The truth about body hair.


Above is the musician Grimes. In an ideal world, there would be no blog post inspired by this image, because there would be nothing especially of note about it. It is merely a photograph of a woman, styled and posing for the camera, albeit somewhat unusually; certainly nothing controversial. There are plenty of images like it. Except, unfortunately, not exactly like it. And that is why this post exists. There is something about Grimes in this photograph (and, presumably, in every day life) that differentiates her not only from many other women, both in the public eye and not, but also society’s ideal of what a woman should look like. In case you haven’t worked it out, a glance at the comments on the photograph as uploaded to Grimes’s Facebook make it fairly obvious.

“Hairy armpits?”
“Doesn’t shave her armpits? Really?”
“Is that armpit hair or am I tripping?”
“Shave your armpit hair and you’ll be the most beautiful girl in the world.”
“Shave your armpit hair and I’ll buy it.”

Yes, that’s right. Grimes has hair growing from her armpits, and, not only that, but she has it on show. Oh, the horror! It is evident from the words of these men and women that this is an unforgivable act. They simply cannot comprehend the idea that a woman might have armpit hair, and the fact that Grimes does directly affects her appeal, both as a woman and an artist.

Somehow, it has become a fact, and a widely accepted fact, that women should have no body hair. Consistently, in the media, in society, and in advertisements for hair removal products (well, obviously), hair is portrayed as unattractive, unsightly, unwomanly, and unnatural. Any woman who does not conform to this idea is all of these things, too. She will be ridiculed, reviled, and made to feel hideous and excluded. The pressure that this creates means that even conforming is not a pleasurable process, as well as being costly, time-consuming, and painful. Furthermore, many men believe themselves to be incapable of finding a woman attractive in this state. How can a woman’s natural state be deemed all of these things? How can someone purport to find a woman attractive if they cannot or refuse to embrace her natural state?

Hair removal has become an unspoken law. In the eyes of both men and women. Men have come to expect it, and respond negatively when the outcome is anything other than what they believe is ‘right’. That is, hairless. Instead of being accepted as a part of the body, merely inconsequential – as it is in the eyes of those looking upon them – it is an elephant in the room, a source of judgement, a source of derision, and often requested to be removed. As though anyone has the right to instruct a woman on how to live in her body, as though the female body exists entirely for male pleasure, as though there is something inherently wrong with the way women look naturally. But to many women, this is truly the case. We do not ask whether we remove our body hair, we ask, ‘when do we start?’, and ‘with what implement?’ It has become the natural way of things. Children decide that they will remove hair before they even understand why, before they have hardly grown it; if they do not, they will soon be bullied into it. It is not questioned. It is just accepted. We see the women before us and around us doing so, so we do. We hear the things men say about women who have body hair, and the total lack of respect or attraction they feel towards them, and we are scared. Women are programmed to find the way they were created unattractive. Any choice over how we feel about it, and what we shall do about it, has been robbed from us.

Women are coerced into hair removal, indoctrinated by society to see it as a necessity. They are making decisions as to what type of razor they use, whether they use cream or wax, whether they get a professional to do it, but these are secondary decisions; the initial choice is whether to remove hair at all, and this decision was made by someone else, long ago, with little thought as to what is best for us. As were the decisions about whether body hair is attractive, or hygienic. Of course, we all have personal preference, but when every channel in society tells you that body hair is repulsive, there is only one conclusion to come to. It is near-impossible to have a true preference. And until women are no longer chastised, mocked, and insulted for their body hair, we cannot say that we have that choice.

Then, when women are no longer judged and observed exclusively for their appearance, we can say that we have moved towards equality. Because, at the end of the day, after all Grimes has achieved, so what if she has hairy armpits – but also, so what if she has an attractive face? She has talent. The primary issue is that there is very little option for women to not shave, but beyond that, there is the problem that it is even an issue in the first place.

The truth about body hair is that everybody has it. If removing it makes you happy, then by all means, do. But remember that society is conditioning us all the time, to view our natural selves as disgusting. Let’s reclaim our choice. Let’s reclaim our bodies.

This post features in a bloghop by The Real SGM, for 16 Days of Action on Violence Against Women.

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  1. lauracannotdraw

    Wow – this is absolutely brilliant. I’ve heard the body hair debate before but I have to admit I still shave, pluck and wax religiously. I think the reason for my choice to remove body hair stems from the way I’ve been socialized – as you brilliantly and eloquently put – in to believing that body hair is disgusting and unnatural. My logic tells me this isn’t true but for now I’m not brave enough to face the public derision.

    Wonderful and thought provoking, I will be sharing this!

