Let's Get Real About Body Hair

Designed by Seeta Kanhai.
There are women who giggle or feel offended when their eyebrow threader asks if they’d like their upper lip done. And there are women who lean back, poke their tongue into the area without prompt and try to continue the conversation minus the use of their mouth. This week, we’re getting real about facial and body hair on Refinery29. It will be an education for some, a group hug for others.
I hadn’t realised quite how hardline I’d been in my approach to this week of content until several blondes on the editorial team, who'd contributed to the 'How Much Time & Money We Spend On Hair Removal A Year' article, emailed me to apologise for the fact that they didn't have much hair, and weren't sure what to say. Because either you spent your teens locked in the bathroom dipping your face in a bucket of Jolen, or you didn’t. If you did, you and I have a lot to talk about – in fact we probably have a similar sense of humour and understanding of the world, having viewed it through a monobrow for the first half of our lives.
As I was commissioning writers for this project, I realised just how strong the bond between hairy women is, receiving replies from typically reserved journalists saying “YES YES YES – COUNT ME IN”, which turned into swapping funny stories about ‘excess’ hair, which turned into swapping less funny stories about ‘excess’ hair that shattered our confidence at school, which turned into all the features you’ll read this week about hair removal, body confidence, and that broken record of just being a woman subjected to centuries of the male gaze.
From the dating experiences of a Greek Cypriot girl with polycystic ovaries, to what hair removal is like for trans women, to all the shameful things people have said to women of colour about their body hair, to the inspiring women who embrace everything and feel great about it, we’re looking at hair from all angles this week, from our foreheads to our toes, our necks, our backs, our pussies, our cracks...
Unsurprisingly, women have a lot of funny stories to tell about body hair, but it can take a long time after the experience to form the joke. Editing these stories, I flinched at the pain of women who were bullied at school for having hair on their faces and their bodies, at how they were made to feel like a freak from as young as six, and at how those feelings lasted decades and still crop up when thinking about new relationships. I hope you feel as inspired by their courage in sharing these stories as I am.
One of the stories I swapped in the commissioning emails was that an ex-boyfriend texted me a few years ago saying, “Just wanted to let you know I’ve got a new girlfriend, she’s Thai and has a silky smooth hairless body…” As an Egyptian woman, I’m well acquainted with hair removal. My ancestors removed all of the hair on their bodies including from their head, leaving only eyebrows. Every time I visited Egypt as a teenager, my cousins and aunties would remove all the hair from my body (a ‘Hollywood’ wax is not a modern western phenomenon) – from my arms, legs, everywhere – using one big lump of sticky caramel that they would cook in the kitchen using sugar, water and salt. Although painful, we always had such a laugh doing it, a shared experience from generation to generation. The tiniest part of me wishes I’d grown up in Egypt for precisely that reason, where my face hair, body hair, and kinky head hair would have been totally normal, as opposed to something pointed out to me time and time again and laughed at by others – from boyfriends to my friends at primary school who nicknamed me ‘Loo Brush’ on account of my frizzy ponytail. True story.
These are the ‘real’ conversations about body hair we’re having this week on Refinery29. If you’re nodding emphatically at the screen, please join the conversation by commenting on the features and sharing your stories and pictures with #HotFuzz. Let's turn up the volume on this revolution.
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