It's summertime (or so we've been led to believe) and that can
only mean one thing: the epic chore that is the removal of body
hair. Don't get me wrong, I love the heat and the sun, but I dread
that tipping point on the celsius scale after which continuing to
wear black skinny jeans becomes a public proclamation of insanity,
not to mention a sweat-fest.
I've persisted for whole summers without giving in and admitting
that bare legs are the way forward but I can tell you now, peeling
off those bad-boys after a hot day out is not for the
I gave up shaving my legs a couple of years ago and I never give a
moment's thought to their downy fur - that is until summer reminds
me that everybody else is going to look at me as though I'm Stig of
the Dump. The thing is, I like looking natural and I resent the
beauty industry for having normalised the idea that a woman's body
is ugly before the removal of 'unwanted' body hair.
We've all internalised this fear of our own post-pubescent
hirsuteness to the point where most women wouldn't dream of
stepping out of the house withshaven armpits, regardless of whether
or not they question the ridiculous standards held up by the beauty
I've heard so many feminists leap to defend their own shaving
practices with the classic, 'but I genuinely prefer my body
hairless' argument - but nobody grows up in a vacuum.
You'd think that since the unrealistic ideal of feminine
hairlessness comes from a predominantly straight culture, lesbian
and bi women would be immune to its influence. Far from it - aside
from my ex-girlfriend I've rarely met a lesbian who didn't
religiously shave and trim every patch of lady garden that dared to
sprout. Can you imagine if on Lip Service, Heather Peace lifted her
arm to reveal a great patch of ladyfuzz? On the BBC,
You'd think, as lesbians we'd be able to stomach looking at a real
woman. Much as I love the show, it depresses me that its creators
weren't brave enough to step outside of the mould for representing
women in shows aimed at a straight audience.
I'm not a fetishist - it's not that I'm 'into' hairy women or
anything - I'm just a plain old feminist who thinks that it's wrong
that women are conditioned to believe they can't step out in public
without waxing themselves to within an inch of their lives.
Men aren't expected to endure the same pressure. Sure, there's
some face-shaving involved (so I hear) but there's hardly a
national outcry if a man dares to appear in public with a bit of
stubble. No one would slip their thirteen year old son a tube
of Veet and go, 'nip 'em in the bud now or else no one will love
Just compare the way gossip rags attack women the second a bit of
armpit fuzz is caught on camera - 'Forgot to shave, Beyonce?! The
AUDACITY!' The suggestion that someone 'forgot' to shave -
the slovenly girl - indicates the extent to which shaving is not
considered an aesthetic choice but an essential part of
successfully being a woman.
And yet despite rejecting this I still feel a wave of relief every
day that the weather is still cool enough for jeans.