Smooth. Silky. Spotless. Hairless.
This is how women’s bodies are expected to be in the 21st century. In our Western society today, it’s almost universally accepted that a woman must fit these criteria in order to be considered sexy or in any way attractive. Friends of mine have told me how their mothers, upon noticing hair emerging from their pubescent daughters’ legs or armpits, simply handed them their first razor and said “this is what women do”. There’s even a song about a woman’s inadequate relationship titled “Did I Shave My Legs For This?”. Body hair, or rather a lack of it, has become a fundamental part of femininity.
To clarify, I am a trans woman. This means I was assigned male at birth, but I am more comfortable existing in society as a woman. A cis woman is someone who was assigned female at birth and is fully comfortable with that. Therefore, observing the body hair discourse while being raised “as a boy” until the age of 17, I was always somewhat confused about this obsession. I’d never been told to shave my legs, so why should it be such a big issue for so many people? I lay blissfully in this fluffy bed of ignorance until I came out as a woman myself – then everything started to change. Suddenly I was thrust into this torrent of social pressure and shaming, from which I had been sheltered all my life. I was subjected to a barrage of “you’d be sexy if you shaved your legs” and “you need to get rid of that disgusting armpit hair”. Initially I went along with it, but then I realised something that disturbed me – I didn’t want to shave.[pullquote]I have one request: don’t raise your daughters with the same expectations society had for you.[/pullquote]
I’m one of the lucky people. My “fuck society” mentality has given me the strength to defy this absurd expectation and keep my body how I like it. However, not everyone is so privileged. A lot of trans women, already breaking under the weight of crippling dysphoria, feel they cannot leave their homes until they have removed every last speck of visible body hair. For many, this involves a daily routine of shaving legs, arms, armpits, face and whatever else might be on show. I have witnessed the distress caused by society’s demand for us to fit this mould that we were never made for. We need a solution.
It seems obvious to me that the best way to save transfeminine people from this is to first dismantle the standards we force upon cis women. If we make it acceptable for cis women to have body hair, it will subsequently become much less of an issue for trans women. From my own experience, it took far too long for me to realise I actually have less natural body hair than many cis women; because we rarely see a hairy woman who doesn’t shave at all, I had nothing to compare myself to apart from smooth, silky, spotless, hairless bodies.
I have absolutely no problem with people who genuinely want to shave – it’s your body and you have the right to do whatever the hell you like with it. But I have one request: don’t raise your daughters with the same expectations society had for you. From my own trans perspective, seeing more cis women with body hair will make life so much easier for people like me. And you won’t only be helping us either – you’ll be helping a new generation of women learn to be comfortable with their bodies in a way that we seldom are.