is why the girls just played along and shamed each other for their body hair. We all have it, we all know what a time-consuming pain it is to remove it, so why must we do it?
On reflection it’s much easier to understand, and this understanding makes the reality of it all even more infuriating. Female body hair is just another thing that is governed by the male gaze. Our own god damn bodies are ruled by the male perspective and the male opinion that dictates when and where it is okay to have body hair.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that tons of girls shave their bodies for themselves and themselves only. I know that glorious feeling lying in bed post-shave with your silky-smooth legs rubbing together (if you know, you know.) But I equally know that feeling of dread when you want to wear shorts but haven’t had time to shave your legs and you fear the judgement of your peers.
I can’t remember exactly when I began questioning shaving my body hair. I have always been firm in the belief that any partner that rejects your unshaven body is entirely unworthy of any physical interaction with it, so that’s never been much of an issue. However, I still wasn’t going to be seen with hairy armpits nor would I ever risk the shame of hairy legs again. 80% of the time I would just shave my ankles if they were the only part on show and I’d avoid sleeveless tops if I didn’t have the time to shave.
Last year I had a pretty heated debate (raging argument) with my dad about my leg hair. He had come to pick me up from uni and upon noticing my hairy legs made a sound of disgust. When I questioned him on how exactly my leg hair is any more distasteful than his own, he proceeded to argue how women’s legs ‘just look nicer’ shaved.
Eventually, he came around and admitted that he was totally and utterly in the wrong and apologised for his mindless comment. To think that my dad had been conditioned by society to believe that even his own daughter’s leg hair should offend him was so utterly ridiculous to me. This encounter only reinforced my determination to rebel against these unfair standards.
All the things I have mentioned above, combined with an innate laziness and refusal to conform attracted me to the idea of not shaving. Thankfully, I think people just kind of expect me to go against the grain, so at some point I decided why not add hairy legs and armpits into the mix. It’s been a slow progression but these days I really couldn’t care less if you see my hairy legs. In fact, when my leg hair gets impressively long I like to proudly display it.
My body hair is just another thing that society desperately wants me to alienate. My body hair is just another part of me that society is determined to turn me against. Well screw you society, I am well and truly done with that bullshit. Slowly but surely, we are tearing down the walls of shame that we have built around our own bodies and we are learning to love every bit of ourselves.
The bottom line is, sometimes I shave my body and sometimes I don’t. I’ve even waxed my legs a few times because sometimes I feel GREAT with smooth shiny legs. But I now feel as though I can feel equally as great whilst feeling extra empowered when my body hair is in full bloom.
This isn’t meant to be an aggressive commentary on society NOR am I suggesting that we must all rebel and wear our hair with pride. This is just a little tale of how one hairy girl decided to embrace her body hair despite the world urging her to hate it. Right now, my armpit hair is longer than my head hair and I don’t plan on changing that any time soon.