One of the many impacts of patriarchy on women are the unattainable body standards that they are forced to adhere to. Women are supposed to be thin, fair, tall, and so much more to be considered desirable. One such body standard is having a hairless body. Even though the human body in its natural state has hair everywhere, women are supposed to get rid of their body hair to ensure that they’re not considered ugly, dirty, and unhygienic.
As is with all other body standards, the conditioning of young girls into thinking that body hair is bad begins very early. From the ages of even 10, girls with hair on their arms and legs are bullied and made fun of. This reinforces the boy standards they are continuously sold by advertisements and movies.
However, many women and girls are able to understand the scheme of things behind imposing these body standards. One such woman is Kristin Canning, who wrote an article for Women’s Health on how the coronavirus quarantine helped her completely isolate herself from the “hairless is ideal” standard.
WHAT DID CANNING WRITE ABOUT BODY HAIR?
As all other women and girls, this body standard was ingrained in Kristin’s mind as a school-kid.
“I’ve been self-conscious of my body hair for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure exactly what triggered it, but I can recall tons of times when my fear of hair was reinforced: As guys in my class made fun of anyone whose eyebrows were even remotely approaching each other, when I was one of the only girls in the gym locker room with pubic hair and everyone stared, when I watched my older sister try Nair for the first time and heard her shriek in the shower that it was melting her skin off.”
“I understood that body hair was bad, and getting rid of it—no matter how painful and annoying—was absolutely necessary.”
However, Canning proves just how important seeing real, natural bodies on screens can help individuals.
“When I moved from Iowa to New York City after college, I started seeing more and more women with visible body hair IRL, in art, ad campaigns, and on social media. I think that’s why, over the last few years, I’ve gotten much more comfortable with my own.”
The lockdown imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic has been disastrous for people all across the globe. Their normal life has been interrupted, their way of life has been changed, and they’ve been locked inside their homes for months at end. However, the lockdown has been a period of enlightenment for Kristen.
“At first, I stopped shaving because…what was the point?! I wasn’t seeing anyone, and I had always done it for others anyway. Plus, keeping up with an involved grooming routine in the middle of a worldwide crisis felt exhausting and trivial. This felt like my chance to just let my body hair do its thing.”
“Now, I no longer reflexively cover my body hair. Sometimes, I still feel a ping of self-consciousness when men I know see it, but it feels a bit like exposure therapy. The more I allow people to see it, and don’t get much of a reaction from them, the more comfortable I feel with it. At times, I like showing it off. And the longer I’ve had it, the more I love it. I like how it feels when it blows in the breeze.”
The realization that you no longer hate your body (well, at least completely) because the society told you to, is a wonderful, liberating feeling.
” like what it says about me: That I’m comfortable with my body exactly how it naturally exists. I’m proud of how something I used to be so deeply ashamed of and embarrassed by has become something I celebrate.”
“Amidst everything going on, seeing that my hair hasn’t stopped growing reminds me that I haven’t stopped growing either. There’s a satisfaction in seeing it get longer. Even though it seems like my life has been frozen at the start of March, my little hairs serve as a reminder of the very real passage of time. I know it’s only hair, but letting it just exist makes me feel free.”