“EW!! YOU HAVE HAIR ON THE BACK OF YOUR NECK?!”
These were the words that were shrieked in disbelief as I was lining up outside my classroom in Third grade. My classmate who yelled them behind me was like many at the school that I would attend from Kindergarten to year 12. She had fair skin and blonde body hair.
Unbeknownst to her, this would be the first time my body hair would have received heard ridicule. Though, it marked the last day I wore my hair up at school, unless it was in a low pony tail (so I could cover my neck). It also marked the beginning of the next decade of my life, where I spent countless hours removing my body hair and agonising over its very existence.
From waxing, shaving, hair removal creams, laser, ointments, epilators - you name it, I tried it and clung to their claims.
For context: I’m an Armenian woman, born in Australia. Both of my parents are Armenian, and were both born in Iran.
Our hairs are typically dark and thick, and not just on our legs and underarms - I boasted dark hair all over my body. Whilst growing up, the hairs on my neck, face, back and stomach caused me the most insecurity. I used to sarcastically thank my dad for the genes he passed on to me.
I would loathe the beach or swimming as an activity & needed 3-5 working days of notice to prepare. Swimming was a neck-down hair removal operation.
I recall my swimming carnival in grade 5 (12 years old), and my mum had hired a beautician to wax my entire back, stomach and legs the night before, because I was too scared of the stares from others.
Shortly after this, I requested laser, but was turned away because I couldn’t sit through the pain at that age.
I recall a pool party in grade 9 (15 yo), and I received this same wax treatment, but added a Full bikini wax into the mix (Removal of all pubic hair). I was paranoid if I had any patches that hadn’t been taken care of, people would know hair existed beyond my legs.
I was paranoid to be caught out in a lie, and most of all, frightened that I wouldn’t be considered attractive (as if that’s the worst thing that could be).
There’s a lot at play when I consider why I was so troubled by my body hair existing, and a lot to discuss when we talk about why so many of us are uncomfortable with our body hair. There's things like: societal attractiveness, Eurocentric beauty standards, 'professionalism', trauma or past experiences, it's sadly countless...
I often get asked how I’m ok with my hair now, what I did to curb these feelings, and what to do about having or seeking a partner.
For me, it all boiled down to: WHY do you remove your hair? WHO do you remove it for? truly & deeply ponder it.
Q: Growing up, WHY did I remove my body hair?
A: I removed it because I was taught to feel shame, taught it was unsightly and not normal. Taught that it was not beautiful, and beauty + a partner should be my sole aspiration as a woman.
Q: Growing up, WHO did I remove my body hair for?
A: I removed it for everyone around me. I did not want them to see or know such hair existed.
I removed it for my partners.
For strangers at the beach.
For people at the party.
For my peers at school or uni.
For my co-workers / for ‘professionalism’
For my family/relatives.
I removed it so I wouldn’t be embarrassed during sexual encounters.
I removed it to fulfil the fantasy of what a I was taught a woman was supposed to be: attractive + hairless.
I removed it to reflect those & society around me.
I removed it for everyone, but myself
There is patriarchal lessons and ideals alllll over this shit. Lord I wasted so much time, money and emotional energy.
It has been 3 or so years since I stopped removing hair from my body. After pondering the above questions, It’s clear I wasn’t removing my hair for me, and was removing it for who I was taught I should be.
The main catalyst and reason I don’t bother removing hair anymore, is because I have self-defined my worth + purpose; and don’t want to subscribe to the notions I clung to before.
It’s not my purpose to be society’s vessel of attraction.
Why do I care about the strangers? How does my body hair effect my professionalism and breadth of knowledge / skills? Can I not just be a person who has body hair, like a lot of the population? Let a hairy bitch LIVE
As time has gone on, and a lot of us have been questioning + unlearning our relationships with our body hair, I personally don't consider body hair to be taboo in some circles anymore.
But! as we become more liberal in our display of body hair, and more nuanced in when/why/if we remove our hair, let’s not be hypocritical in our empowerment of fine + light hair, but also allow those of us who grow thick, dark, non-fine, textured hairs too. We're talking beyond hairy legs in ad campaigns, we're talking, dark hair wherever it decides to grow. I believe there's still room to grow here.
I get asked a lot about removing hair for partners. So if you'd like to hear my thoughts & experiences on this, keep reading.
Ok, context time:
I’ve been with my partner for just over 6 years now, so I’m well and truly comfortable; and haven’t removed my body hair for myself or him in at least 3+ years.
At the beginning of our relationship, I did the whole ‘pussy hair, you have a Saturday morning check-out time.’
I was getting laser treatment on my pubic hair, and lots of my body parts (most, if not all of which have grown back, thank you Armenian genes ily).
In the earliest of days, I remember we were standing in the bathroom, post-shower, and he was like:
‘Ahhh this might be a personal question, but can I ask about the hair on your back?”
My heart fucking plummeted and I was filled with so much shame, self hatred & embarrassment. My secret was out, fuck fuck fuck. He can see I have hair not just on my legs.
‘Do you remove the hair on your back? There’s a couple of patches’
‘Ah yea..I get laser on it…Is that ok?’
‘Ok cool! Yea of course it is, don’t remove it if you don’t want to’
Firstly, looking back, I now laugh that this question was asked, as it demonstrates that hair beyond legs was a mystery.
Secondly, I cannot believe I asked if it was ok….
Is it acceptable to be myself?
Is it acceptable to be human person with hair on my flesh?
Do I have permission to have hair?
Will you still allow your attraction to me to flourish, or are we done here?
Ridiculous questions when written like that - but essentially what was being asked and inferred through my anxious state of my hair permissibly existing.
So when I get asked about body hair and having partners or potential new partners in future…
If they aren’t ok with your body hair simply existing, are they really into you? or are they into a pre-pubescent version of you that society / patriarchy prefers?
The removal of body hair isn’t being villainised here, BUT what isn’t ok, is a state of fear, anxiety and pressure to keep up and be hairless at all times in this state of mind. It's not my or your role to be a full time fantasy, it's unsustainable and reductive.
Remove your hair if YOU want to. If you prefer and are more comfortable without hair, that’s cool. Question where this comes from, and be thoughtful, that is key. If it’s for you, all power to you.
Some might have partners that are attracted to hairlessness or perhaps no pubic hair? My partner is. But honestly, I haven’t shaved it for him since the early days, and guess what, we still have a sex life. Would I shave it for him? unlikely, but maybe one day? but it wouldn’t be from a place of pressure, fear or obligation; it should and will never be from such a place again.