Where we live in California has great weather. But this Spring, a new concern surfaced for my 7th grader. My youngest daughter isn’t a big fan of shorts; she has a lot of hair on her legs. Cindy told me she was feeling a little nervous because she doesn’t want to start shaving her legs but she was concerned about what to do or say if she wore shorts and the Adolescent Body Hair Police did comment on the fact that her legs had lots of hair.
I told her that if anyone said anything to her about it, that she should not take the comment personally. She could even say, “Of course, you think I’m supposed to remove the hair from my legs. Any number of sources in our culture gives the impression that women are supposed to remove their hair. Our society has a lot of things to say about what women should do with their bodies in general. Hair removal is just one of them. Plus, the beauty standard of hair removal is really just to sell us stuff – Razors, waxing, shaving cream. It’s ridiculous if you think about it.”
My daughter absorbed whatever she needed out of that message and went on her merry way. She bounced out of the house in shorts(!) with the usual spring in her step, and that signaled to me that she felt she had a little bit of the Teflon coating against any insults that could be thrown her way.
Teen confidence level: Steady to increasing
My daughter is just like me. I have a lot of fine hair on my arms and legs. A lot. Mostly the color of the hair makes it appear invisible until you look closely. The hair on my daughter’s arms and legs is the same as mine. In the sunlight though, it glows like an aura!
I’ve had more general conversations with my daughters since then about body hair and pubic hair. I’ve even done a bit of coaching to go along with it – that if a partner were to say something awful to them about the existence or amount of body hair they dared to bare for them to have compassion for them and their ignorance. But do not let that person shame you. Take it as a red flag and a blessing they show their true colors; they are not a decent person if they insist on their ignorance.
In preparing this post, I stumbled upon this video of 21-year-old photographer Petra Collins discussing how she has learned to accept her body hair. Check this out; she starts talking about body hair at 4:46:
(This video comes from a series. The What’s Underneath video series features women discussing their personal style, body insecurities and stories of self-acceptance. For Collins, she grows out her body hair in order to embrace, rather than reject, what her body’s given her.)
It bears repeating; there are a lot of people who think women are supposed to be hairless. There are lots of voices and messages in our culture telling women and girls that they should be hairless. Women in porn typically don’t have hair. Large consumer goods companies spend millions of dollars promoting the sale of their products that tout hair removal – waxes, cream depilatories, shaving cream and razors, bikini waxing products. There’s a lot invested in maintaining control over what you do with your body. All of these different products are sold to make you think you’re supposed to do something about that hair.
Today my daughter wears shorts, and pretty much whatever she wants, without concern for what anyone might say about her leg hair. Ultimately, she chose to trim it instead of shaving it off completely. Something she infrequently does. And I fully support her choice to do that.
I’m not going to tell you what to do with your body hair. Do what pleases YOU. I humbly suggest questioning why things are the way they are. Read about the methods and choices. Study the pros and cons. Ask others what they do and why. Ask how often they cut themselves if they shave. Decide what you want to do. Just don’t let anyone else tell YOU what you need to do with your body.
I gave my daughter a message that may have justified her decision to continue to not shave her legs but I think it also gave her some wisdom to educate any of the Adolescent Body Hair Police who might listen to her response
Interested in the various workshops I present? Email me at mamasutra (at) me.com. If you want to work together to get personalized education about sex and sexuality or experience acceptance from someone who has great “mommy” energy, contact me here.
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