by Jade Rhode
Hair is meant to protect the human body. If this is the case, why do most women feel the need to remove it?
"[The word] 'hairy' is a social construct like race and culture,” says a former student from the University Still Known As Rhodes (USKAR). “It’s used to form a standard of what 'normal' is and being hairy diverts from the norm. Hair was never a choice; it is a part of our biological makeup. Society has created this fucked up paradigm for women, that in order to be beautiful, you need to be hairless as fuck.”
So, the question is, where did these thoughts come from? Here’s some history on body hair removal in the 1900s.
In the early 1900s, women were being pressured to shave their armpits, all in the name of fashion. While sleeveless dresses were becoming a 1920s trend, society pushed for bare armpits. In 1915, popular magazine Harper’s Bazaar even went as far as deeming the bareness a “necessity.” 20 to 30 years later, fashion continued to play a role in body hair removal. This time, the focus was on legs.
Due to the shortage of nylon fabric in World War II, women were running out of stockings, forcing them to bare their (socially accepted) shaved legs. In regard to pubic hair, the 60s and 70s saw women embrace the bush! The 80s and 90s however, were a different story. Pubic areas shown in videos and photos – be it in porn or fashion images – were trimmed or completely bare. Unlike the decades before, the 80s and 90s did not force women to get rid of their hair. But because of pop culture constantly showing women sans hair, society followed suit.
Pop culture still has an impact on our decisions today. Thankfully, women of the 21st century have more freedom voicing their opinions than ever before. I spoke to a few people to ask their opinions on body hair on women.
First-year student Jody (19) from USKAR said, “I’m one of those girls who have a lot of hair all over. Growing up, I’ve had a lot of mixed opinions about it. Sometimes women – older women – would tell me, 'that’s not how it’s supposed to be.' Like my legs needed to be shaved, my arms, my back, because it does not look appealing. But sometimes I’d get compliments from guys [who found it sexy.] [As I matured], I started to accept the fact that I had hair all over… I shave as well by the way. [Overall], I’ve accepted it and I’ve come to embrace it. It’s one of the things that make me, me.”
Body hair can also be attractive in different cultures. Another student at USKAR, who prefers to remain anonymous, said, “…It does not bother me at all. [In Zulu culture], when guys are describing a beautiful lady, they would describe a person that has body hair. Mostly on the face and the legs, the places that are visible to everyone. One of my friends is hairy and she embraces it, and I like it. [Body hair] is one of the most natural things which shows natural beauty.”
After speaking to a few men about the matter, one of them said, “Isn’t it natural? I don’t find it attractive or not attractive. It’s something that wouldn’t bother me. If you’re worried about hair on a women’s body, then why aren’t you worried about the hair on their heads? I think everybody should just take a chill pill.”
A former fashion student named Keegan (22) also shared her opinion and said, “Do you boo! If you want body hair and you’re a woman… Go for it! Set your own beauty standards. Why should your life be dictated by not only what men think but what everyone [else] thinks?”
We spoke to a married couple – who’d prefer to stay anonymous – about their opinions on body hair on women. “I used to be super shy about [my body hair] but now I’m quite comfortable with it.”, said the wife. “I asked [my husband] what he thinks of my leg hair because I’ve been growing them. He said he doesn’t feel anything about them. He doesn’t feel like “oooh I love it”, but he also doesn’t feel like “oooh that’s gross.” He’ll feel the same way if it was shaven. It’s just not something he thinks about.
It’s great to hear that in the 21st century, many people are in support of body hair on women. We’ve heard countless times that body hair is natural, therefore, we should not be ashamed of our body’s protector. Model and actress Emily Ratajkowski once wrote in an essay for Harper’s Bazaar (the same magazine that deemed bare armpits a “necessity”) saying, “Body hair is another opportunity for women to exercise their ability to choose.” Whether it’s for hygiene purposes or for comfort, removing your body hair is totally your choice!