So, Miss W has been wondering whether or not to write this post for a few days now. When she mentioned the topic to her friend, he just said, well, if you want to write about that, then just write it, you can write whatever you want, even if you want to fill your page with “c*ck, c*ck, c*ck” (cue childish nervous laughter à la Homer Simpson). So here goes.
I have always had quite a firm view on this issue, but when I read this article by Emer O’Toole in The Guardian, it made me really think about it. The issue is hair; of the body type.
When I was quite young, maybe around 8 or so, I distinctly remember being laughed at at school because of the extremely fine and hardly black, hairs on my arms and legs. This made me feel my incipient hair was disgusting. When I turned 11 and we moved to the UK I suddenly discovered that all the girls in my secondary school were obsessed with shaving their arms, legs, arm pits, and plucking eye brows into barely visible lines. At the time I didn’t have access to any of the instruments of torture these girls used to tame their hair, so I couldn’t do much about mine (not that it was bad, particularly).
However,the following summer at my auntie’s house in France I came across a razor that one of my older cousins must have left in the shower, and I decided it was time to test its depilatory powers. I completely miscalculated how much pressure I had to put on the razor for it to work and cut a substantial gash into my leg. I didn’t dare tell any of the adults about my adventure so I walked around for a week or so with toilet roll stuck onto the wound held up by my sock. I still have the scar.
Ever since then I always wondered exactly why women had to be submitted to removing all their hair except on their heads and men could get away with being hairy oafs. Why is a hairless woman perceived as more attractive?
Women’s hair removal isn’t a modern phenomenon. In ancient Egypt women removed all their hair, even on their heads, with implements such as sea shell tweezers and beeswax. In ancient Roman society removing hair was a sign of high status, with hairy people being considered slaves or servants. So, hair removal was not just for women but also for men. In Europe women didn’t really start shaving until Elizabethan times when they removed their eyebrows and shaved the top part of their hair to reveal a longer forehead. They didn’t remove any of their leg, armpit or pubic hair. In the 1880s the Gillette razor appeared, and being hairless became much easier from then on.
In 1915 the first razor specifically for women appeared. This advert in Harpers Bazaar was the first to have a woman showing her bare underarm. The idea of hair being “objectionable” is hilarious.
Hair has historically also been removed to stop the spreading of lice and other disease. Think army haircuts…
Anyway, so as you can see, removing hair isn’t a new thing. The public still obsesses over hairy women, just remember Julia Robert’s “chinchilla” in 1999…
There seems to be a resurgence of celebrities embracing their body hair. Last year Lena Dunham posted on Instagram that one of her to do things was to grow armpit hair.
And Miley Cyrus dyeing her underarm hair pink…
And Bart Simpson’s hairy aunt Selma…
I came across this story online about a woman who was shamed on twitter because of her hairy belly. Ok, she does have a pretty hairy belly, but what the heck, I’ve seen guys that are a lot hairier than her, and they aren’t told they look like chewbacca. If this girl is happy with her hair, why should anyone question it? Why is it so wrong for women to have hair?
Why should women have to torture themselves (have you ever tried waxing??) because of society’s beauty ideals? Hair removal also has risks such as infection, ingrown hairs, cuts…don’t even get me started on Brazilian waxes, which quite frankly we can do without. I don’t object to anyone removing all their body hair if they want to, but I don’t think women should feel obligated to do it. If a woman feels good about her body and she is confident, then she shouldn’t constantly have to battle against what nature created.
All this isn’t to say that Miss W is against hair removal; she does it too, particularly in the summer, but what Miss W hates is for anyone to feel like they need to conform to an ideal. Also, the price of women’s razors and hair removal products is just insane… Miss W often asks herself why women need an extra special pink razor which costs twice as much as the men’s razors and does exactly the same job.
So, remove your hair if you want to, or don’t, but don’t shame anyone into thinking that having hair, on any part of their body, is wrong.