Over time, women’s body hair has been a large topic of conversation, becoming less about personal preference and more of a political statement. The popularity of women’s body hair has changed drastically, from hairlessness being a sign of class in Renaissance times, to women having to remove hair for hygiene reasons when pubic lice was about. A lot of these historical connotations are the reason for modern stigma, for example, pubic hair being seen as less hygienic (which, of course, is untrue now that pubic lice are less common).
From 1972, body hair has become a symbol of feminism, representing the fight for gender equality, and in 2015 the trend came back in the contemporary feminist movement with “#armpithairdontcare” trending on social media. Many celebrities, over the past few years, have publicly posted about not shaving their hair, armpit hair specifically, and the popularity of the average woman also not shaving has risen. Having body hair being less stigmatized today than it was in the past, means many important topics are now being raised. For instance, the issue of razor companies portraying already cleanly shaved legs in their adverts and the porn industry often only portraying cleanly shaved women, which can cause problems with young people learning about sex and body hair. It is so important that topics like these are addressed and openly spoken about, especially when body hair can be considered such a personal topic.
While queuing for the showers at Reading Festival this year, one of my best friends asked me “why are you shaving at a festival?” clearly disapproving of my decision. In a seminar I had first year, the girl next to me proclaimed that women only shave “for men” and so it was “completely unnecessary” to do so in the modern world. While, yes, shaving historically may have been to be aesthetically pleasing to men, that is not why I was doing it. I think it’s important in our society to not go too extreme in the other direction. Yes, it’s incredible that we have made so much progress that shaving is not seen as a necessity. But, does this mean that women now shouldn’t shave?
Since I was around 13 years old, my friends and I have been shaving our bodies, and talking about it openly with each other. It became a normal topic, nothing scary or taboo, and I feel quite lucky that this is the environment I grew up in. I shave because it is my choice, and it always has been. However, I am aware that this is a privilege I have. In different circumstances, such as if I had been shamed into removing my body hair, and thought it was necessary to be seen as ‘attractive’ then the line of personal choice becomes more blurred, which is why movements such as “#armpithairdontcare” are so important.
But, for me, shaving my legs, my armpits, or wherever I choose, is also important for me to feel good about myself. I think it’s important to also acknowledge this when talking about the contemporary feminist movement. I am not shaming people for shaving or not shaving. My point here is that we have fought so long for equality and for a choice about what to do with our body hair. Feminism is entirely about equality so that we can all make our own choices. If you want to be hairless from top to toe, do it! If you want to grow your body hair all over, do it! It’s none of my business what you choose to do, it’s your choice, and as long as it’s for yourself, that’s all that really matters.