“It came alongside the realisation that the desire to wear makeup, shave or alter myself was born out of the notion that beauty can be sold. That beauty can, and must be bought; a concept not surprisingly enforced by the ’beauty' industry that have the most to profit. That we are not innately beautiful, that beauty is a product. This is quite obviously delusional. As if people were not attracted to each other in all of human history before the first female razor blade was sold - only one hundred years ago. It was the obscure concept that I had to change myself to be beautiful. An idea enforced upon any female from childhood, that you simply would pluck, rip, cut at and mask your skin. It was the makeup I cut first, it was easier. Because you see, ditching makeup would leave people questioning your beauty, where ditching a razor would leave people questioning your womanhood. Which is clearly ironic given that growth of hair is a sign of womanhood, fertility, and maturity. The modern woman is made to feel as if her own body is unnatural; we're uncomfortable with our skin. I remember a dance class at the age of around 10 and I became conscious of my leg hair for the first time. I was ashamed, embarrassed. I wanted to hide away; I hated my body for it. Why should a child develop such an enveloping fear and resentment of the natural processes of their own body? …Where going through a process that causes dry skin, rashes, wrinkles, over-stimulation of glands and general discomfort is what is required to be a woman …and that’s of course unless you buy yet another product to counteract these side effects. I don't want to live in or harbour that society, where letting your body just be is a social and political act. I know fully well that I was conditioned, and learning to love oneself took a certain amount of mental hacking and de-conditioning. It was tough at first. I was an alien in my own body. The mad thing is, this entire psychological burden, this complex so many women go through, was invented and perpetuated for one thing, money. It was power over the female form, female sexuality, transforming this power in to child like vulnerability. Putting barriers between a woman and her beauty, her sexuality. You must do this, buy that, and then you'll be beautiful - as if beauty could ever be that shallow. Observing the harmful nature of advertisements, choosing the quality of information that will enter and shape my mind, rather than what a company, whose intentions are unknown to me, intends me to see, is a vital step in the process. Spending time in bathhouses in traditional cultures or at open-minded festivals, one eventually gets used to the natural form of woman, a form we are so detached from in the West – all of that really helps too. This openness is healing and vital, and indeed a feature of less neurotic societies. Seeing nude women and children together, the beauty in that, and recognising hairlessness is a feature of prepubescent girls, not women. I've finally reached the stage where I'm happy with my hair, and actually, I love my hair. I find a little hair truly very beautiful and the altered form just appears somewhat absurd and uncomfortable. Now I see hair as something soft and feminine, indeed really quite pretty, the opposite of how modern media portrays female body hair. I've come to trust the natural processes of my body. It knows what's best for my health and me. Look at art history or just look around you. You see the beauty of the human mind is so temporal - it doesn't last. But the beauty of nature is timeless and unchanging. From this I take strength and I hope to inspire other men and women to do the same.” – Cassia Chloe, artist and performer. December 2016 (photographed April 2014).
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).
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.
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)
“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)
”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).
“I stopped shaving my body hair as I realised that it is a choice, not a given. That it was unfair to have to spend so much extra time, sometimes money (if getting regular waxes) and energy in order to fulfil this conventional expectation to be hair free. This expectation seemed to be based entirely on my assigned biological gender, which was purely down to chance. Not choice. At first, my 17-year-old self was exceptionally proud and liberated. Flashing my underarms and legs with a zesty vigour for pushing social boundaries. I still feel such a way often. However getting older, and becoming more of a ‘grown up woman’, so to speak, I have been more challenged wondering how it could affect others perception of me, mainly professionally. Over the years I’ve had mixed responses. Some very gratifying, where other ‘women’ have expressed feeling inspired to stop removing their hair also. On several occasions ‘women’ have called me “so brave” and shared almost sorrowfully their personal inner conflict on the matter. I’ve had conversations with lovers and ‘male’ friends who claimed to find my body hair attractive, symbolic of freedom and nature; that they don’t even notice it/care. I mention this as I think that one of the biggest motivations to remove body hair is wanting to be considered sexually attractive. I’ve definitely also noticed what I think are looks of surprise in public places. But quite frankly I’m not surprised at that as despite becoming somewhat more acceptable, it is still pretty rare to see a ‘woman’ with hairy legs or a man with shaved armpits, for that matter. I too can find myself staring at unusual appearances.” Charlot Conway. Photographed May 2018, written July 2018
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)