“Natural Beauty” Photo Series Challenges Restricting Female Body Hair Standards


  1. 11

    artFido
    7

    I first stopped out of, I guess my “laziness”, and later realising I was just actively allowing myself to be more comfortable. So I let it grow, curious to what it would feel like au natural in an area so taboo and visible to the rest of the world. It made me feel good! Like myself, like I couldn’t care what others felt, sort of empowered and comfortable in what my body naturally decided to look like. People’s reactions were surprisingly very positive. It attracted partners; curiosity and questions that were enquiring and appreciative in fairly equal measure. There was of course some confusion, but I didn’t really feel any response that was actually directed at me in reality to be negative. Through the project with Ben, I did receive some rather alarmingly nasty comments from Internet trolls on my photo, but I thought in a round about way they were even more empowering than the compliments. These people were commenting this way almost unanimously, out of ignorance, and perhaps their own insecurity. In the face of something so natural, this reminded me that I’m lucky as hell not to have that narrow mind holding me down. The people complaining have a lot more to deal with than their own body hair growth. They feel they have to conform to a societal pressure I really don't adhere to. So negativity equalled empowerment and much hilarity for how small minded some very unfortunate souls could be in the face of natural physicality. Having body hair is kind of in contrast to my job sometimes, and I don’t always have a full set of underarm lady hair or a generous lady garden! In fact sometimes I have the exact opposite. For me what it’s about is pro choice. If I choose to grow it, it’s because I feel like it, equally if I choose to take it all off. This isn’t for me a professional pressure either; as a performer I don’t adhere to a anyone’s rules and a lot of the time actively enjoy challenging my audiences views on aesthetics with my own body as well as my costumes. However, in saying that sometimes I like to feel all smooth and bald. Through this whole practice of liberated body image, I just wish to promote my own choice and to be conscious about what makes me happy in my skin.” – Ruby Bird, producer, performer and costumier. December 2016 (photographed April 2014). Disclaimer from Ruby: "..dyslexia isn't always a virtue, so please be understanding on my jumbled sentence structure..."

  2. 12

    artFido
    6

    I stopped shaving after reading Judith Butler and realising that I had no idea what my 'natural' body looked like, as I was convinced to perform my gender and shave by 15. I then continued not to because I felt the need to overcome the embarrassment I felt for not conforming. Not shaving shouldn't be a statement but it is. Eventually it became a really liberating experience and showers are so quick and easy now, I will never go back!” – Alexis Calvas, February 2015.

  3. 13

    artFido
    6

    “I originally stopped shaving maybe five or six years ago, really for physical reasons at first – my skin has Keratosis pilaris (those little bumps, like ‘chicken skin’) and so shaving was a nightmare, particularly on my legs. I would get the most terrible ingrown hairs, to the point that most of the hairs on my legs would have to be picked out with tweezers or they’d turn into painful spots. The same would happen on my vulva if I ever dared to shave, and eventually started on my underarms too. I tried a few different hair removal methods but nothing really worked, and eventually, I started to feel that my body was protesting, so I just stopped. When I stopped shaving I finally felt free of my body’s reaction to hair removal and all the pain and hours spent exfoliating, just for my skin to look terrible anyway. At first, I wasn’t sure about how it looked but I’ve really grown to love my body hair, and I’ve never had any complaints from people whose opinion I care about. I worked in a bar when I first stopped shaving, so I had some shocked reactions from some of the (male) customers and regulars, I think it was just a bit before hairy armpits (on women) became more common to see, so some of them were disgusted reactions, but honestly I felt like it was a pretty good misogyny filter. Most people don’t even notice, some people like it. I did start to feel like it was a feminist action too — men have body hair and don’t tend to have any issues with it from others, or themselves. But really I think a lot of it was just that I’ve always been pretty boyish, never had much of a skincare routine and never really worn makeup (not that those things are bad or unfeminist!) just because those things don’t interest me much and aren’t on my radar – I’m not ‘feminine’ in that way, so hair removal just became another one of those things that I just didn’t feel made sense to me. I can’t be bothered.” – Jessica Hargreaves (October 2018)

