I remember learning that body hair was bad.
I didn't have much body hair as a small child and movies, tv shows and magazines all featured hairless women. I knew that my mom had body hair and I judged her for it. (Sorry, mom!) Why was my mom the only woman I'd ever seen with body hair? That wasn't normal.
Then, I started growing dark, thick body hair much earlier than everyone else I knew. I remember changing into a bathing suit at a birthday party. We all were expected to change in the same room. I saw that none of the other girls had grown pubic hair. They were all completely bare and prepubescent. I tried my best to hide my body under a towel.
This became my private shame.
I started feeling overwhelming shame every time I had to strip down. Even when I was completely alone. I had seen plots in movies where others "accidentally" saw each other naked and I was TERRIFIED of that ever happening. I was worried that someone might discover my abnormal and hairy body.
I started noticing how other girls were treated when their body hair started coming in. One girl had much darker hair than me and she was the butt of many jokes. I didn't want anyone to treat me like that (though they already did for other things). There was a hierarchy and I was just trying not to be at the bottom.
A year or two later, I became friends with some lovely hippie kids. I remember how free they were and one of them, a blonde girl, was generally accepted even though she had hairy legs. But her hair was golden.
I learned the importance of this difference when I summoned the courage to wear shorts without shaving and was teased mercilessly.
It was then that I learned that I had no choice but to remove my body hair regularly, forever.
And so I did. My body hated it and would break out in rashes. Shaving cost a lot of money pretty regularly and I knew my family wasn't rich. Shaving made me feel guilty, but not shaving was worse. Eventually, I started waxing in an attempt to reduce the amount of time and effort involved. I had also heard that if you wax often enough, the hair stops growing back. That happened with my eyebrows, so why not everywhere else, too?
It didn't really work that way and I'm too poor to laser myself into baby-soft smoothness. I hated how much of my life and resources were poured into the removal of body hair. Men try to say that it's the same for them because they have facial hair, but it's not the same. Not by a long shot.
If a man grows a beard, it's just a different style. If a woman stops shaving, strangers tell her she's disgusting. She gets glared at by straight-edge suburbanists. It is assumed to be a political act. Everyone notices, and everyone reacts. It is not the same.
But it's changing.
I am 32 and finally witnessing more and more women standing up and refusing to comply with this insane beauty standard. Collective action is how change happens. Enough of us have to be strong enough to say, "I like my body just the way it is, thanks," for us to be free of the shame and stigma that goes with simply allowing your body to be in its natural state. We need to balance out all the hairless media with just as much media featuring naturally hairy women.
I'm not the first woman to be saying this and I just hope that I'm also not the last.
I'm not saying every woman has to do this. I'm not saying you can't be a smooth dolphin if that's what makes you happy. I get it. It's nice sometimes. But I'm saying that it shouldn't be BAD to be hairy.
In an effort to contribute to the growing archive of hairy women, I took some glamour shots featuring my hairy legs. You're welcome.