Body Hair: Why Do They Care?
Originally Published: March 13, 2022
Revised: March 13, 2022
In my fourth grade science class, two boys pointed at the hair on my upper lip, making fun of my “mustache.” They called over all their friends to stare and laugh at my face. I felt so embarrassed.
The second I got home from school that day, I tried to shave away the wisps of hair growing under my nose with an eyebrow razor I found in my mom’s makeup purse. I had never really looked at the hair on my face before that and now, it was all I could see.
Thinking back, I realize how strongly my classmates’ reaction to my body hair impacted what I believed to be “normal.” I know now that the idea that there is a set way people should look in order to be viewed as “masculine” or “feminine” is shifting. But it’s hard not to care when being judged.
Recently, I’ve been exploring my relationship with my body hair to take steps toward being more comfortable with it.
There is more than one way to be a girl.
Waxing, Shaving, Threading
After fourth grade, my insecurities continued to grow. In middle school, my closest friends shared new trends they saw on Pinterest about at-home hair removal hacks. They were all getting their eyebrows and armpit hair waxed by the time they were thirteen.
My friends were well versed in the world of waxing, shaving, Nair and threading. I was starting to feel left out, overwhelmed by how much information I seemed to have missed out on.
I noticed that both at school and home, there was a difference in the expectations for boys compared to girls. In middle school, the boys bragged about being able to grow the same upper lip hairs they’d teased me for a few years before. And my mom would tell me when I wore tank tops or swimsuits that it was embarrassing to have hairy armpits. But my brother never received the same treatment.
Going into high school, I decided to shave my legs. To be honest, it wasn’t a choice I made completely for myself. I felt enormous pressure to meet expectations set by peers, my mom and social media.
I was already self-conscious about my body hair and having a boyfriend for the first time my freshman year only made it worse. I was scared that my partner would think I was gross and judge me. I was stressing out over my physical appearance, convincing myself any compliments I might receive made shaving “worth it.”
Not the Only One
I recently reached out to some friends to see if they could relate. Turns out, they could.
“I have always been self-conscious about my body hair,” says my friend Sarah, 18, of Princeton, NJ. Her sense of shame stems from “people pulling at the hair on my arms at a young age” and “feeling the need to shave my pubic hair for any sexual encounters.” Sarah’s description of being self-conscious about both the hair on areas anyone can see and the hair on more intimate parts of the body, like pubic hair, resonated for me, too.
My friend, Emily, 16, also of Princeton, NJ, shared her body hair anxieties, too. “I coordinate my outfits so that it hides my hair if I don’t shave,” she says. Through talking with Emily, I became more aware of how I used to plan outfits based on a schedule of when I shaved as well. The winter was usually when I felt relief, knowing I could save time by not shaving.
Talking with Emily and Sarah made me feel less alone and deepened my understanding of the various ways people can feel ashamed about their bodies.
Earlier in the pandemic, I made the decision to stop shaving. With remote learning the new norm, I realized I had been shaving not for myself, but to please others’ views of what they saw as “normal.” Shaving was an attempt to remove fears that people were going to point out my body hair and judge me, questioning my femininity. But I don’t feel any less female for not meeting gender expression expectations such as shaving body hair. There is more than one way to be a girl.
Learning to embrace my body hair is an ongoing journey. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in better understanding that whether or not I remove it is up to me and not for others to decide.
I’m continuing to keep my legs unshaven. From time to time, I still have insecurities. For instance, armpit hair causes more hesitation, making me wary of raising my arms. For the future, I want to work on being even more confident in my body and not worry what people may think.
Your appearance should be your choice. We shouldn’t shame people for their decision to either remove or keep their hair, which is a natural part of our bodies. Ultimately, you should choose to do what makes you feel comfortable, confident and true to yourself. I’ll keep trying, too.
Photo by Victoria Alexandrova on Unsplash
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