Daylight Shaving Time
Why the narrative on female body hair is exhausting and should be nobody’s business but our own
By Andrea Loftus
Illustration by Andrea Loftus
When daylight saving time hits and the weather picks up, so does our insistent need to grab our weapon of choice. As the carnage commences at the hands of a cheap blade or hot, sticky wax, we frantically attempt to hide any sign that we’ve actually been growing a nice layer of fleece under our jeans all winter. This sentiment alone, that letting our body’s natural processes occur undisrupted is a secret yet shameful luxury demonstrates how truly disillusioned we’ve become to what our body hair means to us.
It’s true, in recent years growing out your armpit hair to dye a fluorescent colour is a seeming sign of “change”. However, the societal expectations surrounding female body hair permeate our everyday lives, whether we’re desensitised to it or not. From a silky-smooth calf thrust forward in a Simply Venus advert to an artistically provocative Instagram shot of “natural” body hair alongside a volatile comments section – everyone has to have an opinion.
The true irony however is how this propaganda always lands us back in a perfectly pink aisle in Boots. There we stand, debating whether we want to risk chopping ourselves up with an own brand blade to save a couple of quid, or if we will once again come face to face with the “Pink Tax”. More often than not, we’ll only use it for a sneaky ankle shave anyway, no one will ever know right?
How on God’s green earth did those in power manage to pop a splash of pink onto something and consequently raise the price by around 7% in comparison with male-marketed products? Well, the answer is sadly the same way that they have the masses convinced women come silky smooth like seals and don’t have toe hair. Well we do, here it is in black and white lads, you can’t hide the truth anymore.
Then comes billie, shockingly the first ever women’s razor brand to show hair and encourage their female cliental to “drop the pink tax, pick up billie”. Standing alongside brands like Thinx, billie is aiming to normalise things women have been taught to be ashamed of. Co-founder Georgina Gooley commented on the introduction of “Project Body Hair” as a means to demonstrate that “shaving is a personal choice” and that deciding to remove our body hair is as much of a choice as choosing “to wear it proudly”. The forward-thinking brand released an online video and photo advertisement campaign in June 2018, not only showing hair clad armpits and legs (the most “normalised” parts of women shown to grow hair on mainstream media) but pubic hair, facial hair and quite literally everything in between.
I must admit, the personal generosity of women sharing their body hair growth as a normality has helped transform my relationship with my own. However, why must they expose themselves to the inevitable trolling that comes along with this raw vulnerability?
As someone with very distinctive long hair, it hadn’t occurred to me how ironic it was that I harboured so much shame around my own body hair whilst graciously accepting praise of my cascading curls. My body isn’t selectively producing more and more hair so my head has some extra jazz, the speed at which it grows rings true for all of my body and that always left me at a loss. For dark haired females, the reality is that maintaining a smooth facade isn’t as realistic for us as the fairer haired ladies out there– and that’s completely fine!
I wonder how women would react if they could see how much of their lives have been spent stripping the hairs from their pores, just to know the illusion will only last so long before 2 strands forms where 1 fell. I’m not exaggerating when I say I shave in the morning and have stubble by noon, I pick up my epilator (or as I like to call it, the whirring devil and incarnation of actual pure evil) and epilate my armpits so I can allow myself to wear a vest top in summer. Yet 4 days later the painful, itchy regrowth mocks my attempt to be silky smooth and “suitable” for everyone’s eyes.
I am personally more at home with my body hair now, able to marvel at the relentless regrowth as a symbol of restoration, of my body accepting my defensive actions but nevertheless persisting. The main shift is my acknowledgement that I don’t shave for me initially, but I shave so I’m not as insecure about others cultivating their own opinions on why there’s hair in the first place. Is she lazy? Is she a raging feminist? Oh, she’s dirty! I bet she doesn’t use deodorant!
The impact of society’s narrative on females prepping and pruning themselves as to align with male expectation is damaging. How can we become comfortable with ourselves if even our family and friends make offhand comments about another girl’s “dirty armpit hair” or mock our “stubbly legs”.
Julia Roberts, Amandla Stenberg and Mónica Hernández
How can we progress if we are constantly apologising for being ourselves? Next time you go to shave so someone won’t spot your prickly legs, turn the tables. Would you care if you saw another girl rocking the same look? Would you even notice? Would you think about how brave she is to not care about other’s opinion or would you think instead about how much time she saved this morning?
I believe brands like billie are the way forward, a suitable option to accommodate those who want to rock a hairy exterior and those who feel more at home managing their hair however they choose. First and foremost, the fact that women grow hair here, there and everywhere must be normalised from the get go so we don’t pass on this heritage of shame onto the next generation of gloriously diverse females.