A self-experiment in body hair

Today I’m sharing my most recent leap of courage; something I’m still testing out, and for lack of a better word is a bit of a prickly subject- growing my body hair.

It began with a video 6 weeks ago now that was shared amongst the Feathersome family, which questioned why being ‘bald’ was considered feminine in today’s society. The thought-provoking video raised some interesting points, and so I found myself not buying a new razor or booking more laser appointments, in agreement that it is, in fact, an expensive, inconvenient and often irritating ritual to perform- one that shouldn’t be associated with my femininity.

Since then, it has spurred a number of interesting reflections and conversations, some ideas of which I want to unpack here.

Well firstly to a lighthearted point, in the course of a month alone I saved 2 hours and $50 on hair removal- extrapolating this to a year and I’m looking at flights to Italy – if that isn’t food for thought, I don’t know what is.

Secondly, I have come to understand that my own perception of body hair is more complicated and rigid than I originally thought. Whilst rationally I know that having, or not having hair doesn’t inform who I am as a person, there is a defiant part of me that screams ” it isn’t normal”, and by not subscribing to this norm I will be looked at and judged for it. I sway between feeling liberated and empowered, to being unsure and even put-off by my own reflection, and each time I conquer one box like singlets or shorts I’m facing up 10 more- togs, dresses, heels, corporate attire …  Why does the addition of body hair change how I see and feel about myself in clothes?

But I press on because it’s now about principle, and I’m determined to challenge myself on this, to see my own hair as normal, not gross, unprofessional, unhygienic, un-feminine, not unlike my brothers. So while I find myself slowing unlearning this behaviour, I am also asking why it is one in the first instance? Why do we condition women to groom themselves, to remove their body hair?  This learned behaviour is so ingrained that I see myself and other women questioning if it is in fact just a personal preference? We don’t have to look hard though to see fashion, media, advertising and even porn all reflecting this idea back on us. Quite simply we live in a society with strong norms around women’s body hair, and as social creatures, we innately want to be liked and to fit in- both on a conscious and subconscious level.

More closely to home I have also become attuned to how friends and family reinforce this idea to me. From all the comments, jokes and honest conversations I have had about women’s body hair in the last month, one clear theme emerges; aesthetic. It’s apparent that a large portion of people in my life value women’s hairlessness on being aesthically pleasing, and by way, associate femininity with having no body hair.  In as much as this speaks to society more broadly, we do see waves of body hair movements in different generations and cultures as the aesthetic of women’s hair grooming shifts with new trends.

Beyond the connotations of femininity, body hair is also largely linked to masculinity for men. Whilst I believe to a lesser degree, they too are subject to societal norms and pressures pertaining to the state of their body hair.

What started as a bit of a fun self-experiment, letting go and letting my body hair grow has opened my eyes to the superficial and suffocating standards that we project on women and men in society. And whilst there is no denying the satisfaction of a silky smooth leg, I really want it to be that reason, and that reason alone why I spend any more time or money on hair removal. Watch out Italy!

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