your femininity is not defined by body hair

I've had part of this post written for months, but today the straw broke the camel's back and I had to finish it.  Because people, I'm over it.  I'm done with this idea that, as a grown woman, its gross, undesirable, unfeminine for me to have body hair.  I hear this message over. and over. and over in our culture.  But yesterday I heard it in probably the most unapologetic way I've heard it yet:

Don't worry, there's at least three other similar ads from the same campaign for your viewing pleasure.

I'm a woman.  I'm a grown-ass woman.  I may only be 5'1" but I'm a grown ass woman.  My culture tells me that to be sexy or feminine I have to "groom" my lady hair, which really just means removing it.  Now I don't care what your personal preference is regarding the "grooming" of your own body hair, but can we all agree that telling an entire culture of women that having hair anywhere other than their heads is unsexy... is totally and completely ridiculous?  Is it just me?  It can't be, right?

I shave my legs and armpits.  Not every single day (in fact, it's usually more like once or twice a week, sorry, Veet), but I do, as do many women in America.  I've gotten a Brazillian twice and I think I've hit my quota for my entire life on any sort of wax type substance or razor ever going near that area ever again.  I don't think that it's wrong to remove body hair if you want to, but the message that it's inherently unfeminine is profoundly damaging.  As a girl growing up in America, body hair was a stressful subject for me, or at least it used to be.  I have a lot of hair, and it's not just on my head.

We're pretty obsessed with youth in our American culture, especially when it comes to beauty.  We want to avoid wrinkles, keep the flat tummy we had at 16, and never go grey... but this preoccupation with youth also leads to elevating the hairless bodies of prepubescent girls as that of ultimate sexiness, and oddly enough, ideal womanliness.  I've heard from plenty of men that porn has absolutely informed their ideas of what's sexy, and unfortunately a lot of porn is populated with absolutely hairless (or meticulously groomed) girls.  How many men do you have to encounter who hold this idea that women with body hair are gross or unsexy before it starts to make you want to look like women in pornography?  I have a friend who removed her hair for years because the boys she dated were turned off by it.  Now that she's single, she's let her hair grow and has felt a new appreciation for her womanly body.  It makes her feel sensual and beautiful and natural.  It's soft and traps pheromones.  Her ex is confused at her new "obsession" with pubic hair.  He doesn't get it.  Hey buddy, we're not obsessed with body hair, we just happen to have it and don't find it bothersome.

I wasn't much bothered by my own possession of a bushy nether region until I was in my 20's and informed by a boyfriend that he was extremely turned off by body hair.  I was devastated.  Someone you love telling you that, essentially, your body is gross and unsexy... it hits you in one of the most vulnerable places, quite literally.  Revealing your body to someone is incredibly vulnerable, and typically you do it only when you trust the person to accept you as you are.  So there I was, feeling gross.  Because of how my body naturally looks (and is supposed to look).  And you know what?  That's absolute bullshit.  I get that people have sexual preferences and that some people are turned off by some things, but HI THIS IS HOW MY BODY JUST IS.  Also, hi this is how nearly every woman's body is.  My lady business hasn't looked like a porn star's lady biz since I was like seven.
photo via girlpower

Recently, Petra Collins, a photographer for ROOKIE Mag, had her instagram account deleted, due to the presence of her pubic hair (see top left photo), even though the same photo sans hair would be commonplace.
"I'm used to the fact that images of unaltered women are seen as unacceptable. I've taught myself to ignore it (as much as I can) and through the Internet (via sites like ROOKIE) and social media platforms (like Instagram and Facebook) I've been able to freely share images and start discussions about these issues. Recently, I had my Instagram account deleted. I did nothing that violated the terms of use. No nudity, violence, pornography, unlawful, hateful or infringing imagery. What I did have was an image of MY body that didn't meet society's standard of "femininity." The image I posted was from the waist down wearing a bathing suit bottom in front of a sparkly backdrop. Unlike the 5,883,628 (this is how many images are tagged #bikini) bathing suit images on Instagram (see here and here) mine depicted my own unaltered state -- an unshaven bikini line. Up until this moment, I had obviously seen and felt the pressure to regulate my body, but never thought I would literally experience it."
Back in 2011 I was the leader of a group of high schoolers at a summer camp and overheard one of my male interns talking about a girl who had "poor hygiene" because she had pubic hair.  I may or may not have slightly ripped him a new one explaining to him that it's not poor hygiene to have pubic hair (I imagine he himself possessed some generous pubes and didn't consider it a hygiene issue).  But it was one of those moments where I realized that men out there not only are learning to find body hair on women unsexy, but they even think it's poor hygiene for a woman to have it.

Girls, I don't know what you've been told, either directly from boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, or indirectly from tv ads, shows, books, movies, but having body hair is not gross.  You get to choose what you want to do about it, it's nobody else's choice.  If you want to wax it all off every two weeks, fine by me.  If you want to go au naturale, awesome.  If you want to shave your legs and pits, cool.  But lets not continue this ridiculous message to the next generation that the only way to be feminine and sexy is to be hairless prepubescent porn stars.  There is never one way to be feminine or sexy.  In fact there are as many ways to be feminine and sexy as there are women.  You do you, ladies.