Deputy News Editor
Let’s talk about online movements. The recent trend of giving things up or starting afresh with movements like Januhairy, Veganuary and Dry January are apparently cause for debate.
Personally, I think that these are great for improving health and wellbeing, and spreading awareness of the benefits of things like a plant-based diet. What I don’t agree with is the huge fuss that women’s body hair causes when an individual refuses to immaculately trim their pubic hair. I’m in two minds; I think that taking a stance is great for the body positivity movement, but should we be making such a huge fuss over not shaving, when that’s precisely where the problem lies in the first place? The fact that hairy armpits are making the news is just exasperating. Imagine if men refused to tame their sideburns en masse – it definitely wouldn’t make the headlines. Female body hair shouldn’t be news, and it shouldn’t be judged by men on the internet who uphold ancient and ridiculous female beauty standards. A lot of angry males have genuinely taken to Twitter to inform the general public that they are disgusted.
That being said, women are half of the guilty party here. I watched a disturbing interview with a hairless woman declaring that females with hairy legs or armpits were “absolutely disgusting” and “unhygienic”. While I doubt that she gets on the tube and screams at every hairy-legged male while attacking their poor follicles with a Gillette razor, the psychology behind her words is fascinating. She claimed she was not socially conditioned to remove every unsightly hair, but is that true?
Before you start jumping on the Januhairy bandwagon, let me ask you a question: why did you start shaving? Was it because you felt an uncontrollable desire for extremely smooth kneecaps? Flashback to my thirteen year old self, who routinely felt an overwhelming feeling of shame at the swimming pool. I didn’t question why I felt so ashamed, I just knew I would instantly feel better with smooth skin. We’ve all been socially conditioned to think that hair is unsightly – it dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt. During the last decade, however, the world has finally started to change by challenging traditional beauty ideals. What used to be “feminine” can now mean whatever you want it to be. I know it’s very easy for me, a student surrounded by a lot of forward thinking individuals, to say “Who cares what anyone does with their armpits”, but I know that that’s not how society works. We’ve made incredible progress but we’re not quite at the finish line yet. Devil advertisers and social conditioning creep up on all of us.
I also find that having a month-long campaign to show how “liberated” we are slightly misses the point. We’re not more liberated with hair and no less liberated if we choose to shave, we’re just exercising our right to choose to do whatever the hell we want to with our hair. Personally, I think the Januhairy movement misses out on a really crucial element. No-one seems to be stating the benefits of hair (did you know pubic hair helps prevent STDs?). I really think that would help. If you, like me, felt pressured to shave at thirteen, chances are you had no idea why you had hair in the first place. Instead of making hairy armpits headline news, we should be educating the younger generation on how to understand and accept their own bodies, and redefine the concept of “femininity”. Hell, we should storm the advertising offices with arms flailing and steal all their wax and razors to stop smooth legged models dominating the industry. (Drastic maybe, but I’d do it.)
I would hope that Januhairy is a step in the right direction to normalising body hair. However, I am of the opinion that growing out any body hair should not be cause for celebration. Much like growing a bushy beard for Movember should not be deemed an accomplishment. As much as I wholeheartedly agree that we need movements such as Januhairy to help spread awareness and normalise female body hair, a month long hairy-leg stint isn’t enough. It’s a step in the right direction, but the world isn’t going to forego razors any time soon.
We need to inform young girls why we actually have body hair in the first place, and that they can do whatever they like with it. Let’s not make body hair “trendy”, let’s just make it normal.