Carpets and Drapes: The Stigma of Female Body Hair and How it is Dangerous

Ray Stilles found Jessica Olmstead to be quite charming for something that one might find odd. In an article by The Huffington post, Ray says “The first time I saw Jessa, I was amazed that she can grow a bigger beard than me. It didn’t take long for me to know we were meant for each other.” Ray, a real life American Horror Story Jimmy Darling, and Jessica, a bearded woman, met while performing in a freak show and fell in love. In fact, Ray experienced love at first sight due to Jessica’s very long beard. Bearded ladies have been in circuses for years because they are an amusing sight to see. Women growing facial hair is a rare encounter, but women with body hair is common.

V0048556 Madame Delait, the bearded lady of Plombières, head and shou Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Madame Delait, the bearded lady of Plombières, head and shoulders portrait. Photographic postcard by Scherr, 1923. 1923 By: ScherrPublished: [1923] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Vintage bearded lady Madame Delait by Wikimedia Commons

It’s There For A Purpose

It is not an unknown fact that evolutionarily, men have more body hair which often gives people the idea that body hair is strictly masculine. But, what might surprise you, women grow body hair too! I know, shocking! Could you imagine that? According to this article by Live Science body hair helps detect parasites. Another article by How Stuff Works says that areas with thicker hair have more apocrine glands, which release some sexy pheromones that help attract mates.

So Why Do We Remove It?

From a young age, girls are encouraged to shave their body hair. One day in fifth grade my teacher separated the boys and girls for that ever so awkward puberty talk where everyone learns why they are suddenly growing hair down there. I remember sitting criss-cross-applesauce feeling very uncomfortable about the ways my teacher avoided saying “Vagina” (If this word makes you feel uncomfortable, please try replacing with “Lady pocket” or “Crevice”) and “Boobs”(For this one, try “Blossoms” or “Girly Bags”). She then taught us how to shave our legs and armpits. I was literally taught how to remove my body hair in school, isn’t that kind of messed up?

The Pressure

Of course, the pressure to remove body hair is felt by women throughout the entirety of their life. In a video by Glamour Magazine, men were given a man mannequin with chest, pubic, leg, facial, and armpit hair. They were also given a woman mannequin with armpit, pubic, leg, and a little arm hair. They were then asked to remove or add body hair to fit their preference. When they got to the man, most did minimal trimming and even added more hair to the chest and legs. When they got to the women, Most of the men immediately took off the armpit, pubic, and leg hair.

In this same video, one of the men said “It’s funny because women have less body hair, but they are pressured to remove more of it.” This almost seems like a feminist statement and that he is steering in the right direction. Later in the video, he also said “If a woman has armpit hair, I’m going to be totally honest, I’m probably not going to date her”. This shows that despite being able to acknowledge the societal pressure women feel to shave, that he will still disregard a woman’s good aspects if she has natural armpit hair.

It’s Not Dirty

One woman tweets that “A man’s beard is different than female body hair, ew talk about bad hygiene.”
She is right in the sense that a man’s beard is different than female body hair. A man’s beard hair is a lot more thick whereas women tend to grow thinner hair on their legs. Another difference coming from me, a girl with leg hair, is that I never get bits of food in my leg hair. Female body hair and a man’s body hair can both be hygienic or nonhygenic depending if you, y’know, shower.

The Stigma Is Dangerous

The stigma around female body hair can really affect women’s self esteem, especially for women who grow thicker hair. There are some extreme lengths people go to remove body hair. There’s waxing, which consists of putting scalding wax on your hair and ripping it out and then getting a horrid rash. Shaving, which is taking a razor to your skin that can leads to cuts and ingrown hairs. Threading, which is taking a thread and ripping out your hair. There are tons of other dangerous cosmetic hair removal creams that have harsh chemicals in them too, so really, pick your poison.

When the Stigma Becomes Potentially Life Threatening

Remember when I said that biologically males grow thicker body hair? Well, this can be a visual indicator of a transwoman. Tori, a blogger, shares “My beard shadow and my voice…tend to get me clocked by people who do not know me. This is sometimes frightening. People I do not know tend to be polite or awesome…but sometimes, strangers see my very existence as a crime against their own understanding of the way the world as they know it is supposed to work.” When trans women are not deemed “passable” they are more likely to be victims of hate crimes. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs 2014 report shows that 1,359 anti-lgbt incidents occurred. An article by The Guardian states that homicidal hate crimes against transfolk are at an alltime high.

It’s Getting Better

Despite there still being several unfair gender roles in society, the world is changing! Many women have been showing off their natural body hair on social media and looking pretty darn good doing so.

image1
photo of Instagram user @paigermorgan posted by feminist instragram account @hairypitsclub


image2
photo of Instagram user @elichnerowicz by feminist account @hairpitsclub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact many feminists on social media are breaking the binary to the max by posing in photos showing off their vividly dyed armpits. 

image3
photo of Instagram user @theofficialrainbowgirl by Instagram User @naturalarmpits
image4
photo by Instagram User @marissa_hoppe



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Choice

You don’t have to grow out your armpit hair or dye it, please just respect the people who do. Of course, there are still women who shave their armpits out of plain preference, and that’s cool too. As Frances Hodgson Burnett says in her book A Little Princess “I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses.”, Regardless of whether or not you choose to have body hair, you’re a princess. Some princesses are just a little hairier than others, and that is alright with me. 


Featured image from Pixabay

6 thoughts on “Carpets and Drapes: The Stigma of Female Body Hair and How it is Dangerous

  1. Super well written, Emily the confidence you have in expressing your opinion really inspires me and I loved reading this article!

  2. This is so important and i’m very glad that you chose to talk about it. This topic is so taboo to some people so it isn’t talked about as much as it should be. I love how you showed women being proud of their body hair, and included trans women, it’s very educational and inspiring. Great article Emily #girlgang

  3. This is a really riveting blog post, I feel very inspired. Thank you for writing this, you are truly the best.

Leave a Reply