Words by: Eden Hopgood
Here we are in 2022, and female body hair somehow continues to be taboo. Having permeated gender dynamics for centuries, it’s always been regarded as yet another beauty standard women are expected to abide by, and a lack of body hair in the female-identifying population has long signified the ‘ideal body’. But this has begun to shift. More attention in the beauty industry is being given to gender fluidity, body positivity, and more inclusive messaging. In recent years, norms are finally beginning to shift; almost one in four women under 25 no longer shave their armpits, compared with just one in 20 in 2013.
We’ve been fed a narrative that body hair on females is disgusting — yet we don’t bat an eyelid at the same hair on male-identifying individuals. In fact, it’s almost a masculine feature they seem to strive towards. “You really should shave your armpits, it’s very unhygienic”, or “do you even shower?” are questions only reserved for unshaved female body hair.
The first woman I was exposed to who wasn’t afraid of their natural body hair was my mum. From a young age, my naive self was socialised to think that female body hair was gross and something I needed to avoid to be conventionally pretty. To my disdain, this desensitised me to the hurtful and cruel comments I would make, like “Mum, you need to shave”. Despite her plight to convince me of the empowerment of embracing your body hair, my pre-teen self (who barely even needed to shave) was already convinced that it was dirty and undesirable.
Upon further reflection, my prepubescent eagerness to begin shaving is now incredibly confronting and confusing to me. It shines a light on how deeply entrenched in society the idea is that no body hair is desirable. From a young age, this was a mindset forced upon my impressionable brain — a mindset which, admittedly, I kept up until quite recently. I try not to beat myself up about this, because it’s extremely hard to break away from the toxic beauty standards pushed onto us as young females. It’s much easier to conform with the majority and go along with it, for better or for worse.
Despite this, the recent shift in the view of body hair has been largely influenced by the media, with celebrities embracing their own body hair on a big scale. This change has been globalised by social movements such as Januhairy and Get Hairy February, which encourage females to rally together by sharing images and stories about their body hair, and why they have decided to stop shaving. More and more female figures are also beginning to rock body hair on red carpets, photo shoots and social media. Celebrities such as Bella Thorne, Miley Cyrus and Drew Barrymore are just a few notable names that have felt shameless in showing the hair on their bodies to the masses. It’s undeniable: their influence is second to none.
I am by no means suggesting that every woman shouldn’t shave! Liberation of your body looks different for everyone, and acknowledging that people choose to shave based on personal preference rather than sheer conformity is really important. The key thing, though, is giving female-presenting individuals the chance to self-reflect — are you making self-informed decisions, or are you being pushed by society’s idea of what is attractive? If the decisions aren’t based on doing what makes you feel comfortable, or as a means of self-love and care, maybe it’s time to think about why it is that we’re making these choices. What I’m really getting at here: step away from making decisions rooted in toxicity and heteronormative societal ideals, and instead live and make decisions just for you!
Since moving to Melbourne, I have met some of the first people my age who are enthusiastically embracing their body hair. They view their body hair as sexy, liberating and powerful, focusing on how it adds to, rather than takes away from, their appearance. In turn, I started seeing my own hair in that way. A razor hasn’t touched my underarms for a while now, and I still feel just as beautiful. And the crazy thing? No one loves me less, treats me worse, or views me as any lesser than because of it, despite my greatest fears.