I made a new friend recently, Del, a diminutive midwife. I have enjoyed quiet conversations over cups of tea (while my children decorate the bathroom walls with crayons), I’ve wondered at her unassuming, almost -but-not-quite-timidity and I’ve absorbed her mindful aura. Then, last week, she yawned and stretched and a shock of black hair gaped at me from her armpits.
It was then that I realised that I LOVE HAIRY WOMEN!
I haven’t shaved regularly for about 15 years – I was even a hairy bride nine years ago.
But it has always been a political and cultural statement, begun very determinedly as a result of doing Women’s Studies at Uni and feeling like pulling out a razor was being beholden to an oppressive patriarchal society. I was gobsmacked that for years I had been so willing to do something every single day to my body purely to fit some image of what a women’s body should look like. For me there isn’t much else of this in my life- I sometimes wear make up, often don’t, sometimes wear nice clothes, mostly look like I’ve rolled through the local retro shop’s bargain bin. There is very little else that I think is so thoroughly embedded in our idea of womanhood as smooth, non- hairiness.
One of my lecturers told the story about how Gillette pretty much CREATED the concept of smooth legged women in order to have a female market for their products and I went home and boshed my razors in the bin, unwilling to have my body commodified.
I stopped shaving immediately and thenceforth, quavering only every so often on steaming hot summer days in London when I felt I didn’t have the internal reserves to sit on the tube having other commuters gawk at my wiry leg hairs.
Hairy pits are beautiful
Now, however, I realise my statement has become a part of who I am and what I love about my body- and, turns out, other people’s bodies!
I LOVE MY BODY HAIR. Hairy pits and hairy legs ARE a shrugging off of a sad, unnecessary expectation of women’s bodies but they are also SEXY.
When I saw tiny Del’s ferocious pelts as she stretched I was struck by how much this made me feel like she was deeply in touch with her womanhood, that she was brave and even wild.
It is kind of superficial, and possibly could be almost an objectification, but I felt like her body hair signified a certain boldness and a brazen self-acceptance.
I’ve been ruminating about this all quite openly with my husband over the last few days. He made a confession.
When he was a teenager he had a young female maths teacher who didn’t shave. Every time she reached up to make a mark with her chalk all the students used to grimace, repelled by her hairiness, a symbol of her unwomanliness.
How sad is that? She would totally be my friend, these days.
Now Tim tells me that he feels the opposite, that all of my body, including my hair, is alluring.
He married me hairy, and loved me hairy, partly because I was prepared to stand out from the shiny skinned crowd. But now he has come to appreciate body hair, and the way it oozes sensual pheromones, in itself.
Hairy pits are natural – just not that normal
Don’t stop shaving because I tell you to. That would possibly put me on a par with the teenage boys who talk disgustedly about their female classmates as “having a bush” if they don’t shave. I’m not interested in being another voice telling women what to do with their own bodies. Do what you want with your body, it is yours, in all its awe-inspiring glory.
But do consider that we somewhat perpetuate the normality of bare vulvas, underarms, and legs by shaving them ourselves. We can make what is natural (hairiness) normal, by doing it. (I enjoyed this recent post by a mother and why she has quit her razor due to what she thinks it does to her daughter’s perception of body image.)
But then take that slightly “feminist social obligation” idea a liberating step further and consider the fact that hairiness can come to be loved, both by you, and your partner.
There is a radical self-acceptance in casting aside your razor.
And I reckon there is nothing more wondrous or beautiful than a woman who revels in every natural inch of her body.
I am fortunate to be surrounded right now by glowing women who haven’t touched a razor in years, and being embraced by this crowd seems to almost have retrained my mind about smoothness being normal. I don’t feel shy about my body hair, or like I am making a statement, when in a more mainstream place. I stand tall, basking in the liberated contentment I feel within my body temple. I am miles, MILES, apart from my eating disordered, self conscious teenage self.
Spread the word, folks. Body hair is making a comeback and it is beautiful.