    • tillyjean

      Thank you so much for this lovely comment!
      It’s really important to me when writing about this sort of thing that it’s not at all shaming to women who DO remove their hair. For whatever reason they do it. Especially as I remove my body hair too. Admittedly not as religiously as I used to; it’s a sort of thing where if I feel the compulsion to do so, then I will, but if I don’t, I’m not too bothered. It’s not always easy though. Sometimes I feel like I SHOULD be doing it when I haven’t. I feel guilty, unattractive, ashamed. And I know that that’s the patriarchal conditioning talking. Of course, there’s also the fact that whilst I think my legs look better without hair, the only reason I think that at all is more than likely because society told me that. It’s just so tricky.
      And it makes me so angry that women can’t live their lives the way they want out of fear of the judgement of others, all stemming from patriarchy. It is the epitome of the war on women.

      • Ms. Pris

        I did not find your post “shaming” toward women who remove body hair, but I did find it condescending and patronizing toward such women. You projected your own feelings about body hair onto everyone else: not all of us are as thoroughly conditioned as you are.

      • tillyjean

        So I condescended and patronised myself?

        I haven’t expressed any opinion about body hair in this post; it’s concerned with the way society dictates and people react. Considering I freely choose between shaving or not shaving, I wouldn’t really call myself conditioned…

  2. jemima101

    stayed out of this cos my reasons for removing my hair are outside of the debate. However I do agree with the idea that we are conditioned to believe hairy legs are somehow less attractive. I rarely shave mine, it just seems so pointless!
    As for women who choose to remove hair, self awareness is I think to be desired in everything. Doing it without thought because you think it is the only way to conform to some received ideal of beauty is worrying in the extreme.

    • tillyjean

      Exactly. It is perfectly feasible to me that women could want to remove their body hair. But it is incredibly difficult, when so many women already remove their hair, when society shows us and tells us that this is the way things should be, and we are told that those we want to be with will only find us attractive if we do, to say that women who remove their hair are making that choice. And the thing is I genuinely don’t know why I shave or have shaved. I look back and I think what made me decide and there was no decision; it was already made for me. It was something that all the other girls were doing, and they were getting nasty about anyone who didn’t. It was something women had to do. And I really hate that.

  3. herbsandhags

    There is a real reluctance by women to acknowledge the cultural pressures to be hairless. The cry goes up “I do it for me!” and of course that’s true – women have internalised patriarchal beauty standards so thoroughly, that they look at bits of their bodies that don’t meet the standard and perceive them as unattractive. When you point out that in the 16th century, the ladies of Elizabeth I’s court would have their forehead hair plucked to produce a high forehead, which at that time was the beauty standard, and that all the women wanted to look like that and were horrified by a low hairline, they accuse you of patronising them as brain-washed by culture.

    But how else can one account for the fact that at certain times, certain people find certain looks most attractive? How comes we’re not all shaving our heads to produce high foreheads now? How comes we don’t put rings round our necks to stretch out the muscles to make the necks longer as they do in the tribe whose name escapes me just now? How comes trousers go from drain-pipe to flair to boot-leg and we all adjust our perception of which cut is attractive depending on what is in fashion? And how comes when feminists point this out, we are accused of being arrogant because we acknowledge the impact of cultural pressures on our own tastes and perceptions while the people who assert that culture has no impact whatsoever, are in effect imagining that they are the only people on the planet blissfully un-influenced by the culture and society around them!

    • The Clever Idiot

      But of COURSE it’s cultural brain-washing; the people who DON’T admit that are the ones who are arrogant enough to think they’re above it! In fact, I have an example right here from my South Asian cultural heritage:

      I think it’s a pretty well known fact that many South Asian women are naturally quite hairy, right? Not only is our hair thick, but it’s dark & coarse too. So believe it or not, I started shaving my entire body because my mother would always snark on me for having hairy legs/ armpits/ down there bits etc. She’d even tease me for my hairy arms, which is funny because all the white friends think that arm hair is perfectly acceptable! Yet on the other hand, any parlour I went to in South Asia has always told me “the skin on [my] arms would be so pretty & fair, if only it were hairless” (having fair/ light skin is yet another South Asian female body shaming thing, that I won’t go into right now lol).

      So which is it? Are we only allowed hairy arms (but no hairy legs), or are both hairy arms AND legs not permissible? Instead of losing sleep over it (which trust me, I did for a loooong time!), I think I’d rather stick to my current partner who doesn’t give a damn if my legs are hairy or not! I think mine might even be hairier than his- how’s THAT for self acceptance, haha? ;)

  4. Pingback: The Hair Wars
  5. Dawn

    I hear you.
    I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with body hair. I’m more happy and comfortable keeping it, but then I feel ashamed to show my body in public. Other women police body hair removal constantly. Despite the fact that what I’m doing with by body has nothing to do with them.

