Changing Perceptions Towards Body Hair
Body hair, once shunned as a symbol of non-conformity, is steadily gaining acceptance in mainstream culture. With hashtags like #bodyhairpositivity amassing over 214 million views on TikTok and razor brand Billie featuring models with visible body hair, the narrative surrounding this topic is gradually shifting. Furthermore, the availability of products like Fur Oil, designed to soften pubic and underarm hair, demonstrates the growing demand for embracing one's natural self.
However, when examining the broader context, a less progressive reality emerges. Research conducted by Professor Breanne Fahs from Arizona State University reveals that between 92 and 99 percent of women across the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and much of western Europe regularly remove their leg and underarm hair. Astonishingly, this widespread compliance is not observed even in norms that benefit people's health, such as wearing seatbelts or brushing teeth.
The Power of Societal Norms
“That’s really shocking for a norm that has no health benefit: We can’t get that level of compliance with seatbelt wearing or teeth brushing. It’s amazing how powerful this norm is.”
As Professor Fahs explains, the pressure to conform to societal beauty standards is reinforced by various factors. Historically, this marketing frenzy gained traction after World War I when disposable safety razors became available, urging women to explore new grooming habits. Fashion trends revealing more skin, such as sleeveless tops and higher hemlines, further contributed to the acceptance of hairless underarms, legs, bikini lines, and upper lips.
Generational Shifts in Views
Although the majority of Britons still consider female armpit hair unattractive, a survey conducted by market research company YouGov reveals that younger generations hold more accepting attitudes. The study found that 57% of men and 61% of women from the younger demographic no longer view female body or facial hair as unattractive.
The Rise of Januhairy
With each passing year, the arrival of January not only signifies resolutions but also heralds the movement known as "Januhairy." This initiative urges women to embrace their body hair and put down their razors for the month. Its official Instagram account, boasting over 40,000 followers, showcases women celebrating their body hair year-round, striving to normalize its presence.
Januhairy founder Laura Jackson highlights the significance of this movement, stating, "Januhairy is liberating because it gets you thinking about the way you treat your body and why. Maybe soon we'll be at a point where people can just do what they want in relation to body hair, and we won't even need to talk about it. That would be something."
Breaking Barriers and Overcoming Criticism
“The outside judgment can feel very scary, but in order to normalize something, more people need to see it.”
Esther Calixte-Bea, an artist from Montreal, shares her experiences as part of the Januhairy movement. Despite facing hateful comments and enduring racial slurs, she boldly expresses herself, documenting her body, including her once-removed chest hair. Although she initially felt offended by derogatory remarks, she perseveres, emphasizing the importance of normalizing body hair.
Roxanne Felig, another advocate for embracing body hair, faces criticism on social media for her personal choice to grow out her body hair. Surprisingly, most of the negative comments come from other women, going against the notion of solidarity. Nevertheless, Felig continues to champion her cause, shedding light on the need for introspection and questioning societal beauty standards.
Questioning Beauty Ideals and Embracing Self-Acceptance
“So many women have never seen their body as it’s meant to look… Allowing your body hair to grow out can help you question ideas around beauty and how you truly feel about your body.”
Professor Fahs reminds individuals to contemplate their choices and motivations when it comes to grooming habits. By normalizing body hair, we encourage a broader discussion about beauty ideals and foster a healthier relationship with our bodies.
In conclusion, while movements like Januhairy and body hair activism are gaining traction, compliance with societal norms surrounding hair removal remains remarkably high. Yet, with evolving perspectives, a generational shift, and the brave voices challenging conventional beauty standards, the future holds hope for greater acceptance and self-expression.