How much body hair is normal on a woman?

​You know what I’m sick of?

I’m sick and tired of women’s body hair being called ‘A Problem’, ‘An Issue’ and ‘Embarrassing’.

I am angry that instead of reading articles encouraging women to embrace their unique bodies, all I find are stretches of advice to shave, wax, bleach, remove, laser and hide.

I’m struggling to find the right text combination to express my groaning.

Just call me Chewy

As someone with moonlight pale skin and a head of black hair, I have known the struggle of wrestling with my ‘unfeminine’ body hair.

I started growing leg hair in middle school before most of my friends (in her rigid perception, my Mother didn’t let me shave for a number of years after this. I spent a lot of summers in track pants during this time!). My arm hair is relatively voluminous (so I’ve been told) and I’ll spare you too many other personal details, but I definitely have body hair.

For too many years I twisted my body in all kinds of unusual positions to apply and tear wax strips off myself. Worse than that, was the shame and the never-ending struggle to find swimmers and clothes that covered all the parts of me I had deemed ‘unfeminine’.

One particular memory stands out. It was two in the morning, I was in junior high and puberty had gifted me with some light fuzz on my lower back. It wasn’t coarse, black or ‘excessive’, but it was enough to bring me countless years of shame and hiding. Too ashamed to talk to my Mum or a friend, I scavenged for an old wax strip (having no idea how the whole process really worked!) and slapped it right in the middle of my ‘shame’.

Needless to say, I had no way of effectively removing that strip or the hair. I slowly dragged it up with a few team-playing follicles, before completely giving up (Oh, the pain of a slow wax!!!). I left it hanging half off for the next few days while I figured out how to deal with this little pickle. How did I finish waxing myself without dislocating my shoulder in the process? And how should I deal with the dog hair, dust and shirt fabric amassing on the goop after three days?!

The facade of advertising 

Have you ever noticed that hair removal advertisements only ever show a woman (looking blissful in some uncharacteristically clean bathroom) using their product, ON ALREADY PERFECTLY SHAVED LEGS?

Body hair has become so disgusting, it can’t even be shown on an ad that only exists because of said hair. What?

Seriously, poor advertising. I don’t care if your razor can glide over a freshly waxed, moisturized leg. Give me a demo on a gorilla or a Chihuahua and I’ll buy it.

When body hair is a legitimate issue 

It must be said, for some women, body hair is an issue, because it can indicate PCOS or other hormonal imbalances which can have adverse effects on the body.

This requires medical treatment. If you do notice ‘excess hair’ (excess for you, not ‘excess’ by the media’s standard) along with irregular menstruation and other symptoms, see a doctor for a check-up, because your health is important.

Developing coarse facial hair or uncomfortable growth elsewhere may be a real stress, especially for women who experience this from PCOS. There is no concern in removing hair, but the most important thing to remove (permanently), is the shame attached to female body hair. 

Check out Harnaam Kaur, the self titled ‘Bearded Dame’ for some body hair positivity.  She stars in Embrace, a fantastic body positivity documentary which can be found here

Add porn to the mix

There is nothing wrong with hair removal. As I said, it can be an ease to discomfort, or a personal preference for various reasons. No matter the gender, be as bald or as hairy as you want to be!

I will note however, the increasing trend for feminine baldness (specifically in the vulva region) is undoubtedly influenced by pornography’s growing accessibility.

Porn is  the primary sex educator for men, women, boys and girls under thirty. Young men and women are exposed not only to a range of unhelpful ‘methods’ of intimacy, but bodies that have been perfectly preened, waxed and  made up for hours before the shoot (not to mention the availability of digital manipulation and lighting). Porn is presented as ‘spontaneous’ sex, giving viewers the impression that women’s bodies are always so well prepared and maintained, and always ‘should’ be. This is not reality. Nor necessary.

Anything contrary to what porn presents is often received as ‘gross’ or ‘wrong’. Understandably, when young men and women only see bald, smooth bodies, it is assumed to be the norm. This is certainly no aid in the fight for women’s freedom from the chains of unrealistic beauty standards!

You don’t need to dehair every inch of your body. *The purpose of marital sex is to express oneness, intimacy and self sacrificial love to your spouse in worship to God. It’s not a paid act to allow cameras to view every inch of your vulva and sexual experience for public arousal. Porn baldness serves a purpose you shouldn’t need to worry about in your marriage bed.

You. Are. Normal 

I never realized, in my shame filled, self conscious haze of youth that the sheer amount of anonymous cries for ‘hair help’ online from young women indicated one thing. It was not that body hair is a terrible, life-threatening predicament, but that it is utterly normal for girls navigating Puberty and becoming women to grow body hair from anywhere between their toes to the top of their head (read: lip, chin, arms, legs, vulva, butt, back, legs, nipples…did I miss anything?)

What wasn’t normal, was the humiliating advice to rip, tear, cut and depilatate anything and everything that resembled ‘masculinity’.

Your body, your choice

Make the choice to remove or keep hair for you! What is easier for you? What makes you feel beautiful? What is most convenient for your activities (intimate and otherwise), What causes less harm, less pain and less stress? (if you are married, you may want to discuss expectations with your partner as well).

Perhaps the laser treatment, Brazilian and razor are your choice.

Maybe you need the freedom to let those things go.

Personally, I will continue to use the razor. I confess, this is probably in large part because I’ve been indoctrinated to see this as ‘feminine’, but I do enjoy the perks of soft legs, nice moisturizer and no hairs for my pesky brother to pull at (okay, he stopped doing that when he was fourteen, but still).

I  am happy to acknowledge I’ve been swept up with the culture of ‘femininity’. I remain aware of this, and no longer live in shame about my hair but rather am empowered to make choices for myself and my lifestyle.

The ‘extra stuff’ the internet deems ‘excessive’, like the little happy trail, the infamous back wax patch or that single hair that seems to continue to sprout pluck after pluck on my shoulder- Whatever. I’m done stressing. I have enough fatigue in my life without the constant exhaustion of not being ‘enough’.

And hey, if we’re ever stuck freezing to death on Mount Everest together, come have a cuddle. I might be warmer.

See ya later, body shame.  

*Disclaimer: I am not married, my understanding of marriage and intimacy comes from listening to mentors, friends and helpful Christian and secular sexuality resources. I admit I have much to learn, and know I will only learn some of the complexities when I get there myself. Am I correct? Comment below and let’s discuss! 

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