The Hairy Side of Body Acceptance

Body hair - the hairy side of body acceptance

{Image modified from Peter Gabriel goat by Dan McKay/ CC BY 2.0}

I recently browsed a comment thread devoted to complaining about me.

I noticed something a few comments had in common:

So she doesn’t want to diet or exercise, fine, whatever, but…do something about those eyebrows!

Hey now! I kind of love my eyebrows!

Another comment mocked the thinning hair on my head.

Here’s another:

Apparently she’s also ingrown belly hair positive…EWWWWW

That’s a lot of focus on my body hair.

The belly hair comment comes from a picture I shared on my post Big Bare Beautiful Baby Belly which I made to help add to the available images of fat pregnant people. My belly hairs are just like that. There’s nothing I can do about it.

When someone mocks me and says I’m “ingrown belly hair positive” presumably they aren’t bothered that my belly hairs are like that. What they are bothered by is that I dare to show them in public. Of course, I choose to display myself online, but many people have bodies like mine. Those critical words are also out there in public, and they affect everyone who reads them.

My eyebrows I cannot hide as easily as my belly hairs. Am I expected to pluck and shape them to suit the needs of the body hating world? Well, yes, I am in fact expected to do so.

The hair on my head also cannot be so easily hidden. It grows out of my head that way. It grows the same way my mother’s hair does. I will not cower to criticism and be bothered that I look the way I look.

I stopped plucking my eyebrows 17 years ago.

I stopped shaving my underarms 13 years ago.

I stopped shaving my legs 13 years ago, but I still did it for special occasions. I only stopped for good about 3 years ago.

3 years is about how long ago I got over my mustache. I used to plucked it. I even bleached it once, but that just meant I was walking around with a blonde mustache.

I have still been plucking my chin hairs. I thought I only had two or three of them. A few months ago I stopped plucking them, and I discovered that it might be 2-3 at a time, but there are more in total. It’s quite scraggly down there. I had one more panicked plucking session, and now I think I’m done.

So I understand what’s expected of me by the people who write mean things about my body hair, because I’ve done most of these things before.

  • I’m supposed to be medicated to help with my thinning head hair.
  • I’m supposed to be medicated to help with my “excess” of other hair.
  • I’m supposed to shave my legs.
  • I’m supposed to shave my arm pits.
  • I’m supposed to “trim” my pubic hairs.
  • I’m supposed to pluck or shave or whatever my upper lip hairs.
  • I’m supposed to call them “upper lip hairs” instead of calling them my mustache.
  • I’m supposed to pluck my eyebrows.
  • I’m supposed to pluck or shave my chin hairs.
  • With my remaining head hair, I’m supposed to wash and condition it just so, then heat it this way or that, and style it with a bunch of products.
  • With my remaining eyebrow hairs, I’m supposed to shape them.
  • With my eyelashes I’m supposed to thicken them and curl them with various products.
  • With my remaining pubic hairs, I’m supposed to shape them in one way or another.

That’s an awful lot of control. That’s an awful lot of time, money, and struggle on my part to fit into someone else’s mold.

Where will I be if I comply?

Who will I be?

Who will I be if I DON’T comply? If I continue to try as hard as I can to NOT comply as far as I can?

One of the things I will be is a woman. The deep control of hair is something our culture particularly forces onto women. But I will be a woman no matter what I do with my hair.

One of the things I will be is an animal. Guess what? We’re mammals! We have hair!

I recently heard a friend refer to her chin hairs as goat hairs. I’m going to take that up. It’s kind of cute, and it reminds me that I’m an animal. I will continue getting comfortable being the person – the animal – that I am. Chin hairs and all.

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  1. Quite possibly my favourite entry of yours, ever. I have VERY strong opinions on body hair, and can’t STAND society (but moreso, my feminist friends’) opinions about shaving. I get so hostile about it. I have always called female upper lip hair “moustaches” too and I have never plucked a hair in my life, and haven’t shaved one in 22 years. My eyebrows are lovely as is, thanks.

    • Thank you, Jo! I’m getting a little hostile about feminist opinions on body hair lately, too. The choice-choicey-choice-ism bugs me. And the pushback to never, ever, ever say anything remotely critical about people who choose to shave, wear makeup, high heels, etc. I’d like to see a LITTLE more support and permission for people who are NOT doing these things before I get too hung up on supporting those who do.

  2. I love your body acceptance. It is super inspiring. Your post definitely makes me reflect on my own ideas on body hair. I don’t have an opinion on anyone else’s because it’s theirs and it seems ridiculous for me to care enough about someone else’s hair to have formed an opinion. I do keep myself hair free though and with quite thin arched brows. I physically like the sensation of being hairless and find shaving quite relaxing (how strange am I?). I also quite like my thin and high brows. They aren’t in vogue but I care not and I quite like the way look atop my thick framed glasses. I do find myself wondering though if at the core of my motivations there isn’t some form of societal expectation. Would I enjoy the sensation of hair and the look of myself unplucked more if I didn’t have cultural aesthetics somewhere in mind despite my desire not to acknowledge it? Interesting food for thought. I loved reading your thoughts on your hairy-ness and just wanted to share mine on my hair-less-ness. ;)

    • In the years where I was only shaving my legs for special occasions, I was known to say things like I liked the feel of it smooth, it just made me feel better, etc. It’s really impossible to divorce our feelings about something like that from our larger social context, though. It eventually became clear to me that I was only shaving on occasions when I might have sex or wear a short skirt – basically, only when others would see. I never shaved on a random Tuesday just so I could experience my own smooth skin. One interesting way to think about it is to imagine the shaving in a non-typical location. Like shaving your arms. Wouldn’t that also bring the nice sensation? Why not shave your arms?

