Today, Emily Ratajkowski posted an image on Instagram to accompany a personal essay she penned for Harper's Bazaar on female identity and sexuality. The black-and-white photo is just like any other stunning shot we've seen of her, except for one very obvious detail—that is, her underarm hair is on full and unabashed display.
It wasn't a mistake. Nor was it an afterthought. Her underarm hair was a message. "For me, body hair is another opportunity for women to exercise their ability to choose—a choice based on how they want to feel and their associations with having or not having body hair," Ratajkowski wrote. Seeing as most major brands and publications still airbrush photos to oblivion, leaving no hair, beauty mark, or so-called 'blemish' behind, this was a surprising, albeit refreshing, move.
It's not just Ratajkowski and Harper's Bazaar who are participating in the body hair dialogue, though. Other influencers, brands, and publications are taking active roles. With all things considered, we're going to go ahead and say it: Body hair is about to become mainstream. It's about time.
For Ratajkowski, choice is fundamental to feminism. "On any given day, I tend to like to shave, but sometimes letting my body hair grow out is what makes me feel sexy," she wrote. "And there is no right answer, no choice that makes me more or less of a feminist, or even a 'bad feminist,' to borrow from Roxane Gay. As long as the decision is my choice, then it’s the right choice. Ultimately, the identity and sexuality of an individual is up to them and no one else."
It's one thing to talk about body hair, but it's another thing entirely to show it off. We think that's laudable. After all, how will body hair become normalized if it's never actually seen? To allow something to be seen is to acknowledge its existence.
One of the most notable advancements in the body hair dialogue came from the women's razor brand, Billie. While it's true that the brand has always been vocal about supporting women and their choice to shave or not to shave, it took things a step further this summer, by unveiling the 'Red, White, and Do You' campaign. It featured models with pubic hair, which was momentous, considering no other shaving company had done so before.
While it's hard to gauge the prevailing grooming trends of women when grooming isn't something that has been historically talked about, experts tell us that it depends on each woman's personal preference (fair enough) as well as geography and lifestyle—take Pennsylvania, for instance. Pamela Jeschonek, an esthetician and owner of Everyday Esthetics outside of Pittsburgh, says "some woman age out of removing their body hair because they have kids and jobs, and it becomes less of a priority. But younger women are preferring a fuller look to keep in line with their more natural, active, organic lifestyles.
One 2017 survey from hair removal brand Nair found that 72% of women call their bikini line their "problem area." As the report states, "one in two millennial women say unwanted body hair has made them feel self-conscious, less confident, or insecure." What's more is that 48% of the women surveyed said they would give up coffee for a month in order to be free of unwanted body hair for a year. 44% of women said they'd give up Netflix, and 39% said they'd give up sex. This set of statistics begs the question: everyone has it, so why is body hair this shrouded, shameful thing?
Whether it's pubic hair or not, the motivations for removing it, or not removing it, are complex. In another survey we reported on awhile back, the numbers showed that "our romantic partners and friends have the biggest effects on our grooming behavior (accounting for about 84% of respondents' body hair choices)." Other influences included fashion, media, pornography, and celebrities.
That's right, celebrities, like Ratajkowski, have the power to influence body hair grooming habits. When celebrities embrace their own body hair, and they're vocal about embracing their own body hair, maybe that will encourage others to do the same, if that's what they want. Again, it's up to you. As Ratajkowski so succinctly put it, "Give women the opportunity to be whatever they want and as multifaceted as they can be. Preconceptions be damned." Word.
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