    • tillyjean

      Thank you for commenting!

      It’s no surprise that you feel this way, because it’s how we’re meant to feel! We’re meant to feel like it’s not fit to show in public, and, like you say, both men and women police body hair heavily. Ultimately, it is your body, and you should be proud of it regardless of what anyone thinks, because it is yours – but of course, I understand why you might feel otherwise. So many people that you will encounter do not realise that what someone does with their body hair is up to them, and that there should be no norm. I hope, eventually, you stop feeling ashamed, because you have no reason to.

  6. Petra

    Hey, I’m a teenager and I really hate shaving, but I feel self conscious about letting people see any of my hairyness. i know it’s really up to me, but do you think I should just go for it and gradually I’ll get used to it, or should I stay in my comfort zone? I mean, I guess I don’t want guys to like me who don’t support women’s rights, but I don’t want them all thinking I’m gross! And I know my friends would be chill with it, but what about everyone else?! What could I say to retalliate?

    • tillyjean

      Hey! Thank you for commenting :)
      I’m so angry that you even have to go through these considerations, but honestly, my advice to you can only be to do what will make you happiest and most comfortable. Which should be to just not shave, since you don’t want to, but as you know, there will be negative responses from time to time, and I totally understand if you don’t think that you’ll be able to cope with that. You would get used to it, and probably stop caring (because really, you shouldn’t care what they think anyway, because they’re wrong and you know it), but I know it’s easier said than done, and I don’t want you to get really hurt by it. Maybe it’s worth just going for it for now, and seeing how you get on? Any guy (and indeed anyone) who is genuinely repulsed by your body hair is probably not worth it, but you can always explain to him how it’s a) up to you what you do with your body! and b) none of his business anyway!

      What you say to retaliate will be up to you and how you feel in each circumstance. If you don’t feel you can/don’t want to say anything, that’s fine – also worth bearing in mind that they might not be worth gracing with a response to begin with. Alternatively, you can tell them to fuck off, because it’s none of their business. Or, you can politely tell them that you feel sorry for them for thinking that what you do with your body hair is relevant.

      Either way, good luck.

  7. Kt

    What a great article!

    I stopped shaving/waxing about a year ago but it is only now I am going out in public – and only when I dont know anyone. The closest is going to my daughter’s school to pick her up.

    I read another article about how women always feel they are being watched and how when some of your cog resources are busy making sure you look good, it detracts from your resources available to focus and give attention where its due. I think not shaving is helping me to stop caring about how I look. Ive learnt (for strangers only) no one cares! If they even bat an eye lid Ive not noticed. Though I havent had the guts to lift my arms up high yet! Im a work in progress though and I love it.

    I have no problems with my hairy legs in public. I do think if i was in a dress I would feel more “feminine” if I waxed but its all about retraining your brain and that takes time.

    I also think if a guy cant handle it – hes not my kind of guy. That said I am happy to have a brazillian wax every now and again as it feels awesome (after not during!!) and hey… its considerate! ;)

    Thanks again for such a great article! I hope you dont mind my lengthy response!

    • tillyjean

      Thank you very much! And thank you for a great comment, don’t worry, I love a lengthy response!

      I am so glad you feel like you’re making progress! It’s so important that we do what we’re comfortable with first and foremost, and also what we’re happy with – there’s nothing wrong with getting a Brazilian if it’s what you want! Although, you’re right that a man who had a problem with body hair was probably well-indoctrinated by patriarchy – not a good sign. Although, of course, a lot of them do just need it explained to them, because it’s not an idea that they’re used to!

      I think you make such a good point about retraining ourselves. All opinions based on body hair at this time are influenced in some way by society, patriarchy and capitalism. We’re *meant* to feel obligated to remove it, we’re *meant* to feel like it’s unattractive or unfeminine. Of course, even if we deconstruct that for ourselves, there will still be people who don’t realise that – and they are the main obstacle to happiness. But I do believe that if we can be happy for ourselves, eventually what people think won’t matter.

      One thing I would say, though, is that maybe people you know won’t react in the way that you think. They should like/love/respect you whatever, and I’d say they’re easier to explain your feelings to than strangers on the street! But, of course, it’s your call.

      Thank you again! :)

  8. Alice

    This is probably something that affects men as well as women, since many men are required by their workplaces to cut their hair and shave their mustaches (and for most teenage boys, the shaving question is “when” and “how” not “if”, much like girls shaving their legs). But the issue of leg and underarm hair seems to almost exclusively affect women. As a woman with very little body hair (and very few eyelashes) coming from a culture where leg-shaving is not very common yet (even though underarm-shaving is), I am glad that I have not been too affected personally.

