When it comes to body ideals and beauty standards, we have come so far. From body-positive movements in fashion to skinny no longer being the standard (France banned unhealthily thin models in 2017) to ‘plus-sized’ mannequins becoming the norm (although the ‘big’ mannequin in the Nike London flagship store caused an uproar). In beauty, darker-skinned girls are (finally!) getting more foundation hues formulated for them. But what exactly are we doing about how we view body hair?
We are covered in hair follicles, and body hair is obviously necessary to our body. Science has dictated that we need body hair for all sorts of purposes such as keeping cool and even sensing the space around us. It’s very much a part of us and our body, yet society seems to make sure that women (and women only) should remove their body hair in order to adhere to beauty standards.
Historically, according to History Undressed, hair removal was a signifier of cleanliness in the ancient Roman Empire, as well as Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was also a signifier of class — but only for women. Men could wear their hair however they liked (!!!).
“I’ve always been a hairy girl even before puberty — from my arms to my legs. Pubic hair removal was my own choice though. It was never something I wanted to do to impress my partner or try to fit in,” says Jane, 24, a social media executive. As to why she would remove hair, she explained, “I never had a problem with having pubic hair but Brazilian waxing was something that intrigued me and I decided to give it a try at 22. My intimate area felt great so I decided to have it done monthly.” Is this society speaking, or personal choice?
Fast forward to 2020 and it feels like not much has changed, and we’re removing hair for aesthetic reasons, feeling self-conscious and doing it because it’s the norm. “I used to feel very insecure about my body hair and what people used to say about it because I'm hairy AF,” admits Liana, 25, a sale executive.
“When it comes to removing hair, I do shave my underarm hair. My arms and legs? Hell no. Why must I please people like that? It’s my body,” Liana adds. While some people admitted that it stemmed from insecurities (people tend to comment on body hair a lot more in Asian societies compared to non-Asian cultures) sometimes there’s a conscious choice to remove hair due to other factors. It could be habit, inclination or some sort of stigma that we never knew we had. It could be because of the normalisation of hairless women that we see in the media and around us. “Admittedly, I still do Brazilians even though I’m not in a relationship or anyone would ever ‘see’ it. For some reason I’m also not OK with having excessive hair either on women or men. I’d say it’s a byproduct of society brainwash that can’t be reversed!” says Jeya, 28, a marketing manager.
“I’m an open-minded person... but when it comes to armpit hair, I still find it a big no-no. No matter what, I still find it weird and have a hard time accepting it even though I’m young and it’s already 2020!” says Liana.
BEAT AROUND THE BUSH
There’s no doubt that there needs to be a hairvolution. Carole, 34, a retail manager says that she would like to see more acceptance of body hair for women. “We should just feel comfortable by having body hair. It’s freedom. Men can freely show their hairs, why not women? We are all human,” she tells #TeamCLEO.
Yet it’s normal that we are also targets of and byproducts of marketing campaigns. Hair removal is still portrayed as this “necessary” aesthetic or beauty ritual. “Unfortunately, the beauty industry still markets body hair removal as means to impress our partners in bed or associates hair with being ‘dirty’. I wish that would change and people will grow to accept their bodies, should they choose to remove their body hair or not,” says Jane.
“I think hair removal on any part of the body should be something you decide to do for yourself and not to be ‘accepted’, or fit into perceptions of beauty. If a person decides to grow their body hair, we shouldn’t question or tease them for it,” says Jeya.
Ultimately, ask yourself — are you comfortable? It really just stems with what you want to do.
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