  4. 14

    artFido
    5

    From the age of 12, growing up with extremely sensitive skin, body hair was my worst nightmare. The fact that I'm a brunette with south European descent, living in a cold country without many sunny months was making it even harder. Body hair was my biggest complex and I just decided to face it and love myself the way I am. I was tired of the constant struggle. It made me feel at peace with myself. I realised that we are responsible for what we like and what we don't like. I realised that beauty is really just in the eye of the beholder, and that all of us have a choice. On a deeper level, it made me more connected to my feminine side and to mother nature too. There were many bitter comments and weird looks. People were making fun of me. I won't even say that it's unpopular where I live; there are just no women my age of whom I know that would not shave. I guess the situation is a bit different in Western Europe where people can more freely just be themselves. In Poland it's still considered a real taboo unless you're a really old woman from the countryside. But it's nice that encouragement came from people I really wouldn't think of in the first place. It's a good way to tell between open, understanding people and those who constantly judge without any deeper thought. Though as for the latter, for many of them there's still hope, it's mostly a matter of habit. I would love to encourage all the ladies who are tired with this shaving terror to ditch the razor! But I'd like to encourage all the ladies who love their skin super smooth to keep shaving too. I just don't want anyone to do things against themselves just to please society. It's history repeating itself. Once there were corsets to keep women "in check", now it's the constraint of being absolutely hairless. The good thing is we won't be needing such things anymore, people are getting more and more conscious, learning to love the truth instead of the programmed illusion.” – Martha Aurelia Gantner, musician. May 2017 (photographed June 2015)

  5. 15

    artFido
    5

    I never stopped shaving because I never started. I do remember my mother shaving when I was younger and I thought that was pretty unnecessary since she was a strict muslim. I later realised it's a thing women do to look more desirable to men. It really irritated me that the people who reacted negatively to my natural armpit hair were men. Like it was the most disgusting thing in the world. It really gets on my tits. This is just one more reason that I don't shave it off. It belongs to me and I don't make noise about the "ugly"; hair on men which are sometimes pretty painful in the eye... But you've got to get over it and don't let these idiots get under it. I did do a special "birthday-shave" recently and it reminded me why I don't go through the tedious chore of shaving hair off my beautiful body. I would recommend growing it to any women. A trim here and there doesn't hurt, but it is so beautiful - even my boyfriend has changed his opinion about it now. #lovethecavewomenlook” – Ayan Mohamed, graduate architecture student. December 2016 (photographed April 2014).

  6. 16

    artFido
    5

    I stopped shaving my armpit hair about 5 years ago, and the rest of my body hair 4 years ago. I was tired of constantly getting rid of my body hair since the age of 11. I started wondering "Why?” - Why do we go through a painful process to get rid of something we were born with that keep growing? Why is being shaved considered to be more feminine? Why is body hair seen as something dirty? ...It’s all about these ideas society has put into our heads and it doesn't even make sense, so that was it for me, no more painful process to remove my natural hair. It made me feel more myself with body hair. I feel beautiful and it has helped me accepting and loving my body, feeling comfortable in my own skin. At the start, I was scared of what people would say and I found most of my friends being really supporting about it. I've had people telling me I look "dirty", "smelly" and that no one would have sex with me if I didn't shave... But I've also had people encouraging me and telling me it's natural and beautiful. I would like everyone to allow themselves to do what feels best for them instead of looking for someone else's approval.” – Sheila Santiago (October 2018)