    • tillyjean

      Whilst that may be true, I would argue that the extent to which it affects men is not comparable (at least, of my experiences in my culture – you imply that there is a difference in cultures here, so I don’t want to pretend that I can speak for you!). I can personally think of very few jobs that specifically require men to cut their hair or shave, and it has to be said that having long hair and facial hair are not the looks that men are instilled into them that are acceptable to begin with. And, also, having to remove their hair for the workplace is a lot different to having to remove their hair generally, because it is not deemed acceptable by society. It’s true to an extent about the facial hair and teenage boys, I agree, but the first signs of facial hair are usually considered a proud moment, and there is as much freedom for men to grow facial hair as there is to shave it – of course, shaving is a bit of a norm, and it is a good idea to examine why that is, and whether men are happy with this. Ultimately, of course, everybody should have the freedom to do with their bodies whatever they wish.

      Well, you are lucky!

  9. Kate

    Although I understand and somehow agree with your point of view, I have a different experience. Since I can remember, I considered body hair disgusting, on both women and men. When I was a kid, like 5 years old, I couldn’t understand how women can find men’s hair chest attractive. I hated the sight of it as I hated to see armpit hair in both men and women. Around 12, when I started getting my own body hair, I was horrified and thought about ways of getting rid of it. I don’t remember anyone telling me I should remove my hair, I remember I didn’t understand why some women even keep their pubic hair, I was 5 and I knew I will never keep mine. Back then we didn’t have TV commercials to tell us what to do about it, and in my small town there weren’t many beauty salons. I had to shave it at first and I was unhappy cause it would always grow back so fast. When I first discovered the first beauty salon where I could wax all of it, it was one of the best days ever, I felt released. I understand where you’re coming from, but you should also know that for some people this is really the natural choice. Without society telling you what to do, maybe it would have been your natural choice too. I don’t think women being pressured to be hairless is a wrong thing, I think men being speared of it while women aren’t, in my point of view – that’s wrong. I think men should remove their body hair too. Now I live in Asia, here men and women naturally have extremely little or inexistent body hair, except armpit and pubic areas. I dare any feminist to walk among these hairless asians without having her body hair removed, how would that feel? They’re not pressured to remove anything because they don’t have it… They are maybe one step higher on the evolution scale. Body hair is more like a vestigial structure, we don’t need anymore, so why keep it? You want a good reason for removing armpit hair? It keeps the sweat smell and it stinks or keeps a bad smell. It goes the same for pubic hair, you sweat more and keeps a strong smell, more than if nothing would be there, So here you go, 2 good reasons, comfort and smelling better, that doesn’t have anything to do with society, or rules or any pressure. No one likes a bad smell, and you don’t need society to tell you that!

    • tillyjean

      You may well have never liked body hair, but you must understand that your experience is not that of many women. It also doesn’t give you a right to shame other women who choose not to remove theirs. Many women feel no strong feelings towards body hair either way, or even like it; why should they have to remove it, if it’s not what they want? To suggest that the fact that women are pressured into removing their hair is a good thing is absurd. Nobody deserves any pressure on them to do anything they don’t want to – man or woman – especially for something as inconsequential as body hair. You don’t like it? Remove it. But don’t expect others to, and don’t be unkind to them because they don’t.

      I made it quite clear that for some people, hair removal is a natural choice. I have no problem with people removing their body hair – I remove mine. My problem is with those who have a problem with others who don’t choose to remove their body hair, and don’t take notice of the societal pressures that make us want to.

      You don’t seem to understand the issue. Women who choose not to remove their body hair have to walk amongst a vast majority of people who do *all the time*. They choose to do so because it is what they want to do – if that’s the case in the UK or US, then it’ll remain the case in Asia. It’s not about what other people do, it’s about what you want to do.

      Pubic hair *does* serve a purpose, actually – it protects against friction and bacteria. Hair removal, on the other hand, leaves microscopic wounds. It is also not true that pubic hair makes you smell bad. Pubic hair does indeed trap in the smell – but if it’s a bad smell, that’s down to *you*. The hair has nothing to do with it. If you feel more comfortable in removing it, that’s fine, but don’t expect it of everyone.

      • kt

        okay, Im meant to be studying but I just want to add that I either sweat more or I notice it more when I wax. I used to wax my tummy and it always felt sweaty.

        I dont feel that way when I have hair. And most of the time, I actually think I smell pretty awesome :D

        I do get that some people naturally don’t like hair and thats cool too. We all have our preferences. I never liked chest hair on men but Im starting too – so preferences change too! I just feel bad when you hear about girls too embarrassed to go swimming because they forgot to shave their legs – and run home to shave… and that sort of thing (I saw it on a tv show interviewing people at a public swimming pool about shaving).

