Why is Body Hair Shamed?

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Waxing, shaving, plucking, lasering, however you like to do it; men and women have been doing gymnastics in the bathroom and gazing inches away from a mirror trying to eradicate every last hair from their bodies since (almost) the dawn of time.  Although made popular by modern culture, hair removal is not a new trend – we’ve been doing it for approximately two million years…But why?

It is believed that our hairy ancestors began removing their body hair for survival purposes. It was no longer needed for warmth in the ever increasing climate, it was more beneficial to have less hair for agility in hunting and was considered more hygienic as no bacteria or dirt could get caught in it. A bit further down the line, hair removal was for more aesthetic and fashionable reasons. Ancient Egyptians, Greece and Middle Eastern countries were big on hair removal and their methods of hair removal developed greatly from scraping it with sharp rocks or flint like the cavemen (Ouch!). Egyptians used an early form of waxing, often using bees wax or other sweet, sticky substances to lather onto their skin, pressing a muslin cloth onto the area and ripping it off. Being hairy was seen as uncivilised for both men and women and was often an indication of a lower societal class. American and European women, however, still valued their hairy bodies, and the now popular culture of hair removal in the Western world only really started in the last hundred years or so.

But let’s be honest, hair removal is a real hassle. It costs us thousands of pounds in beauty products and in 2013 Remington, a popular hair care and grooming company, revealed that around 88% of women will spend four months of their entire lives removing unwanted body hair. So why do we do it? The ugly truth is that in today’s society, body hair, specifically on women, is relentlessly shamed. Women are generally expected to be hairless, smooth babies 100% of the time and God forbid one unsightly hair is seen on the female form, it tarnishes your ‘feminine beauty’. Yet images of men in the media are totally the opposite? Beards and long hair on men are glorified and seen as the most attractive and masculine; a symbol of the rugged and sexy alpha male. Social media was over run recently with Instagram pictures of hairy men captioned #beardgang, #beardgamestrong etc. Why is there such a double standard when it comes to body hair? The answer? Patriarchy. At risk of sounding like an angry feminist, I hate to admit that it’s the truth. Beauty standards and gender stereotypes are heavily dictated by the media which is overrun with patriarchal views, with pornography having a huge role to play in the representation of the female body. However, this unjust social construct that oppresses both men and women to act and look a certain way that is often unachievable, can be overcome by exposing it and slowly deconstructing and changing attitudes.

An excellent example of this is the recent and growing trend (excuse the pun) of women growing out their armpit hair and posting pictures on social media to try and break the stigma surrounding female body hair and encourage social acceptance and self-love. Some have even taken to dying their body hair crazy colours! Attitudes towards female body hair is changing and has already come a long way from the Hollywood, bikini wax and hairless era of the nineties and noughties. More and more women are choosing to grow out their body hair without fear of being shamed for it, more women and men are becoming more accepting of body hair, and I love it! However, women that love feeling like a hairless smooth goddess all the time and prefer to remove their body hair are absolutely awesome too! At the end of the day, no one should be shamed for their own personal grooming choices… whether you want to let it grow or let it go. Whatever makes you feel the most beautiful is definitely the best option. Let 2017 be the year for extreme self-love, appreciation and acceptance. 

 

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BA English Student and Features Editor 2016-17

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