Hair. Hair. Hair. Something that will forever grow no matter how much we get rid of it. God has made us humans this way. We grow hair for the purposes of heat insulation (I let it all grow during winter for this reason), UV protection and to combat infections. Body hair for girls is strenuous in order to comply to social norms. It is a constant element of our lives that we 'have' to dedicate time to whether its on our head, armpits, pubes, face, arms and legs. If we shave, we get spots and our pores look super big. If we wax, we endure pain, get rashes BUT the plus side is 2-3 weeks of smoothness until it starts growing back and itches like crazy especially down there- Yikes! If we epilate it...well let's just say a slow stinging nettle pain is an accurate description for this. Bloody hell! Can't win, can we? 'You must get rid of your body hair' is what society has made us to believe right? why? because if we have body hair, it is deemed as abnormal. why? because it makes people feel uncomfortable. why? because society made it so women being hairless is the ONLY acceptable version of themselves. TO BE REALLY HONEST...FAAAHUCK ALL OF THAT!
I am South Asian and from the age of 6+. I had a thick monobrow, long sideburns and a moustache. I didn't understand it. I looked at other girls in my school and thought 'why don't they have facial hair?' 'why is it only me?' I saw all my other classmates taking an interest in my friends and less of me and I questioned why? I mean how is it even okay for someone to think like this at that age? I was meant to be enjoying school and you know what.. to some extent I did but I just knew.. a comment or a group of boys and girls laughing at me would come sooner or later. I remember telling my mum about it and she would say 'oh don't take any notice beta' and I tried not to but I guess she didn't really understand the extent. I had more hair than my mum and she would be epilating her own and I would be like ???? I would be comparing my hair with hers and asking "mum, why do I have more hair than you?" I was fully confused because hair removal products were available, I was surrounded by it but was never able to use it because I was too young. I mean surely I should have been able to use it because I felt like an ADVERSE CIRCUMSTANCES case but sadly no. I got my dad's genetics, he's the one with the hair and not my mum as much. DAMN IT! However, the hair on my head is BADASS! Thanks dad for that..ONLY!
In primary school, I got so embarrassed when we had circle time. One boy didn't want to sit next to me, he said "oh no no I don't want to sit there, her hairy arms will touch me ew" and that was one of many. It was in front of everyone and I actually didn't know what to do but sweat profusely as all eyes were on me. Teachers didn't have a clue back then of what to say or do. It's like encouragement, empowerment and reassurance didn't really exist..THE IRONY. If you tell a kid off, they weren't gonna listen and they'll do it AGAIN and AGAIN. It all felt bizarre at that age. Also, what was so crazy to me, I couldn't even tell my South Asian friends who also had hair like me, how I felt because I thought I would be judged. Furthermore, I thought they would make fun of me because they didn't know better or they would tell their friends to make themselves look cool. Everyone wanted to be liked in some way shape or form so they would do anything even if it meant going against their best friend THE NEXT DAY after they played at their house for hours. Even I felt the pressure to do that and I remember feeling conflicted most of the time. Kids in primary schools were like YOYOs..I am telling you.. one minute they are your bestie..next minute they hated you and never wanna be your friend again? BRUH. I am sure everyone can relate to the YOYOs.
From the age of 11, secondary school kicked in, a bigger pile of fish to fry. I was 2 weeks late entering year 7 due to criteria bullshit. My worst nightmare was walking into a classroom of pupils whom would all stare at me. The first thing I thought they would notice was the hair on my face. Imagine, just having it so embedded in your brain that..that's ALL you knew they were gonna say or think.. so I acted differently.. more shy, timid and reserved. I felt like my personality was attached to my body/facial hair. You know...I cannot even tell you how completely opposite I was from that..however paranoia got the best of me and I sat in the front of the class and froze. I couldn't and wouldn't turn around.. until 2 girls started singing JOJO - Get Out Leave and they were GOOOD. I swear that was my favourite song back then, I just had to turn around and they looked at me weirdly and smiled. I smiled back but quickly turned back around because I didn't want them to look at me for too long. Couple months past and some friends were made but I just always felt like an outsider for some reason. Was I classed as the new girl? Did I look different? Was it paranoia? Of course it was paranoia and trauma BUT HEY HO normal for an 11 year old :| (urm not really). I remember vividly sitting in IT class, I finally had the balls to tell the guy in my form that I liked him but panicked last minute.. so I got my friend to do it. His reply was "no, I don't like her bleh bleh and plus she's got hair on her hands". URM HELLO? WTF am I meant to do if I got hair on my hands? I just remember crying and sweating at the same time. Crying from the fact, he didn't feel the same but how could I have expected him to when I didn't even speak to him properly LOOL (high school drama?) and sweating because he had noticed the hair on my hands and knuckles. After that, I wore a black long sleeve baggy sweatshirt and had my hands covered to my knuckles so no one would see and each time it came up, I would cover it ASAP because I was super conscious. I felt ashamed and constantly on edge.
