Last month, my sweet and caring boyfriend decided it would be acceptable to attempt to pull a rogue hair out of my neck, and yes, I am still thinking about this. Listen, I am all about preaching intimacy and normalizing bodily functions within relationships, but this crossed the line. He meant it as an act of endearment, knowing how I feel anxious about my peach fuzz. So if I’m aware he was trying to be helpful and loving, why am I still hung up on this?
Within our capitalist society, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements, products, and treatments that reinforce a feminine ideal, one that states to be hairless is to be beautiful and sometimes our natural bodies are written off as not good enough. We spend hundreds of dollars a month on threading, waxing, razors, and other beauty products that promise us painless ways to remove our hair (which for the record, is not painless). We are told beauty is pain. Beauty is not cheap. Beauty requires hard work and maintenance. From an early age, women are shamed for their peach fuzz. I’m sure many of us can recall the first time our mothers handed us a razor, and told us “never go against the grain.” Regardless of the age you were introduced to this cultural expectation, the removal of body hair is one of the few beauty trends that transcends religion, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
The overall effect of societal norms presents women with a feeling that their natural state is inadequate. This form of “gendered social control” is far from a new phenomenon. At a young age, we were taught to conform to beauty standards. We were shamed if we challenge the status quo. Our behavior reinforces that as young females and people who identify as female, we should blend in rather than dare to stand out.
I can still recall the first time I was teased in school for my body hair. I was told I had a mustache and would be “prettier” if I waxed it. I was told that my hairy legs were unattractive in my lacrosse skirt. I was told that I had to shave my armpits so I wouldn’t be offensive in my basketball uniform, even though I swore the hair did not affect my success rate (or lack thereof) at grabbing rebounds.
This aversion to visible hair on my physical being had a massive effect on my mental and emotional well-being. At the time, my dear mother would console my shattered heart every day after school. She would remind me that I was “beautiful just the way I was,” regardless of what the bullies told me, or what I began to believe about myself. My mother’s efforts eventually turned to alternate options, providing me with a razor and a hug. While I am forever thankful for my mother’s advice and love, I still regret giving in to the bullies so quickly, and as a result, the little-terrified girl that was ridiculed still resides somewhere deep within me.
If I could go back and tell my younger self one piece of advice, I would make sure she knew, she was not alone. You are not alone. Everyone doubts their worth, some aspect of their physical appearance, or their qualifications. While this may not be the physical razor that can shave you, this fact could help you change the way you look at those little whiskers. They are a part of you and you have to try to love yourself.
While I may have been ridiculed for my little fuzz, hopefully, the youth of today will celebrate it in their peers. Times are changing and we must continue to work to redefine what is considered beautiful. While yes, women do still engage in the painful and costly removal process of “excess” body hair, modern culture is slowly redefining beauty expectations. By rejecting shame that is so often associated with natural bodies— fat shaming, transphobia, racism, menstruation, acne, stretch marks and excess — women are able to embrace the importance of self-acceptance earlier. Through digital exposure and the limitless channels on social media, coverage in fashion brands, self-care companies and advertisements, the youth are demanding a more inclusive and radical vision of beauty. Regardless of my inner conflict, it is imperative that I support other women in their quest to self-acceptance. Even if I chose to thread my eyebrows, that doesn’t mean that I believe that women do not have the right to grow them out. Even if I feel an inner conflict about my body hair, we must work together to ensure that women everywhere feel unburdened and confident about their choices so they don’t have to feel guilty about exposing their body hair.
So, to answer my previous question, why am I still hung up on this? I have yet to fully accept my body hair. I am far from perfect. I sit here voicing my discomfort with my little fuzz on my face, but at the end of the day, what we, as women, choose to do with our bodies is our choice. And if we choose to rock a little stache or wax it off once a week that’s us for us to choose and not for society to dictate. But by acknowledging my inner conflict, I am hoping to slowly rid myself of the scared little girl inside of me. I invite you to take this journey along with me and free yourself for feeling ashamed into something that is natural and beautiful.
Feature image via Stocksy