        Okay, back to antimicrobials and nosocomial infections! woo… ;)

    • becca

      Keeping armpit or pubic hair does not make you smell. That is an awful thing to say. Your comment was actually quite interesting until you said that, then it just turned into you being quite cruel in my opinion. I have never shaved my armpits and I do not ever smell. You only smell if you don’t wash. No-one likes a smelly person??? You mean you don’t like hairy people? Stop generalizing.

  10. saki

    The purpose of body hair is to help trap heat closer to your skin to help keep warm. The only time I tend to shave is during the summer when it is so hot and shaving helps me feel cooler. During the winter I only shave my under arms every once in while when it gets too long. Pubic hair just gets cropped for sanitary reasons during that time of month. I used to shave my pubic hair, but I kept getting folliculitis and yeast infections from the friction, so just a little cropping is better.

  11. Rebecca

    Recently one of my best friends (a man, bless) remarked in the middle of a class that I needed to do something about my moustache, asking why I couldn’t “take just a bit of time out of [my] day to do it”. If only I had an internet connection in my brain with which to find and email him this article, you’ve done a really good job going through the various issues. I count myself lucky that it doesn’t seem to be so much the media that influences my hair removal regime (yes I still do a bit), rather it is my friends. I’m naturally quite a hairy bugger and at the age of twelve a boy commented on my amazing leg hair and it still haunts me to this day. Likewise with my ballet teacher quietly suggesting removing my underarm hair, I find it is this type of widely held belief that body hair is unsightly that affects me. Luckily I’ve built up enough of a defense to ignore these new assaults on my natural form, forearm hair or the aforementioned upper lip, but it still annoys me that I have to construct such a wall in the first place. “Why should you give a shit? You don’t point out anything else about my body, neither its form nor its function, so why do you care so much about this?” Good. Sorry, needed to get some feminism out of my system.

  12. Nile

    I wonder if there’s a market niche for armpit wigs?

    Maybe someting a little more feminine that ‘Hey everybody, I’ ve got Don King in a headlock! ‘; something with matching strawberry-pink highlights to match Grimes’ striking hair; or tiny clip-in plaits and ponytails with a cute little ribbon.

    There is, of course, a measure of absurdity in this: but if you’re doing something perfectly healthy and a load of opinionated prudes and perfectionists are making a big show of carefully-rehearsed disgust… OWN IT. Do it in their faces, for everyone to see, make it clear that you like it, and show that shaming doesn’t work.

    And that’s worth doing, because shaming is used for worse things than armpit hair.

    • Flapsy Faux Pas

      Hello lovely!

      I have made armpit wigs for performance (well, every thing is a performance). I have wigs of various colors and of course need pits and merkin to match! I don’t think there is a market, but there could be, if people were convinced that they wanted it. I do drag and burlesque, and people love the hair. In part because it is shocking and I’m flaunting it loudly.

      The first time I performed burlesque, I was a little nervous about my pit hair, because I was trying to perform a certain style of femininity…. So I waxed it into curlys like one would to a mustache. I was wearing little frilly panties, so I knew my pubes would show out the side (I have adventurous pubes. They want to be leg hair) and all my leg hair would show, and I decided to just fake some pride, and hold myself high. After the performance, another performer, an 18 y/o gender-conforming girl, said to me something along the lines of, ” I’ve never thought body hair was sexy before. You’ve changed that. I always thought it was gross but you… Wow. It just looks so hot on you. Even, or especially, coming out the sides of your panties. You’ve changed how I think about it. I’m still going to shave though. But thank you!” That’s more or less exactly what she said, but my memory is fuzzy. Bless her heart for actually sharing that with me, because it cheers me on when I’m scared. Most of the memory I have of that is her long pale strait ironed hair, the red accents and tiles in the bathroom, and my overwhelming feelings of surprise, pride, and gratitude. I had trouble looking her in the eyes because I was a bit overwhelmed.

      Where I grew up, to not shave was to ostrisize yourself, at least if you were perceived to be female, as I was. I shaved all of my pubes only once. It was itchy and I was full of shame about everything always. I hated swimming because shaving even the tender sides of my inner thigh was itchy and uncomfortable, and no one would let me wear men’s swim trunks. Then armpits are a funny shape, and I was ashamed of how badly I would shave, but I while I could do a fine job of my legs, I had less sensation without the hair, so I only shaved when people would see. With luck, I realized I was always the lowest of the social pariah anyways, so I gave up on all of it. I consciously chose to love my appearance, out of laziness and convenience.