  7. 17

    artFido
    5

    “I stopped shaving at the age of 18. I was suffering from PTSD as the result of rape and was trying to regain autonomy over my body in any way I knew how. I had also reached a breaking point with the amount of catcalling and sexual advances I was experiencing and was willing to go to any extreme to protect myself from that. It didn’t take long for my body hair to become obvious, and within the space of about a month, I was already noticing the shift in attitude from men towards me, which reinforced the importance of continuing this. It also awoke deep anger and frustration that shaving was an expectancy for women and our beauty was dependant on it. It made me feel simultaneously embarrassed and empowered. I struggled with wearing clothing that exposed my armpits unless I was at queer events or around other creatives. I wasn’t yet resilient enough to ignore people whispering about it in public or the double takes from people at the gym. Within my first year of growing my body hair, I shaved several times out of awkwardness, and it has been known to rarely happen even now. The like-minded women around me celebrated it and embraced my armpits. It took longer for family and friends to be on board with it (with moments of encouraging me to shave for family events or holidays) but they too came around. Men took no effort in hiding their disgust, they called me ‘dirty, unclean, smelly, feminist(!), gross’ or other things along those lines. They fetishized me in a way that made me feel incredibly uneasy. I had to privatise my social media as fetish accounts were taking photos of my armpits, sharing them and consequently my inboxes were getting clogged up with ‘dick pics’. About a year and a half down the line of this journey, I started regaining my sexuality and began dating again. I felt a bizarre need to warn partners in advance that I had body hair, as though it was necessary to be apologetic prior to them deciding if they wanted to sleep with me. Nearly everyone was okay with it and those that weren’t I stopped seeing as I was not going to shave for anyone. Weirdly enough, my hair taught me to take control and not take anyone’s shit!” In the times I have shaved I have felt weirdly naked and vulnerable with discomfort at seeing the empty spaces where my hair should be. Luckily, the pain of regrowth has quickly reminded me that my natural state is hairy and how my body feels best! I find my body hair incredibly feminine and powerful, it has connected me to a strong and sexy woman within me, even if sometimes certain settings make me awkward and overly aware of it. I’m so glad that not shaving is becoming normal and acceptable. I always look back at when I was a teenager and the thought of even having pubes was a crime and laugh at how far I have come in rejecting what is expected of me. Whilst I have no issue in how people choose to groom themselves (especially because I occasionally remove my body hair) I have always been bewildered by the embarrassment a tuft of armpit hair can bring upon a room of rational people.” – Jess Cummin (January, 2019)

