Sienna for ‘Natural Beauty’
“I stopped shaving because I quickly came to realise the absurdity that a lack of body hair equated with femininity. The first time I removed body hair, I was around 11 years old. I stole my older sisters razor and attempted to remove all of the hair from my body, not that I had much at the time. I assumed you needed to use a lot of pressure with the blade against my skin and ended up removing strips of flesh from my legs, which caused profuse bleeding. I still remember going to school wrapped in bandages and claiming that I had fallen down a tree. Looking back now, I think of how horrified my mother must’ve been that I had already been conditioned to remove the early signs of puberty that had only just arisen. Without recognising it back then, I had already equated body hair with something monstrous and unnatural that had to be eradicated in order to keep my body effeminate and ‘pure’. As I grew older, I reflected on this instance a lot and the meaning behind it, and eventually just stopped removing my hair all together. Most women will be all too familiar with the sharp knick of a razor blade against their leg or the spine tingling rip of wax on their labia. I simply chose to no longer bother enduring the pain, let alone the expense. I feel entirely comfortable not conforming. If people find me unattractive because of it, great! I then know that they’re the kind of people I don’t want to interact with.
It didn’t necessarily make me feel empowered, just comfortable. I don’t think women refusing to shave should necessarily be considered a radical act. Of course it’s a way in which women can refuse to conform to patriarchal beauty standards, but I don’t want my body to consistently be read as a political space. I hope that eventually our society will reach a stage where we are mature enough to no longer be shocked by women with body hair, that it will no longer be read as a form of feminist backlash or political statement, but just a normal human body existing within the world.
No one has ever really said that much about it. I think my mother and grandmother have dropped a few comments or jokes about it here and there, which is reflective of their generations’ expectations of ‘proper feminine grooming’, but I’ve never been ashamed for it. The most compelling reaction I’ve had has been from children. I worked as a nanny for a few years and the kids I cared for were always pretty shocked by my armpit hair. I’ve had kids ask me why I have hair under my arms like their daddy, and they’re always confounded when I tell them that their mummies also have hair under their arms, they just choose to remove it. I think it’s pretty important for them to learn that hair is natural on all bodies so that they don’t make the same mistakes I did when they eventually reach puberty.”
Sienna for ‘Natural Beauty’. Photographed and written August 2018.