      Side note: I think it’s odd how no one addressed sensation. I think of my leg hairs like cat whiskers; they know what is up. One strong type of sensory input comes from hair, whether it is the fine hairs on your face and butt, or the thicker hairs on your legs, junk, many more places depending on who you are, even your head. Shaving and waxing leaves me noticeably numb. Even when I shaved my head hair I noticed it, and I noticed a change the moment the stubble came in- I could feel little things again. All sorts of little data that you can’t always interpret comes in. I remember learning about native american trackers being employed by the army, and the army finally believed them that it was important to not cut their hair; their skills were greatly diminished by a buzzed head of hair. And I almost don’t want to bring up sex, because there are a million enjoyable ways to have sex and each has their pros and cons, but the sensation input of hair is certainly relevant. Assuming my partner is very recently clean, I love to bury my face in the persons pubic hair and shower them with kisses, as a side note from related sexual acts, because in my experience it feels similar to a lover burying their face in the hair at the nape of my neck.

      Ok. Done rambling now. Thanks everyone.

  13. Kareny

    OMG just watch some 70s porn and you’ll be over this hair lovin’ madness – hair traps dirt, bacteria, oils,moisture as well as glandular and bacteria smells – yes we are natural animals but we have progressed so far over time, including our grooming!

    • tillyjean

      Pubic hair traps dirt etc to stop it from entering the genital area… take away the hair, and you’re not taking away the bacteria, only making it easier for it to do damage. So long as you keep good hygiene, it is perfectly possible to have pubic hair and be clean and pleasant smelling.

      • Kate

        I’m sorry, but this doesn’t apply to everyone. Bacteria live on our bodies, they feed on our sweat, and after feeding, they release some gases that smell bad. Even if you wash, the bacteria will still be there. And in hot summer days, even if you take showers and use deodorant, it still might happen to sweat and smell bad. I know it happens to me, to people in my family and to my friends, girls and boys. And we do take showers, every day, in summer time even three times per day. Maybe you’re lucky and don’t sweat, but then talk for yourself. Hair traps sweat smell, even if you shower often. A hot summer day or one hour at the gym might be too much even for the best antiperspirant. Not to also mention that all these deodorants and antiperspirants are not healthy. I have male friends that started shaving their armpits because they noticed they smelled less. They do shower daily and use deodorants. Even if they sweat, there will be no hair there to trap the smell. Whenever I took a break from removing underarm hair, I noticed not only it kept me warm and made me sweat easier, but also started to keep that sweat smell. And I am talking about short hair, I don’t know what the case will be for long natural hair. I don’t even want to imagine. When I wax it or plug it out, I sweat less, and I need to use less deodorant — > and that is healthier. In 15 years I never, but I mean never, got any infection from waxing, or from using the electric machine to plug it out. And none of my friends ever complained about it either. I wouldn’t force or tell anybody to wax or remove their hair against their will, but I would consider them disgusting, I would never want to be around them, to have them as friends. Not because media tells me so, but because I have a natural disgust for body hair. And while I can’t tell others to start waxing, others can’t tell me what to like. Feel free to keep your body hair, but don’t expect me to like you or agree with you. Different people have different opinions. If you like your natural body hair, keep it and stop complaining or expecting others’ acceptance, stop trying to change their opinions. They are entitled to have their own beauty standards, just as you consider yourself entitled to keep your hair. That is my honest opinion that you can’t change or accuse. If you consider it shaming, that’s none of my problem. When I am sure about something I like, no one could ever make me feel ashamed about it, by contrary, maybe only make me prouder. That’s why for me, most of you seem insecure and lazy women. Too insecure to stop caring about what others think, too lazy to take care of yourselves, so you’d rather try to change other people’s opinions so you don’t have to go through the whole effort anymore. No one said is easy to look good, so if you think you don’t care about looking good, then stop trying, but don’t expect people to applaud you for that.

      • tillyjean

        It’s funny that you say “this doesn’t apply for everyone”, when neither does what you say. I have had underarm hair, and I have removed underarm hair. I haven’t noticed a difference in smell *at all*. Underarm hair doesn’t make you sweat more, and if you are in circumstances which *do* make you sweat more, then you’re going to smell whether you have hair or not. If being sweaty bothers you, you’re likely to clean yourself up. Then, hey presto, the smell is gone. You are making out that there is a much greater difference between having hair and not having hair than there is.

        Do you think that just because you’ve never had an infection, means that it’s not a possibility? I’ve never had razor rash from shaving, does that mean it doesn’t exist? What you don’t realise is that you *do* force and tell EVERY person to remove their hair, when you say that you consider them disgusting. It’s perfectly fine to not like body hair, but to say that it is *disgusting*, and that people who have it are disgusting, is both horrible and ridiculous. There is nothing disgusting about the way the body naturally looks. Quite frankly it’s hilarious that you say that you wouldn’t want to be around them or have them as friends, because I can see no reason why anyone would want a friend as nasty and judgmental as you.