      That’s just some thoughts. I’m not really trying to talk you into anything. If you find shaving relaxing you’ve got one up on me. I always hated shaving. I used to say it wasn’t a feminist stance – I’m just lazy! :-)

      Also, I love your eyebrows. You have a very striking face. First meeting you outdoors in parks, the combination of your awesome coat with your awesome face was pretty cool! :-)

      • Funny you should mention arms because I do shave those. My motto is if I can reach it, I shaves it. ;) But I absolutely agree with you that more support needs to be shown for the au-naturale girls. It’s just such a silly concept for me to even judge one another for how we choose to adorn or unadorn our temples. Your hairy legs don’t make you any less awesomely you, which is pretty damn awesome. And thanks for the eyebrow love! I think your wild ones rock! ;)

        • That’s very interesting that you shave your arms, too. I’ve only known one other person who did that and that was because she had really dark, thick arm hair. It’s really funny to me when people comment on my eyebrows – it always surprises me. Like, I know unshaved pits and legs are different from the current norm, but my eyebrows are just eyebrows to me. I don’t think of them as wild or thick or whatever.

          • I was meaning wild as in untamed. My hair isn’t really thick or dark, I just like them bare. My grandmother doesn’t grow on her arms, legs or face and when I was little we lived with her for many years. We always shared a bed and she slept with arm wrapped around me and I felt so warm and safe and loved wrapped up in her smooth satiny arms. I think that’s a large part of my bare skin love. And your sweet comments have stayed with me all day. Thanks for your kind words. You are such a genuine and authentic person. I’m so glad we’re friends. :)

    I gotta tell ya why I love this so much.
    My mom and I called it “constant vigilance” – the daily act of removing unwanted hairs so not to be embarrassed by them. So while my fat ass is something i am getting more in love with (and the back rolls, and all that being big stuff) and showing off more, not hiding as much, wearing clothes i like rather than what society would like to see me in (a tent) , my unconventional body hair is something I have a harder time loving. And somehow at 36 I have all of a sudden gotten a LOT more of it in those places people assume you should not have body hair if your a woman. I even hid it from my lover in the first couple years of our relationship. He won’t tell me if I have stray chin hairs ever though because he doesn’t care. He thinks its really dumb that I care. I have this huge fear of being that old bearded lady. I feel dumb having that fear. I am happy there are women like you and all these other great ladies that proudly do not shave. Maybe one day I will get there.

    So while I was in Namibia, I learned that some cultures value women with unconventional hair growth. These women show it off. Chest hair: they will wear a low cut top and even powder it to make it stand out. Mustache : They will proudly flaunt it. The mom at the house I lived at caught me twee-zing my eye brows and scolded me and told me to stop. “WHY would you remove the hairs!? THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL! the men will not like you as much?! why would you do that to yourself!?” (They also thought I was too thin.)

    Thanx again.

  4. I’m shocked that grown adults would dare to mock someone publically on how their body look. They must know they have lost the argument of they have to go that low.
    I would also like to thank you too, I need to learn to accept my own body hair. It’s very excessive and ‘unfeminine’ but reading your post made be confront the fact that I don’t remove it for my own sake but to avoid comments like you have received. Why should I waste my time on such people?!

  5. YAY! My first male lover encouraged me to grow my leg/pit hair over 1/2 my life ago! Wow! Even now I remember the feeling of a breezy spring day. I was wearing shorts and was enthralled with the way the wind felt blowing through my the hair on my legs! I still enjoy that sensation! I haven’t shaved now for 4 years. But I do pluck/shave chin/mustache. Hmmmm… I am just beginning my journey on releasing shame and growing into Fat/size acceptance. I stumbled initially onto your blog by Googling “hairy fat acceptance.” I was seeing too many hairless Fat women and.getting uncomfortable. Like.the only way fat is sexy is if it can be reminiscent of a cute chubby baby! Or a fat body is.only good can oil it.up and stick your dick in the folds. Gross. So …HAIRY will now become a part of my blog stuff too. Just this weekend, I challenged myself by not.only wearing a bright crazy print dress… it was short!!! I am 5’11.5″ 375lbs and my hair on my arms and legs AIN’T DAINTY! Woohoo! How relieved I was no one even noticed… all that mattered was having fun with my Wife and feeling pretty! :-) Thanks!

  6. Thanks for your post, it´s really inspiring! On the pictures, I even didn´t notice any leg hair of whatsoever.. So thanks for telling :) I´m just getting started on my body hair love adventure^^

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