Threading your face, tweezing ingrown hairs, pouring hot wax on your lady parts: Feminine maintenance is no joke. Hair removal is more or less a mild form of medieval torture, all for the sake of smooth skin and social acceptance. But is the whole thing really all that necessary?
Earlier this week, 19-year-old Liverpool University student Yasmin Gasimova published a piece on her school newspaper’s blog about her decision to quit regularly shaving at the age of 11 — and we’re in love with what she had to say.
“In a society where women are expected to shave, I’m not ashamed to admit I don’t,” she wrote on The Tab. “As someone of Turkic origin, I don’t remember ever not having hair. In fact, as early as 10, boys were making fun of my moustache and I was trying to shave my noticeably hairy stomach. I was never not self-conscious of my hair, but now I embrace it.”
“I stopped caring when I was 11, as having naturally thick, fast-growing hair meant I’d need to waste an hour just to get prickly dots on my legs, which would grow back in a week,” she continued. “It’s a huge inconvenience for me, as it never made me feel comfortable, gave me loads of ingrown hairs, and my hairless legs wouldn’t match the rest of my hairy body. So why bother?”
Gasimova totally nails it. As our very own editor in chief, Jennifer Romolini, has written about before, for all our discussions about leaning in and strapping babies to our backs while breaking glass ceilings with our high heels, we don’t often talk about just how ridiculous and overwhelming it is to maintain your body hair as a woman. While men are subjected to some standards when it comes to the appropriate amount of hair to have, those standards aren’t nearly as rigid and universal as they seem to be for the ladies.
The only reason any woman (or man, for that matter) should ever partake in shaving, waxing, or other forms of grooming and hair removal should be if it makes them — and yes, only them — feel good about themselves. Our bodies are our own, and we should be allowed to maintain them as we please. Of course, this is easier said than done when you’ve been conditioned to think that if your body isn’t sparkling and hairless, it should be hidden away. I’ve certainly been guilty of wearing jeans on a sweltering day because of leg shaving laziness — but Gasimova brings up the excellent point: Who the heck cares?
“If you think the au naturel look is gross, it isn’t — you only believe that because you’ve been conditioned to see it that way your entire life,” she writes. “If you genuinely find it more comfortable, then fine, but when was the last time you tried being really bushy for a long period of time? You’re under no obligation to be sexy, and you can still be sexy and hairy at the same time.”
What we find attractive is subjective and personal, but I find sexiness to be much more complex than a person’s grooming habits (or lack thereof). Confidence, of course, is a big factor. And if ridding yourself of every follicle doesn’t make you feel sexy, it ultimately doesn’t really matter how sexy someone else finds it.
I’m not as self-assured as Gasimova — and personally, shaving my legs without missing a random spot actually makes me feel like a relatively successful and sexy adult. (This might have more to do with competence than actual hairlessness.) But I know this is in large part because I’ve been conditioned to feel this way. Even Gasimova admits to giving herself a trim or whipping out her razor on occasion if she feels she needs to avoid the “inevitable dirty looks and rejection.” But overall, Gasimova deals with her body hair on her terms — and only maintains it for herself. (“I admit, I tame my eyebrows so they’re always on fleek,” she writes.)
“Body hair is seen as a typically masculine feature, and we often, wrongly, measure a man’s ‘manliness’ by his ability to grow chest and facial hair,” Gasimova continues. “Although women have just as much body hair, albeit generally thinner and lighter, as a society we have decided they have to be completely hairless in order to be seen as truly feminine.”
It benefits both men and women alike when we challenge our notions about body and facial hair. By expanding our definitions of what’s attractive for one gender, it can help us begin to expand our ideas of what’s attractive for everyone. Again, we’re all entitled to our preferences — and what works for Gasimova isn’t going to be what works for everyone. But that by no means implies we should be putting down women (or men) who choose to do things differently with their hair and grooming.
“Nobody should be ashamed of their natural body,” Gasimova writers. “Thinking I need to hide it is only perpetuating society’s messed up expectations of women, and the only thing which will help is a public exposure to the reality of women’s body hair.”
“[Nothing] about a woman’s natural body should make her feel like less of a woman,” she concludes. “This is the reality of a woman’s body, and it shouldn’t be hidden away.”
Heck yeah! You should always be allowed to do whatever you want with your body and appearance — without feeling any pressure to subscribe to practices that, in reality, just make you feel super uncomfortable. We’re applauding Gasimova for laying this truth down so flawlessly and for taking such an awesome stand against traditional beauty standards. Check out the rest of her piece here.
(Images via Yasmin Gasimova.)