Year 8 - 9 swiftly came along, the weather was nice and girls were wearing skirts. I told my mum I wanted to get rid of my leg hair because I wanted to wear a skirt. I just wanted it off so bad. She told me to try wear opaque tights so I wouldn't have to but I wanted it the way the girls at school were wearing it...sheer, glossy, skin coloured tights or the black ones but not opaque. Through enough back and forth, she finally gave in and helped me shave and I remember feeling the most smoothest legs ever. The next morning I put my skirt on with my tights and my confidence shot through the roof like DAYUUM MAMA. Happiness was an understatement. I wanted to show everyone 'look I am wearing a skirt!' However, that only lasted so long before it started growing back again and my mum said I would only be allowed to shave once. 100 to 0 real quick na?
I actually had enough one day and told my mum I wanted to wax my chin and upper lip because my hair in general was dark, thick, coarse and long af. So, it happened but the hair on the rest of my face was still apparent so I bleached it with Jolen bleach (strong stuff JEEZ) inclusive of my thick sideburns. Every time, the sun shone on me, people would be like "why is your hair blonde", I replied "I was born like this (as a joke so they would piss off)", they would be like "really? well Bhavisha doesn't have that" and it would be this constant back and forth of just seeking approval and making it go away at the same time. The conflicts with my mum and to still receive comments was just stress, nonetheless I felt determined and put that pressure on myself to be accepted by others. I hated people standing so close to me. I didn't want them seeing everything on my face but it was inevitable. My peripherals would be strained from trying to see but not see if people would talk about me. I would get stares from a group of girls who I thought were my friends! Or it would come up in conversation and one of them would be like "OMG SSHHH SHUT UPPP!" so basically they were talking behind my back..GREAT.
I struggled with this nonsense until it got to a point where I had to get laser hair removal. I think I was old enough to get it but it was not cheap. My parents forked out the money to pay for laser sessions. I just remember feeling so lifted and unexplainably happy when the session was done. I was en route to having practically no hair on my face. New woman and dat! I just needed to keep up with the sessions which I still do to this day. Not that much hair grows on my face anymore apart from the thick chin/neck hairs and light hairs in certain places which I am not that fussed about. I am just really thankful my parents could see my constant unhappiness.
The gruelling ordeal had come to an end.
However, all those unfortunate events that occurred made me feel so ashamed to have hair and forced me to have a hateful relationship with it and even if the slightest bit grew back, it had to be gone. It was just tiresome wanting approval from people who didn't even care about you. The worst thing about this was, I just internalised everything, the looks, the laughs, the comments. I just didn't know what being free felt like. I felt suffocated.
Now, I am 27 and I am still hairy and couldn't give a shit. I let everything grow and when I want to remove it, I use this process as a form of self-care. It took me time to accept, body hair will always be there and how you look at it will make or break you. Time, growth and acceptance was needed, now I don't feel the pressure to do anything to it and if it makes anyone uncomfortable I actually don't care.
Why do we feel the need to get rid of our hair just because it seems to be 'abnormal' or 'uncomfortable' for someone else?
Why has society shaped us into thinking that having body hair as a girl/woman is taboo?
Why do our mum's tell us we need to get rid of our hair even though there is no reason for it?
Why can't we just be hairy and happy?
Why is the hairless body the acceptable version of women?
Our hair is our identity no matter what race, it lives and breathes us, it is us. I wish I was told this 10+ years ago however, these experiences shaped me into who I am today. I will tell my daughters of the future to never conform to societies expectations and never be ashamed of having hair.
I am the hairy future.
*names have been changed
Amisha Kapadia is a London based Fashion Stylist and loves to tell stories through her work and garments. She is excited to develop meaningful projects related to struggles of a PoC, women rights and belonging etc via styling. Her outlet during this difficult time was to write about aspects of her life growing up. She is a matcha loving, adventurous food making, linen smelling, fashion styling creative mellow, fun weirdo.