I am a hairy woman. I started asking for laser hair removal on my 11th birthday. I was obsessed with it. It made me sweat more, it made me wear long sleeves in the heat of summer, and never go swimming without shorts over top after my 15th birthday.
I can’t remember anyone ever making fun of me for it, but for some reason it completely consumed me, and my definition of being a woman.
When I had my daughter, I had completely lost track of the hair situation on my legs- and rightfully so, if you ask me, I could barely wipe my own ass, let alone worry about the backs of my thighs (that’s where it’s the worst), or my bikini line. Even as I was pushing this enormous kid out of the pin hole, I was worried about the hair on my body. Recently I began thinking about why this is- it wasn’t pressure from my parents, it wasn’t pressure from my friends… it was all ME!
My daughter is now 2.5 and ever since the beginning she has LOVED rubbing and playing with the hair on my arms- which at first made me self-conscious. Just recently she was doing the same thing as she woke up from a nap- and she looked up at me and said, “Mama, I want hair on my arms”. My first instinct was to correct her, and make a joke about how being a hairy beast is the last thing she wants- but then I stopped myself, and realized that the last thing I wanted to do was start her out with the same insecurities I have. It definitely got me thinking of when this hairless trend started.
After reading a few articles, and watching a couple of videos, from none other than the most reliable Buzzfeed and wikipedia, I learned a couple of things:
- In some ancient cultures being hairless was a sign of class, for both men and women
- In Middle eastern societies, removing hair was considered proper hygiene- for many centuries
- During Medieval period “witch Hunts” suspected witches were shaven in search of “witches marks” that could then be used as proof in trials against them.
- Other articles site the release of the first BIC razor for women in 1915 as a turning point… and with the rise of women’s spending power, paired with a bit of marketing- women were on their way to being hairless.
Has it just always been seen as unsightly to have hair in places where it isn’t supposed to be?
One quick Wikipedia search of “pubic hair” revealed that women around the world have been going through the painful practice of hair removal for thousands of years. In the 1450’s women would often shave their pubic hair to avoid pubic lice.. and then if needed, wear a pubic wig to avoid the embarrassment of not having any hair. Then comes the porn industry- which, sometime around the 80s – the actresses started to rock their money-makers bald (or variations of it) and since then it appears there has been no going back.
Either way, I learned that this trend of hairlessness is not just some phenomenon crafted by big corporations looking to weigh in on the insecurities of women… although I do think there has been some capitalization of such things… but that it actually has some historical grounding. I am still torn about it- don’t want me or my daughter to spend our days obsessing- but also do feel a little better about myself when I am properly groomed (this definition is also ever changing to me)… so I guess for now, this feisty woman will do what she can to feel good about herself, hairy or not, and try to keep my little girl feeling great no matter what might sprout up on her little body.