Let Them Be Hairy: The Importance of Body Acceptance

An example of an insecurity that has been largely created by society is the need to shave. In this article, Gupta talks about body acceptance and the stigma behind body hair. Illustration by: Van Nguyen

Body acceptance is a struggle that I and many people I know have experienced. In honor of last week being body acceptance week, I thought it would be beneficial to discuss honoring one’s body and the impact of establishments that have caused undue harm on many people’s psyche through the perpetuation of negative body stereotypes.  

Body acceptance for me, like many others, is a journey similar to a switch being flipped: one day I feel confident and another day I do not. In total, however, I am much more confident than I was when I was younger. My younger self was always unsure about her weight and her body hair, especially as a swimmer. She was always confused as to why the girls around her always seemed perfect and so self-assured. Now, my focus remains on being healthy and loving the body that results from making healthy decisions. Yet, I am not immune to the images and stereotypes around me. An example of an insecurity that has been largely created by society is the need to shave.  

Shaving in itself is not always a fun task. It’s expensive and time consuming. Not to mention purchasing all the materials can be a hefty sum. What is alarming is the consequence of not shaving. The internet is rife with stories about women, especially Indian women, being poked at for their facial hair. In an article published by NBC, Anjana Rajamani describes how she gave herself razor burn as a 12 year old when her crush told her that her ‘mustache’ was thicker than his. These comments that have been spoken to so many young Desi girls have colossal effects on their self-esteem and self-image. It makes them believe that a part of them they cannot control, a part that is truly normal, makes them ‘ugly’ or ‘unlikeable.’ When already it feels like they cannot be anything like those white women in magazines, these comments add fuel to a fire of insecurities. However, brown women are not the only ones to experience this slander. Despite the start of feminine movements in the 1960s and 70s in which not shaving was used as an instrument against unjust social standards, actresses were still rebuked for displaying their hairy armpits. What truly made this standard more unjust was the very observations that were made to criticize actresses were used as reasons for the attractiveness of male actors.  

Through this framework we can see the truth of the stigma behind body hair. Indeed, it has been said that body hair is unhygienic. However, numerous studies have found this to be untrue. Like everything else on your body it should be cleaned but its simple presence is not in and of itself unhygienic. It has a purpose like anything else on your body. The view that shaving makes one ‘cleaner’ is simply one that has been drilled into society because of a certain individual’s preference and not on scientific fact itself. Worse, it is not a condition that seems to be as important for the opposite gender.  

Why does this all matter anyways? Those that don’t face these negative comments may think the best solution is to simply “brush it off”. But it is not that simple.  

The world is a changing place and with the increase of self-love and body positivity influencers we can begin to hope that it will lead to changes away from body standards that are simply unattainable for the majority of people. We all must look to these standards to understand the difference between what is normal and what has been made to be normal. In doing so, we can have colossal effects on the self-esteem of individuals.  

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