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Women Have Body Hair, Get Over It!

Women Have Body Hair, Get Over It

Opinion

Women Have Body Hair, Get Over It!

“Grooming” means optional cosmetic activities to maintain your desired appearance, not “necessary basic hygiene” activities like bathing.

Women Have Body Hair, Get Over It

When I was 17, I posted a picture of me and my maltese-chihuahua with my hairy armpit exposed, captioned, “women have body hair, get over it.” It sparked heated debates among my peers about my “controversial” post. It just struck me odd that nonconformity for women means existing in the natural state of our bodies. Men can be as hairy as Harambe the Gorilla without being called out—so hairy you can zipline on a strand of their pubic hair—but once a woman has a single leg hair, the whole village is after her with pitchforks and catapults of shaving cream.

Women’s body hair is natural. What is unnatural is expecting all women to look like a plucked chicken. But if you like shaving, that’s okay!

“Grooming” means optional cosmetic activities to maintain your desired appearance, not “necessary basic hygiene” activities like bathing. Not grooming may be associated with dirt and make society feel uncomfortable, yet you can not groom and be clean. If a woman doesn’t shave but still plaits her head’s hair, she still grooms, just not how you prefer it. But it’s not about you; the purpose of grooming is presenting yourself how you want to look. Attacking people who don’t groom how you want them to, is narcissistic and ignorant. If someone is maintaining their body however makes them feel comfortable, they are practising proper hygiene. Respect that.

Scientifically speaking, keeping body hair is more hygienic. Your hair protects your skin from bacteria which may irritate or infect it. It literally exists for a reason, otherwise it wouldn’t be there. Evidence suggests that shaved skin harbours more dangerous bacteria types like Staphylococcus aureus, increasing risk of infection, especially when shaving causes cuts or abrasions. Another study in the British Medical Journal in 2016 suggests a positive correlation between pubic hair removal and incidence of STIs. If you still argue that shaving is unhygienic, for 20 marks, argue factually why “hygiene” only applies to female body hair. I expect your assignment on my desk by Tuesday 8am.

As long as you shower, clean your hair thoroughly and use deodorant, you’re fine. I have armpit hair, but I smell like a waterfall and luxury perfume shop. With your logic, we must shave our heads bald because hair is “unhygienic”, but we don’t, because keeping or cutting your hair is a choice, and shampoo exists to wash away dirt.

The pros of shaving are, without hair, lice have no home; hair clings to moisture, so you may sweat less and be less likely to have the odour associated with sweat. But this problem can be reduced by antiperspirant. Sometimes you’d rather shave because you prefer how it looks; maybe you like how bare legs feel in your sheets, maybe you find hair a nuisance. And that’s okay. Just don’t force your preferences on people.

Men will say they love women who look natural then scream like a toddler seeing a spider, when they see female body hair. If you expect women to be hairless, you can go screw a lizard. No partner I’ve dated was disgusted by my hair; in fact, all of them LIKED my body hair because natural me is sexy. But your decision to keep/remove body hair shouldn’t be defined by men because it’s your body and your choice. Girl, if you want to keep a bush, by all means start a wildlife park in there. Invite George of the Jungle for lunch in there.

How did hating women’s body hair even start?
In the 1910s, Gillette’s regular consumers were men because only they shaved their faces regularly, while women wore long sleeves and skirts, thus shaving was unnecessary because no one saw the hair anyway and no one cared. But in 1915, Gillette widened their consumer base by marketing to women that their armpit hair was “unfeminine” and “embarrassing”.

The advert read: “a beautiful addition to milady’s toilet table… that solves an embarrassing personal problem.” As women’s fashion showed more skin, Gilette’s advertising extended to shaving their other body parts. In brief, women started shaving their bodies because a man made millions from it. Not because of “hygiene”, not because of scientific facts, but because of one capitalist asshole who told us what femininity means. This is why I eat the flesh of capitalists and drink misogynists’ tears.

Each time I feel insecure about my body, I remember that a rich white man makes billions off my insecurity and I’m like, NO WAY.

Ask yourself: who do I really shave for? Is it for myself? Do I shave to avoid judgment from strangers in public I’ll never see again? Do I shave for my partner? Do I even like shaving? If you do, that’s great, but if you hate it, then offer society a strand of your armpit hair to go hang themselves. Did I stop shaving as a political statement? No, shaving just sucks.

I’d rather chew a live snake than unnecessarily pain myself with painful, swollen ingrown hairs and red, sensitive skin. In fact, I’d rather drink paraffin.
I will not spend two minutes slathering shaving cream THEN sit and wait another fifteen minutes before removing it, yet I have a novel to write, a degree to complete and a bag to secure. Imagine 20 minutes a week added up over time; how much of our lives and money do we dedicate to shaving/waxing, time we could spend doing more important things?

I’m happy with myself like this and would rather trim. I don’t even have to list my reasons for hating shaving. Angifuni.

I used to shave my hair religiously despite the ingrown hairs, irritated skin and waste of time. But I didn’t do it because I wanted to; I did it because I felt I had to. My team swimming coach would shame girls into shaving, yet the bushes on male swimmers could start a wildfire, accommodate cattle grazing and host an ecosystem. When women see my hairy body, they pull me aside to tell me proper ladies shave their hair. I feared guys’ disgust at my body hair. It took time to sum up the courage to accept my body hair.

Guys will complain about female body hair then when I point out that most men don’t shave, they respond, “because they’re guys but you’re female.” Body hair grows regardless of gender; why must women be penalized for the same secondary sex characteristic men have? Men can be hairy and “unkempt,” but women must be hairless phantoms of delight. In so many movies, women are perfectly hairless while men are hairy, like Zac Effron’s armpits in Bay Watch. Female body hair is so taboo that even hair removal ads show women shaving an already hairless leg.

There is no rationale behind this convention because we arbitrarily attach unrealistic expectations to femininity. And many women have internalized that, and that’s why some feel obligated to shave even when we hate it, then enforce this gender double standard on other women.

Well guess what? Women have beards. I’ve been told to pluck the sparse hairs near my neck but honestly, they don’t bother me, and the shame you put on my natural state is not my burden to carry. Women have unibrows; think of Frida Kahlo, legendary painter with an iconic unibrow that she always emphasized in her self-portraits because that unibrow is part of who she is. Women have nipple hair, moustaches, bushy eyebrows, leg hairs and tummy hair which I think is the cutest thing on the planet. And many women I know don’t even know why they do it; they just accept it as a womanly chore.

Many women I know love winter because they don’t have to shave. Girl, you don’t have to shave during summer either. I stopped shaving and it’s scary at first, but you don’t have to love your body hair, sometimes acceptance is enough. Even if people care, I checked my pockets and I have no f*cks to give so I barely notice because over the years, I challenged myself to bask in the glory of my confidence and body acceptance.

You don’t owe anyone a shaved body. You don’t have to make yourself feel uncomfortable to make others feel comfortable. Body positivity is a movement that normalizes accepting our bodies as they are; female body hair must be part of that conversation. And if anyone complains, tell them you can’t hear them over the volume of your armpit hair.

When I'm not smashing the patriarchy, I debate, paint, and work on my YA African feminist fantasy novel on Wattpad--which I guess is also smashing the patriarchy. Currently stu(dying) BA Law at University of Pretoria. I may or may not be a mermaid masquerading as a human. Pro-LGBTQ+. I'm just out here not hearing problematic people over the volume of my Afro.

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