Intersectionality In The Women’s Body Hair Movement

Jillian Breen

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Women have been known to be hairless for decades now. Starting out with razor campaigns in the 1910’s promoting beautiful silky soft, hairless skin on women. These ads painted body hair on women as “superfluous,” “unwanted,” “ugly” and “unfashionable.” However, we are living in a new age of feminism and women taking control of their bodies. 

Many women have gone against the rhetoric of shaving constantly, and are now making it a big point that it is their right to choose when or when not to shave. As Emily Ratajkowski put it in her BAZAAR essay about being ‘hyper femme’ whilst showcasing a full pit of underarm hair, “body hair is another opportunity for women to exercise their ability to choose.” Which is a very true statement, women of course should have the choice to shave and that is completely up to them. However, it is easier said than done.

The main issues we can still see in the female body hair movement is lack of representation. While brands like Billie, a women-focused body brand, have done a wonderful job in their ad campaigns showcasing all types of women with all types of body hair, there is still a lot of work to be done. Most of the representation we see of women’s body hair is done by mostly white, able-bodied, young, thin, and expensively dressed celebrities. So for most women who see ads or celebrities with body hair, it is incredibly hard to feel motivated to follow in their footsteps because sadly, most women don’t look like or have the assets Emily Ratajkowski does. For anyone who isn’t a celebrity, the reality of being a woman with visible body hair is much less sexy than it looks on Instagram or in viral ad campaigns.

Celebrities that have grown their hair out also only represent a small portion of women in the sense they tend to have ‘cute’ and ‘fluffy’ body hair. The underarm hair they sport doesn’t look very unappealing, because they barely have any already. This has caused a lack of representation for women of ethnicities that tend to grow thicker, coarse body hair. Women suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which causes an abnormal amount of male hormones, also tend to grow more body hair due to their hormonal imbalance. These women deserve to feel beautiful in their own skin just as much as everybody else, however the way the media portrays female body hair just isn’t there yet. 

The stigma that comes along with women growing out their body hair is that they’re ‘unhygienic’ or ‘dirty’. These stigmas can be very dangerous for a woman working a regular day job. You can’t have your co workers thinking you’re not taking proper care of yourself. Whereas for celebrities, the only scrutiny they receive for growing out their hair is online criticism which doesn’t risk their career opportunities. These stigmas cause a great strain on the choices given to women- which is simply either shave or don’t. The array of options presented to women is hidden under a veil of ‘choice’.

This movement is a highly feminist issue due to its basis on women’s choice. Many conflicts have arisen over what is the correct way to feel about women’s body hair. On one hand most women feel that it is their choice to shave whenever they please, however most women still have it drilled into their brains that body hair is gross, unhygienic, and unfeminine. But the feminist movement strongly encourages women to not give into those societal pressures. On both sides of the argument you have extremists. Women that will say to shave because of the stigma, or women shaming others for shaving because they are giving into that stigma. What needs to be realized here is that women just need to stop being told what to do. Whether that’s to shave or not to shave, it is completely up to that person to make the decision for themselves.