12/21/2014 10:23 EST | Updated 02/20/2015 05:59 EST

Why Can't I Be Feminine and Have Body Hair?

Emma Innocenti via Getty Images

I haven't shaved in five months. And the truth is, I feel as feminine as ever.

I've been told that I need to get rid of my body hair. Incessantly pestered because it's dirty, gross, and gawked at as if I have bugs crawling all over my skin. I've been made to feel ashamed and ostracized, and constantly reminded that not shaving is only reserved boys. I've been reminded since I was a small child that femininity is hairlessness.

It sounded wrong then, and it still sounds wrong now. If I'm a woman and the hair is growing on my body naturally and freely, why would it be inherently masculine? This is a natural part of my body. The metal on my face and the tattoos on my skin and my truly fabulous liquid winged eyeliner are all artificial decorations, but my hair is 100 per cent natural and yet looked upon as if it's a deformity and a travesty.

Some women grow hair and use is as part of a masculine or androgynous aesthetic and that's okay. Some women shave everything off and enjoy being hairless and that's okay too. If I want to assert my femininity through my body hair, then why does that suddenly become a contradictory and complex idea?

Why have we gendered our body parts and gendered what comes out of our skin? Why am I not allowed to own my hair and parade it as a part of my femininity and beauty? Somehow, the feminine aesthetic has become intrinsically connected to hairlessness, despite the fact that my growth into womanhood meant that hair would grow on my body. Still, I am expected as a grown woman to be apologetic for not having the hairlessness of my eight-year-old prepubescent self.

When I sit on the subway with my ripped jeans and my coarse black leg hair poking out, people look at me with disapproving, even horrified stares. At first, I figured they were offended by the sight of my body hair. But I realized later it was not the image of hairy legs that offended them, but the fact that I was not ashamed of them. I didn't use my scarf or bag to cover the holes in my jeans. I didn't nervously drape my hand over top, trying to conceal the hair as if it was some terrible embarrassment. I sat comfortably, with a look on my face that said: "Yes I know you can see my leg hair. Grow up."

When it comes to body hair, feminism isn't necessarily about growing it all out or waxing it all off: it's about the choice, the freedom, to do either or without being ostracized by those around you. The double standards and petty beauty rules that society has imposed on women implies that society doesn't see women as human beings capable of making their own decisions. I've been told that I've been making the wrong choice by growing out my body hair and that, by letting nature run its course on my body, I am being "too radical." If radicalness is defined by owning your body and choosing you do with it, then sure, I'm about as radical as it gets.

My body hair has not impeded on my femininity or beauty in any way, despite the greedy cries of the beauty industry that it would. I don't need to be silky smooth to feel attractive and frankly, having the extra cash I've saved from not buying razors has been an extra plus.

Body hair doesn't have a gender. It's just hair that grows from your body and twisting it to mean otherwise is just yet another way for society to control women and profit off the double standards that have been forced upon them.

So if you spot me on the subway with my ripped jeans and leg hair, just remember: it's just hair, it's not going to bite you.


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