“Having hair there is unhygienic”, and other myths about body hair
Updated: Jun 3, 2021
Body hair is a stigma that a lot of South Asian girls and women have had to live with. A lot of us have thick, dark hair and were routinely made fun of for having monobrows and hairy arms as children, and labelled unattractive or dirty as adults - I know I was and am.
I’ve felt self-conscious of my body hair for as long as I can remember. I would sweat under jumpers and furiously shave my legs in the summer in a cycle of self-hate that lasted until my twenties. But part of my self-love journey has been centered on accepting my body the way it is naturally, including the hair that grows on it.
Part of that work is in breaking down the attitudes we have towards ourselves as brown women and understanding that they come from colonialism and the patriarchy - not from logic or fact. When we question and dismantle the things we’ve been taught to think about ourselves, we can change the narrative and take our power back.
So let’s break down some myths about body hair.
Myth 1: Having underarm or pubic hair is unhygienic
Like every part of our bodies, hair plays a role in keeping us healthy and safe. Our eyebrows and eyelashes protect our eyes from dirt and bacteria, our pubic hair protects our genitals from bacteria and infections that can enter the body, our underarm hair reduces friction and absorbs sweat. And like any other part of our bodies, it’s only unhygienic if you don’t clean it.
Myth 2: No one will want you if you’re hairy
Any self-respecting, intelligent adult should be able to see past superficial things like appearance and want to be with you because of who you are. There are millions of women out there in perfectly happy relationships who have body hair - trust me because I’m one of them. Remember that it’s a scare tactic to make us comply with unattainable beauty standards.
Myth 3: Women aren’t supposed to be hairy
The only reason we’re taught that we’re not ‘meant’ to be hairy is to uphold patriarchal beauty standards and appear more attractive to men. If hair grows naturally on our bodies, how can it be that it’s “not supposed to grow there”? It doesn’t make sense.
Myth 4: Only activists and man-haters grow their hair out
Part of the stigma surrounding body hair is that the women who do choose to grow it out are either activists or man-haters (or both). This keeps the conversation rooted in patriarchy and centers men. But shaving or not shaving isn’t really about the hair itself, it’s about what it represents. And that is choice and autonomy for women, something society doesn’t think we’re deserving of.
To my fellow hairy women reading this: remember that your body hair is NORMAL and NATURAL, and it is your choice what you choose to do with it.
Henna Amin is a British-Punjabi/Gujurati activist creative and writer. Her work aims at taking up space, speaking her truth and repping south asian women. You can follow her on instagram at: