During the winter, the length and velvety softness of my leg hair often rivals that of the fleece reversible sherpa throw I ordered on Amazon that one time. Don’t believe me? Just ask my husband.
During the rest of the year, however, I keep my body hair on lockdown. I mean, god forbid someone glimpsed some dark hairs peeking out the bottoms of my capri leggings due to the fact that I neglected to shave. They might go blind or lose their lunch or something.
My fear, of course, stems from overly restrictive societal beauty standards that require women to always be perfectly smooth and hairless. But there’s one woman who’s now encouraging women to let their hair run wild.
Laura Jackson, a drama student at the University of Exeter in the U.K., posted the following to Instagram after noticing a difference in how she felt when she grew out her body hair for a role:
Jackson wrote that the experience “really opened my eyes to the taboo of body hair on a woman. After a few weeks of getting used to it, I started to like my natural hair.”
She went on to explain that she also felt liberated and more confident in herself as a result of letting her hair grow out. But she also experienced some pushback from people who didn’t understand why she wouldn’t shave.
“I realised that there is still so much more for us to do to be able to accept one another fully and truly,” wrote Jackson. So she created Januhairy.
You’ve heard about Movember in November, during which men grow mustaches to raise awareness of various men’s health issues. Jackson hopes Januhairy will encourage women to embrace their body hair — at least for one month.
“When I first started growing my body hair,” wrote Jackson, “my mum asked me, ‘Is it you just being lazy or are you trying to prove a point?’ . . . why should we be called lazy if we don’t want to shave? And why do we have to be proving a point? After talking to her about it and helping her understand, she saw how weird it was that she asked those questions. If we do something/see the same things, over and over again it becomes normal.”
Jackson has since created Body Gossip, an organization intended to empower “every body” to be the best version of themselves. Through live theater shows and short films, the group is meant to “encourage young people to re-evaluate the concept of ‘perfection’ and learn to accept and celebrate their unique appearance.” Jackson has also set up a crowdfunding page to support the body-positive organization.
Meanwhile, others are posting their own pics to Instagram using the #Januhairy hashtag. Instagram user @onlylittlemy writes that “when you’ve learnt to be confident in it and see the beauty in it, hair and all, you’ll feel much more ready to face the world, arms outstretched.”
“Ultimately do what YOU prefer but know that to be a #woman does not mean you have to change your physical appearance, especially not to live up to the media’s rules,” writes Instagram user @chalafigue:
“Why should women have to shave?” writes Instagram user @returning_to_my_natural_state. Amen?
It’s worth pointing out, however, that the women dominating the hashtag are overwhelmingly white. As Jezebel reports, women of color face a lot more stigma when it comes to body hair and are regularly “mocked, harassed, and threatened for refusing to conform to Euro-centric, Western standards of beauty.” This is compounded by the fact that women of color tend to have darker, thicker and coarser hair.
So while pushing back against societal beauty standards can be empowering for all women, it’s important to consider how much easier it may or may not be for you to participate in a hashtag movement like #Januhairy.
Empowering or not, I’m going to continue to grow out my leg hair until it feels like I’m wearing two angora cats beneath my jeggings.
Would you also be willing to let your body hair grow wild?