        What is it with you and trying to make everything about you? No one is telling you what to do or what to like, but to realise that fundamentally there should be no pressure on women (and people generally) if they do not want to. Why is it so hard for you to accept that? Whether you like it or not, you don’t have to insult anyone. To not like someone simply because they have body hair – simply because they do with their body what *they* want, not what you want – is truly hideous. Your body fascism is disgusting.

        If we could keep our natural body hair without having to speak out like this about it, we would. We can’t, because judgmental pricks like you keep sticking their noses in our business, insulting us and trying to shame us into changing. I have outlined in the post exactly why we want to change opinions – because those opinions are constructed in patriarchy. We do not have to accept them. It’s fine for people to individually have their own beauty standards, but not to impose them on other people – exactly like you try to do. I don’t “consider” it shaming, it is shaming. You are entitled to your opinion, but that does not make it right.

        The fact that you call women who do not choose to remove their hair “lazy” makes it clear that the way you feel about body hair is not just “natural disgust”. Not liking something does not automatically mean wanting everyone in the world to get rid of it so intensely that you hate the very being of anyone who does not – nor would that be at all realistic if that was how you felt. There is no rhyme or reason for us to be born with an obligation to alter our appearance. You’re just regurgitating the messages that society sends to us – that women *must* remove their hair, that they are worth less if they do not. We are *not* required to remove our hair – so not doing so does not make us lazy. And where exactly is the insecurity in going against the dominant message in society? We’re not asking for applause, we’re asking for respect just like everyone else. If you want people who don’t remove their body hair to stop talking about it, stop being so horrible about them.

        You know what’s really funny? I shave. How do you account for that in your world view? With all due respect, go fuck yourself.

  14. Cynthia B

    I really like how you’ve written this article. I can agree with many of your comments and statements. I’ve stumbled onto your article with this same concern, and I’d like to say that this pressure for women and men to remove their hair is preposterous. I even went as far as thinking about starting a modeling agency with all-natural people–their hair, bumps, moles, everything. It could even feature couples with their body-hair, showing how they are perfectly fine with the presence of their natural bodies (Oh, and even some attractive, sexual poses of couples WITH body hair would send every viewer reeling!) What do you think? Would this idea maybe spin the fashion-world upside down if it somehow becomes popular?

    Of course, I know this will cost quite a pretty penny and get many negative criticisms, but I would like some of your tips for possibly making this idea a reality–and I know many famous individuals and even other agencies could support it/are already a step ahead!

  15. Rachel Yates (@BeckyOrRachel)

    I really like your argument, and completely agree that women feel pressured into removing body hair, and that they believe that is natural. But I think you made a pretty big jump here “As though anyone has the right to instruct a woman on how to live in her body, as though the female body exists entirely for male pleasure, as though there is something inherently wrong with the way women look naturally.” When you say about the female body existing for men’s pleasure, I get that body hair on females is undesirable, but I don’t see a direct link that and only being there for pleasure. Although I agree that sometimes this is the case with women and I know that there are other arguments surrounding that, I just don’t see hair removal being a part of that, and don’t see the correlation as clearly as you do. Hope you understand what I mean!
    – Rachel

    • Frenchi

      The point is that women are trained to do things based around what men find attractive or not. Don’t sit with your legs apart, men think it’s unattractive. Don’t have short hair, men think it’s unattractive. Don’t talk too much or too loudly, don’t take up too much space, wear makeup, shave your legs, tweeze your eyebrows, etc… It’s all based on whether men will find you attractive or not, because we are taught that one of our main priorities as women is to be considered attractive by men. Maybe we’re not always consciously or overtly considering it, but it is indeed there.

      But the truth is, who gives a shit about being attractive? Why should we live our lives for anyone else’s sake? Why should we have to constantly be monitoring our bodies, our hair, our weight, our clothes, the way we’re standing, the way we’re talking, all for the sake of men finding us attractive?

      Many men feel entitled to women being attractive. If a woman doesn’t fit a man’s standards of beauty, he feels personally wronged. “How dare she have leg hair! Doesn’t she know it makes her ugly? What a disgusting affront to my delicate male sensibilities!” We are conditioned to believe that by not conforming to certain aesthetic standards, we are doing something WRONG. And that is the connection: that women are told what to do with their bodies based on what men want, based on what men will derive the most visual pleasure from, as though we only exist to please them and if we do not, we are not fulfilling our responsibilities as women.

