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Let it Grow

Society’s Issue with Female Body Hair

Samira Rauner

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A lot of us women know this situation: you’ve spontaneously agreed to go to a bar with a friend, or it’s summer and you just need to pop into the supermarket really quickly - but your legs are furry, your armpits hairy. You quickly grab the razor from the shower, prop up a leg on to the sink and start shaving with minimal water, knowing full well that within five minutes your legs will be itchy and covered in hundreds of little red dots.

Why do we take that upon ourselves? Why do we even shave if we find it stressful and annoying? Does it just come down to us feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or just painfully aware of having unshaven legs in public? Or just ashamed of others being aware of our unshaven legs? Why is that?

Looking at history, society has been telling us since the early twenties that female body hair is ‘unwanted’, ‘ugly’, and - according to an ad from the 1930s - would even make us ‘unloved’. With advertisements indoctrinating not just women but also society as a whole that ‘freedom’ is only attainable for women free from ‘unsightly hair on . . . face, arms, underarms and limbs’, it comes as no surprise that female body hair removal has become the social norm.

Yet do we - do you - shave because we genuinely like the feeling of smooth legs rubbing against each other? Or do we shave because it’s something you’ve always done? Because it’s something society expects of us? Because we know that we will be subjected to society’s stares and disgust if we don’t conform?

It is vital for us women to question our motivation behind shaving. How can a clean-shaven female body still be the social standard when all it is based on is the hair-removal market trying to expand and therefore telling women that there’s something wrong with their bodies the way they are? And why are we not uniting and actively challenging those norms?

Even though some women are continuously challenging those standards, when a woman chooses not to shave it is primarily still regarded as a radical feminist act. And though it might be inspired by feminism, what we should see when a woman chooses to grow out her leg and armpit hair is simply that: a woman choosing to grow out her leg and armpit hair.

Removing body hair should be a choice, rather than an imposition. And in the same way, keeping body hair should simply be a choice, instead of embedding it in political and social assumptions.

For the longest time, I felt like shaving my body was simply a choice I made, but I have realized more and more that it is not.

If I feel the need to shave for a quick run to the supermarket, or for a date even though I’m already late and stressed, it is not a choice. What drives me to make that choice is not rationality - it is society’s expectation; it is the pressure that is laid upon me and other women.

In fact, I don’t even know whether I prefer shaving or whether I prefer body hair. I have been shaving ever since the first dark hair popped out of one of the pores in my armpit, and since the mere age of twelve, I haven’t even given my body hair a chance to grow longer than a couple millimetres.

If we don’t let our body hair grow out, how can we even know whether we prefer clean-shaven legs and underarms?

Only by growing out your body hair and going into a supermarket in shorts to show off that hard work will you not only discover for yourself whether you are shaving because of the stares you will be subjected to, or because you genuinely like not having body hair.

But either way, you will actively challenge prevailing social norms laid upon women by corporate greed from the shaving industry.

Ultimately: whether or not you shave is of course entirely irrelevant - the issue is simply that society still disagrees.


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