Thomas: Body hair is natural

Zara Thomas

In the seventh grade, I was asked for the first time in my life, “Have you ever shaved your legs before?”

I was at basketball practice, wearing a gray school T-shirt and athletic shorts, just like all of the other girls. I was sitting on the bleachers when a teammate asked me this out of nowhere, with a clear tone of disdain and disgust in her voice.

I remember looking down at my own legs, then at hers. Hers were cleanly shaven. 

Mine were not.

“No…?” I replied quietly, and, quite frankly, a little confused.

I was 12. 

I wasn’t aware that 12-year-old girls were supposed to shave their legs, so of course, I had never done so.

Many seventh-grade girls haven’t even had their periods yet or are still wearing training bras. Why should I have been thinking about my body hair?

Soon after this short conversation, I quickly realized that women all around me nearly always had perfectly shaven legs. 

The beautiful women on TV and in commercials. The high school girls I went to church with. The only acceptable place for girls to have hair, it seemed, was your scalp and eyebrows.

That’s what our society and world have taught all young women our whole lives: that our body hair is “gross” and “unfeminine.”

Why is this the case for women, but men with body hair are seen as “hot” and “masculine”?

When I’m scrolling on social media – specifically TikTok – it isn’t at all rare to see videos where men with body hair are rewarded in the comments with fire and heart-eye emojis. However, a woman with body hair on TikTok receives “shave your armpits,” “you look like a man” and hundreds of razor emojis in the comment section.

This extremely frustrating double standard has been long accepted in our society and has been ingrained in people’s minds – at surprisingly young ages – since before WWII.

Even before the 20th century, women hid their body hair, but it was still very common for women to wear clothes that covered any body hair they might have, so shaving wasn’t necessary. By the early 1900s, though, shorter-length dresses and sleeves became more popular, and to hide leg hair, women wore thick stockings. During World War II, however, stockings were in short supply, so women decided to shave their legs. 

Even during this time, though, women were still expected to hide their body hair because it was still seen as ugly.

Almost 100 years later, this is still the case.

Come on, now. It’s 2022. Not 1922.

Body hair is something that literally every human grows. It is not an ugly or disgusting thing. Yet unshaven women are disfavored, while men are celebrated. 

Women who don’t want to shave should not be looked down upon because they don’t. They should feel free to wear shorts and tank tops instead of feeling like they have to hide their hair.

Women who want to shave absolutely should, but they should do it because they want to. Not because they feel pressured by the world around them to do so or because they’re scared they’ll be ridiculed if they don’t.

So if you’re one of those people who can’t help but make a comment whenever a woman has body hair, stop. 

Stop worrying about and being obsessed with other peoples’ bodies, and instead focus on your own.