  8. 18

    artFido
    5

    “For an understanding of why a person won't shave I believe it's important to understand what compels them to do so in the first place. I became aesthetically aware of my body at a much earlier age than many expect one to. Having begun puberty aged at around 8 or 9, I found myself painfully conscious of the myriad changes to my body; most notably the weight gain, menstruation and of course, hair. What ensued were many humiliating (and sometimes aborted) school visits to the pool and haunting horrorshow P.E. changing room experiences in my teens. Bullying occurs inwardly as well as outwardly, and the cruelty from others accompanies that which we inflict upon ourselves. Much of this derives from enforced expectations from/of others and of the self, both of which can skew our ability to see either kindly or rightly. Within the spheres of sexual, societal and educational pressures and tensions that imbue adolescence (and our adult lives), there are multitudinous opportunities to doubt oneself. These are bred and fed by external expectations of who you are meant to be; this is manifested, manipulated and milked through imposed ideas of what you are meant to look like. What ensues for many are torrid years of obsessive attempts to alter one's body and situation, in some ways wholly destructive and others which are apparently insignificant. For many and myself this was led by a desire for appeal and belonging; the inward necessity for these feelings being supplanted by an obsessive outward focus. Whilst healing and growth ultimately come from within, body shaming is an ever-rife phenomenon which impairs our ability to do so. Ideals of image are vitriolically and violently imposed to such a variant of degrees that the gravity of many instances are often overlooked. The expectations from our culture regarding body hair seemingly determines the body’s beauty on being almost or even entirely hairless. Whereas I support that for some this may be their own enjoyed preference for many others removing their hair occurs from conformity to expectation and from fears of rejection. Whilst I wrote this I was reminded of pressures in my high school which insisted that girls should shave their arms; not just the armpits but every hair from every inch of our arms. Many times, myself and others were ridiculed for not doing so. For reasons relating to depression and anorexia, I didn’t last long in my high school and because of those reasons there are many years where I have little recollection of my attitude towards body hair. Shaving didn’t often occur as a matter of importance, lest for the seldom visits to the world outside my house where I would shave if my underarms or legs were to be on show. Ultimately there were few occasions which necessitated the need in my mind to shave at all. However, shaving was always required if in company of others, romantically or platonically, if I were to avoid feeling akin to the Mexican wolf boys or Victorian Freak show attractions. Older and somewhat less riddled by issues of eating I began to let my underarm grow, partly due to the opinion of a partner at the time who preferred it. Realising the falsity in the prevailing message that everyone is repulsed by body hair, I began to take delight in not shaving. When I did shave again, generally for modelling jobs, I was irate at the discomfort it caused me. I also began to think about it more, realising that if hair is growing there that there is more than likely a bloody good reason for it. The underarm is a sensitive place and a vital area for the release of toxins. The axillary lymph nodes can become irritated and even infected from frequent shaving and use of harsh deodorising products. On a more superficial level, I would sometimes get rashes and pimples from shaving and regrowth which looked to me a lot worse than some hair. I’m sure some of you will recall the Veet adverts which came out not so long ago. These represent women with hair under their arms or on their legs as being wholly repulsive, deterring as well as shameful to themselves and others. More so than this, they are represented as inherently male attributes as shown by the morphing of the woman into an apologetic and shamefaced man. I wholeheartedly feel that the only people who ought to feel ashamed or embarrassed are those that brandish cruel ridicule and admonish women like myself who choose not to shave. I feel those who fall into this category need to stop, take a moment and honestly ask themselves; why? Why do you feel so affronted? Why do you care SO much that you feel like you are justified in making your hateful comments? Why do you believe you have the right to dictate what another person chooses to do with their body? Why let it concern you so deeply? Why bother? Ben is a dear friend of mine and I am so proud of him and all the spectacularly beautiful women that make up this series of photographs. Braving the ignorance of others and choosing to be yourself despite the bullying you may face is one of the most admirable qualities to uphold. Sharing the idea of being confident in who you are and how you are -even when it does not conform to what you are told is the ‘right’ way to be- is an idea which must continue to be perpetuated. Those who seek to harm others are ultimately only serving themselves a disfavour. Be yourself and be the beauty you wish to see in others. Remember that your skin is just the carrier for the true beauty which lies within.” – Emily Cripps, February 2017 (photographed July 2014).

  9. 19

    artFido
    4

    Julianne Popa. "Natural Beauty" research (2011)

  10. 20

    artFido
    3

    ”Armpit hair grows naturally, so one would think people would ask, 'why do you shave?' not the opposite. The fact that in this society something natural like growing your armpit hair is almost a statement, or a political act, is weird – and that’s a reason to grow. People react differently; depending on what environment I am in. When I am very dressed up, people are more chocked and sometimes disturbed by it. Seems like jewels and armpit hair don’t match in high fashion. When I’m in jeans and t-shirt or wearing more punk or hippie style, people are more relaxed with it. It’s more socially accepted or anticipated. With the hair, sometimes I feel free and natural and sometimes like a freak (which can be fun or disturbing, depending on my mood). I like to colour my armpit hair in blue, pink or white. I think it’s beautiful.” – Emilia Bostedt, actress. December 2016 (photographed February 2014).


Like it? Share with your friends!

0 Comments

Join the artFido Newsletter

artFido’s videos and content are viewed more than 2.5 billion times a month. This makes the network the seventh most viewed media company in the online sphere, behind the Walt Disney company in sixth place, and in front of US media giant Comcast in eighth place.*
* Statistics provided by research group Tubular Labs