I have always been at odds with my hair.
I remember turning 11 and seeing many of my peers with their silky, still child-sized legs and (strangely) wishing I had the same. Once I finally plucked up the courage to ask my parents if I could shave, I was rightly told that I was far too young for that nonsense. Determined not to listen, I did it anyway. I sat down and stubbornly cut away at my hairs not with a razor, but with a pair of scissors. As you can probably guess, I did cut myself and still have a V-shaped scar from when my scissors missed their target and instead sliced into my skin.
Fast forward 5 years and I am nearing the end of my High School life. My peers have gone through many ‘beauty phases’ which I did my best to label mostly as silly and unhealthy; such as bleaching their hair platinum blonde, wearing foundation as lipstick and shaving (or waxing) their arm hair and any other hair that society deems as ‘unfeminine’. They were determined to look like magazines. My efforts to think of them as silly were supposed to make me feel superior and validate my fears of looking too different. I really wanted to look like them but didn’t have a money to invest in expensive hair appointments or large bottles of foundation. Looking back, I wish that I was mature enough to just accept my appearance, without having to put them down.
It has now been 8 years since I have left high school. Not much has changed. I continue to religiously shave and unfortunately, I continue to unintentionally judge others for how they look, too.
I recently saw a woman in her early 20s waiting for the train. She unashamedly wore shorts and showed off her fully grown leg hair. Initially, I judged her for her appearance. But thankfully I quickly realised what I was doing and stopped myself, thinking of my own carefully hidden and growing leg hairs. I quickly considered why I reacted as I did and came to respect her self-confidence and individuality. The fact that I judged a woman so harshly for displaying her leg hair scares me. It really shouldn’t matter if a woman decides to grow her body hair. My perception of beauty needs to change. I need to stop expecting myself and others to look like the pictures from magazines.
This month is my first step in changing my perception of beauty. I have revisited my hairy insecurities and participated in Get Hairy February, an Australian fundraising event where women are encouraged to grow as much hair as they feel comfortable to, to raise money for the Full Stop Foundation (which provides support for the victims of family violence). The concept of growing female hair to support women who have been abused may seem like a whimsical idea, but actually, it is great to be fighting how society treats us and expects us to look.
Throughout February I have felt the breeze ripple through my leg hairs, felt them be plucked out of their roots by my rather unfriendly, slightly-too-big skinny jeans, and felt both liberated and embarrassed! But from now on, I am going to let my hair grow when I don’t want to shave. I will continue to be aware of how I perpetuate the patriarchies expectations and fight them any way that I can. I will do my best to not judge anyone by their appearance. And when it is hot and I go out to university, or to the local grocery store, I will wear shorts and show any residing leg hair proudly.
Thanks for reading!
Here are links to Get Hairy February and the Full Stop Foundation if you want to know more. And please donate!