At 5 years old, I started growing body hair. My mother rushed me to the doctors, assuming I had some sort of hormonal issue. It turned out, nothing was wrong. The doctor just told her I was an early bloomer. A very early bloomer.
From then on, the adults in my life and the media taught me to be ashamed of this. As a young girl, if anyone commented on my body hair, I had an overwhelming urge to ball up and cry. I would feel incredibly embarrassed and probably rush to the bathroom to get rid of it.
I bought razors before all of my friends, and like anyone who’s shaved before, there was a learning curve. I gave myself terrible razor burn, I constantly missed spots and I often nicked myself.
One year for Christmas, my mom gave me a depilation sponge, a pad with a sandpaper-like texture that erodes body hair as you rub in a circular motion. I was only 10 years old.
Because of my body hair, I hated myself, even though I did nothing wrong. By the time I was 12, I tried every hair removal method — Nair, waxing and even a pumice stone. You name it, I did it. I was obsessed.
The idea that body hair on a woman is unhygienic and inherently ugly was ingrained in my head since I was a child.
The reason body hair is seen as unattractive for female-presenting people is because it hinders the romanticization of women. The only time when body hair is naturally absent is before puberty, so every time we give in to this idea, we further the fetishization of girls’ bodies.
Even in women’s razor ads, up until the past few years, the legs and arms featured would be hairless. Razor companies are scared to show leg hair in advertisements because as potential customers, it immediately paints a bad image in women’s minds.
The media’s portrayal of feminine leg hair doesn’t just affect impressionable young women. Even when we turn the TV off or close our laptops, our family and friends push these standards on us.
My journey with my body image has been tumultuous, scary and eye-opening. Now that I’m 18, I’ve grown to have a healthy relationship with my body hair. I still shave, but now I’ve learned that the problem wasn’t what was on my legs or under my arms or anywhere else on my body. Now, if my mom or another family member makes a harmless, passing remark about my leg stubble, I’d think of it as maybe a little bit rude but otherwise, shake it off.
It didn’t have to do with me at all. It is completely my own decision. If I skip a week of shaving and get some stubble, I won’t worry about it like I used to.
I’ve come to realize that there are far more pressing issues in the world than how much leg hair someone does or doesn’t have.
My experience with hair insecurity would be completely different if I had women in my life and in the media showing me it was acceptable and hygienic to have body hair. I would have realized sooner that shaving or keeping my body hair is completely my choice, and no one else’s.