My eyelashes are easily my favorite thing about my physical appearance. They are longer and thicker than some of the fake eyelashes that I’ve seen in drugstores, they never need any mascara, and they require literally zero maintenance to look as gorgeous as they do. However, when anyone expresses any jealousy or desire to have similar lashes, I always remind them that there’s a big trade off: intense body hair. It makes sense logically – if the hair on my eyelids is long and thick, so is the hair everywhere else. While I’ll always be thankful that I can give a great butterfly kiss, the other consequences of having lots of body hair have been nothing less than challenging and often debilitating.Read more: Body hair’s lack of space in society
My parents both have naturally dark hair, so it was no surprise to anyone when I was born with a full head of hair. I was very subjectively the cutest baby that had ever walked the earth, but when the hair started growing on my arms, legs, and pretty much everywhere else, I was quickly made aware that something was “wrong” with me.
My elementary school bus bullies tormented me for my body hair, labeling me a gorilla and taunting me with gorilla sounds day in and day out. I knew that there were 2 or 3 other girls in my grade in elementary school that also had a bit of body hair, but they didn’t experience any of the same bullying because they were ~popular~. It was the most isolating experience my little ten-year-old self could fathom.
My parents saw how much this destroyed me and helped me try to accept this part of myself. This was a difficult feat for them, as I’ve been stubborn and impossible to convince since day one. Plus, if the school bus bullies zeroed in on it so much, it had to matter, right?
My mom and dad thus looked into the additional approach of helping me find ways to minimize this hair. They invested more money than I can even imagine into monthly laser hair removal treatments. My mom helped me on a biweekly basis to apply bleach to the hair on my arms, stomach, and chest (yes, girls can grow hair there). Lasers and bleaching were extremely painful, and they honestly didn’t help too much in getting rid of the hair long term.
I tried to wear T-shirts into the ocean because I was insecure about the hair in every bikini area ever. I eventually worked my way up to tankinis and bikinis, but I still spent hours upon hours trying to pluck, shave, Nair, bleach, or laser the hair away before I dared to go to the beach.
I didn’t go as far as I could have with high school boyfriends because I didn’t want them to see hair in places that girls were supposed to be super smooth in.
Even years after the bullies subsided and I went to college feeling like the most confident version of myself, I still maintained my weekly hair removal routines, occasional laser appointments, and frequent crying sessions anytime someone mentioned how much arm hair I had.
While I think I’ve gotten to a point where this insecurity doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to, there are still moments when it drives me absolutely insane. A few days before this past semester ended, I saw someone at my school post on social media about being insecure about their body hair. I didn’t know this person too well, but I still felt like I should reach out and offer the advice they said they were seeking. I later found out that they posted that message during a drinking game as a dare. While I laughed it off in the moment, this made me feel like absolute dog shit. To know that I felt so genuinely bad for this person for feeling the same insecurity that I’ve felt my whole life, only to find out it was all a mindless joke for them, was awful. While I really don’t hold any animosity toward this specific person, I do hold a lot of animosity toward the society that made this person feel like that was okay to post.
Our society has made immense strides toward body positivity, but this is an area that is falling way behind. Most morally decent people would never make a post like that if it had to do with weight insecurity, but for whatever reason, people still think body hair is okay to joke about.
There is no room in society for the girl who has PCOS or Hirsutism who has to shave her beard every day to feel like she fits the feminine mold. There is no place in society for the hairy girl who wants to experience her hot girl summer but doesn’t have the time or mental energy to do a full body hair removal routine before going on a date. There is no room for girls who shave their legs because they simply want to but don’t shave their arms because they simply don’t want to.
If someone has grown out body hair, they’re automatically assumed to be a radical who is trying to fight against the patriarchy. While I completely respect the people who are fighting the fight that way, some of us just want to exist without having our body hair mean anything deep. That group is who I want to dedicate this post to: The girls who have fought for so long to fit the feminine, hairless expectation and are just tired of giving a fuck. The girls who shave where/when they want to. The girls who have worked hard to love, or at the very least, accept, their hairy and simultaneously beautiful selves. You don’t owe the world smooth legs, but you also don’t owe the world a political statement about your unshaved legs. You deserve to exist and not worry about shaving when you’re running late one day solely so that a Karen doesn’t look at you with judgment.
I hope that one day, body hair is not viewed as something worth loving or hating, but instead something that just exists. There are so many bigger and more consequential issues in the sphere of bodily autonomy right now than what a girl decides to do with her hair follicles, but I nonetheless feel compelled to encourage this conversation. I don’t want another girl to shy away from the ocean in fear of having her tummy hair exposed. You’re meant to feel the ocean waves with every part of your body – a body that is beautiful not in spite of having hair, not because it has hair, but simply in addition to having hair.