  16. T

    You have taken everything I’ve felt internally about hair and hair removal and expressed it in such a smart and truthful way. I have been blessed/cursed (depends on how you look at it) with more hair than some women. I was one of those girls who was bullied into hair removal as a young teen, maybe 12-13 years old. I was a CHILD and other CHILDREN were judging me for my hair. And I caved and been removing my hair ever since. I have been at constant war with my hair. I’ve plucked, shaved, and waxed – everything and anything. It’s come to the point where I am now doing laser hair removal in hopes of a more permanent solution. Let me tell you, this is no walk in the park. Like waxing, laser can be quite painful. People such as myself (both women and men) are literally TORTURING themselves to conform to this ideal of beauty. It’s fucking nuts and I’m doing it.

    I will admit however, I love being hair-free. For me, there’s nothing better than the feeling of smooth hairless legs and the appearance of it. However I also understand the reason why I feel this way and why I have such a hatred towards my hair. Society has conditioned me and others to think hair is bad and somewhere they’ve made us believe that having hair anywhere other than your head is ugly and unattractive. And unfortunately, ugly is how I feel when I have hair and I hate that.

    I admire women who embrace their hair- who don’t do any form of hair removal. In a society like ours, that takes a lot of strength and “I don’t give a fuck about what other people think” attitude. I wish I was like that, but I’m not. I will admit, I am not strong enough for that but I admire others who can. All I wish is for people to understand that beauty comes in all forms- hair or no hair.

    Thank you for this post. It made my day, it’s absolutely brilliant.

  17. musa

    While I agree with this post I think you left something out. What about in South-east Asia? In my time in Korea, China, Japan and sometimes Vietnam I notcied that the women (and sometimes men) generally had no body hair. no hairy arms, legs and most of them not even armpit hair. So this problem is only really relatable to the west and countries like pakistan, Italy and so on. I went to school in Japan when i was 15 and was so envious of the girls. they had never picked up a razor let alone use one while i was constanly removing my thick dark arm, leg,armpit hair, upper lip hair and so on. I remember constanly wishing I was like them and cursing my parents genectics. I hated being the only girl who had to remove body hair and spend hours on it to every week. girls would give me confused looks and ask while my arms felt so prickly and stubly. they didnt know it was hair growing back because they had never experiance what it felt like! I loved Japan but i have to admit one thing i prefer about being back in the states is that girls openly talked about a drag it was to shave. it feels better about when everyone has to, Im envious of girls in japan since they also dotn have those fine hairs on there face (peach fuzz) they got less acne. they could wake up and just wlak out the door without shaving cleansing . toneing, mosturiseing makeup pimple cream without having to brush there hair and walk out. though i did live in a rural part of japan i have heard in tokyo there alot more focus on makeup and skin routines but still no body hair..

  18. Flannigan

    Hey, I have to say, I think it might be a role model problem, a lot of the time. I was adopted by my grandmother, and I never once saw her shave. When I was about 11, she showed me the stuff and the razor. I used it once. Not well. Didn’t take time with it or anything. Then again when I was fifteen she showed me the stuff again and made me shave. I would shave on and off, not really consistently, and there would always be little hairs. I never waxed. I never even thought about leg hair. I didn’t even think to think people shaved their legs, let alone arms, let alone crotch. Why would you do that? I thought when I finally found out. There was this big kafuffle with my aunt encouraging me to shave. I started on veet. It gave me a skin infection, so I stopped. I hated shaving my legs. I’d have to do it with a razor in the bath, and mostly I left it, on and off, like the armpit hair. Even when I did shave my armpits well, my skin is translucent and you can see the buds underneath. I had women come up to me and tell me I hadn’t shaved good enough. Strangers. So it’s pointless anyway. So at about 19, I stopped shaving my legs. I continued shaving under my arms on and off until about 23. Then I stopped altogether and haven’t shaved since. I have had no problems. I truly believe the hair is there for a reason, and is actually more hygienic than shaving it away. I like it, and I don’t have to bother with razors and all that other annoying, time consuming paraphernalia. But I still think it’s a role model thing whether you care or not.

  19. Pingback: When did you start shaving your legs? | I was a high-school feminist
  20. lisa

    thank you for this great article and thanks to others for some amazing comments. Over the last year i have grown my leg and armpit hair. With summer approaching, I was contemplating shaving again when the weather gets warm (because I will be wearing clothes that show my armpits and legs!)
    But having read your post, i thought “fuck it! i am NOT shaving!”

    I won’t conform to the patriarchal (and capitalist) ideal of beauty any more. I have no doubt that i will get quite a few stares at having body hair when the weather gets warmer.

    I would like to add that it was actually my boyfriend who gave me the confidence to have armpit and leg hair. He tells me all the time that it’s attractive and he is well aware of the pressures on women to look a certain way, and he has actually taught me a lot :)

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