I write this with a body full of hair. I’ve not shaved or trimmed a single strand – except the hair on my head, which is right now a lovely pastel pink. I suppose the decision not to shave my body hair felt quite natural to me even though it has been a long and exhausting journey. Ever since I was young, I have felt ashamed of my body. When hairs started growing on me, I felt like it was my fault, like I had done something wrong. I felt like my puberty was something I needed to keep a secret from the adults around me. I kept waiting for my mum to give me a razor, to spare me the stress of having to ask, but in hindsight, I am glad she never made me feel like shaving was something I needed to do.
When I finally got my first razor, I shaved my armpits for a few years, my legs only two or three times. I stopped altogether when I was sixteen. That was when my friends and I learned about feminism and queerness. Although, saying I haven’t shaved since I was sixteen is partially a lie; sometimes I do it to make things easier even though I feel guilty each time. Not shaving my body is a decision I feel is right for me, and it is something I am proud of, but at the same time I can’t deny that it can often be exhausting. While I do not want it to be a big deal, the stigma concerning body hair makes me hyperaware of people’s reactions when they see my unshaven body. I always worry about people giving me dirty looks, and if they do, I always feel awful. Shaving solves all these problems, but still, I do not want to give way under this pressure. I want to do what I feel is right. It’s as if there’s no right way: I’m either ashamed of my body (hairy), or I’m ashamed of doing what I find unfeminist (shaving). Even though everyone should be allowed to do as they please, I firmly believe that no one shaves because they truly want to. We shave to fit in, to surpass the shame of not doing it. Sometimes it angers me. If I wasn’t the only one at work with hairy armpits, I wouldn’t have to think about how I move and refrain from lifting my arms too much. I wouldn’t have to think about what people will think. I wouldn’t have to feel dirty and ashamed.
When I feel like this, I try to take a few steps back. I find few things as ridiculous as being taught to feel ashamed about something as small and insignificant as the hair on our bodies. I like to think that every radical thing we do now will make things easier for the generations to come. Thanks to radicals of the past, I have many rights as a woman and as a queer. I want to continue the fight, to make a difference like they did. And with such a strong history of progress behind me, growing my body hair seems like nothing but a baby step.
[Matilda Eker – she/her – @systematiskttvivel]
[Image Credit: Anna Shvets]