Hello there, lady on the Victoria line. I see you staring; your eyes flicking up to catch my eye, checking that I’m aware of my unsightly situation. Go on then: let’s talk about my hairy legs.
About a year ago, a university student wrote a piece for her campus newspaper about giving up on body-hair removal. It caused an absolute uproar. Who was this crazy girl and what on earth had possessed her to do such a horrific thing?! She casually wrote about only waxing/shaving her bikini line when she goes on holiday because she wanted to feel nice at the beach, otherwise she didn’t give a toss about how hairy she was. Men have hairy bodies – usually a lot thicker and darker than most women’s – and nobody questions it. Obviously this is not a new phenomenon, but many still consider it unsightly for women to rock their natural locks. I think it’s high time we started owning our body hair and rocking that gender equality we’ve all been fighting for – even if it seems a trivial matter in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve shaved my legs once since September 2015. I shaved them on that day because it was my graduation and I think I felt socially obliged. Since then, I’ve shaved them once for a party. Yes, on that first night you go to sleep and think ‘hell yes, I feel like a goddamn dolphin’ but then you wake up the next day, or the day after that, and you’ve started to sprout little prickly stubs. That’s not fun. My skin also gets really dry as soon as I start to shave so it’s like an endless Catch 22:
Shave Feel like a dolphinGet elephant-style dry skinStubble CityEven longer Stubble CityRepeat steps 1-5
… and repeat, and repeat, until the day you drop dead.
That is, however, unless you decide that you don’t actually give a toss about letting your body do exactly what it’s meant to do. Hair is there for a reason. It keeps you warm, protects you from infections (sexual or otherwise) and other evil forces. I’ve started to view it like this: why should I stop my body from doing what it naturally wants to do? The hair on my calves is a fair bit darker than that on my thighs, probably because I’ve predominantly only shaved my calves when I have been bothered to ‘sort my legs out’. I feel like that’s nature’s way of telling me to leave them in peace. At a distance, you can’t even see the hair. If anything, I feel like when you squint, the hairs make me look a little bit more tanned than I actually am – my own personal fake’n’bake.
I shave my armpits but that’s mainly because I work in a restaurant and I wouldn’t want anyone’s – regardless of gender – sweaty armpit hairs in my face when they plopped my food in front of me. Once I’ve done my last shift at the restaurant and I’m packing my rucksack for India, I’m going to go full traveler-chic and grow out my glorious pit-hair. I’m slightly tempted to bleach it blonde at some point too, because why not?
The thing is, this all probably just started because I’m too lazy to keep up to date with mowing my multiple lawns every three days. Armpits take two seconds so that’s probably half the reason why I keep them trim, but that’s as far as I’ll be going for a while.
The rise in removing women’s body hair started in the late ’80’s / early ’90’s when the porn industry began to showcase hairless vaginas, saying a quick sayonara to the much-loved bush. When I was a teenager and puberty started to do its thing, one of my first concerns was how I would get rid of the hair in my pants.
As soon as I got my hands on my own razor, I went to town: arms, calves, thighs, fanny and pits. I wanted everything off. I looked down at myself and thought it was glorious. I felt like a slippery seal and I thought it would last forever. Three days later, I was proven wrong. My vagina began to resemble a plucked dead chicken, and my arms and legs felt like hedgehogs were forcing their way up through my skin. It was horrible. The hair came back thicker and darker than it had been before and a sinking feeling made its way to the pit of my stomach. I realised that, A) I suddenly missed the hair I’d been so disgusted by, and B) I was now going to have to keep up this timely ritual day after day to keep up the one-day-long seal-look that I was now so fond of. Cheers, Playboy.
It was a few years later when I began to ease off the shaving. The arms were the first I allowed to regrow, now resembling a balding man’s comb-over because of how dark they had become. Next came the legs – I’d still shave them when I wore shorts or dresses, but otherwise I wasn’t really fussed. Then, upon beginning to become sexually comfortable in my own skin, I embraced the pubes. Don’t get me wrong – it took a while. I remember once apologising to someone for not having shaved “down there”, to which he replied, "Ah, don’t worry. I really couldn’t care less." That was when I realised that it was probably playing a lot heavier on my mind than anyone else’s.
Bar one, no one I’ve been with has mentioned or (openly) cared about my body hair. The anomaly brushed his hand up my leg hairs one morning and casually commented, “Feminist legs, eh?” I took that as a compliment and replied, “Damn right.”
The raging feminist in me says: you can do whatever the hell you want with your body, it’s yours after all! If you wanna fly like a bald-eagle then that’s your prerogative, sister! However, if you’re going bare down there because you feel like it’s otherwise unacceptable, or because someone you’ve been with says they prefer a bald minge, then perhaps that’s The Man being a bit of a dick-tator. I say ‘stick it to The Man’ and grow your lady-garden as wild and free as you goddamn want it to be.