A couple of weeks ago, a dreaded trip to Primark etched itself onto my lunchtime agenda. I have to be honest, despite the occasional indisputable bargain and a devotion to their adorable pyjamas, I loathe the place. But much to my dismay, my stiletto nails found themselves excruciatingly embedded into my tights and thus a new pair was an essential purchase. If there’s one thing I loathe more than Primark, it’s a laddered pair of tights. After battling the hordes of shoppers to the lingerie department, I managed to grab myself a pair and make a swift dash for the checkout. But not before my eyes locked contact with the unshaven armpit of a woman as she reached for a blouse from its rail.
I immediately condemned myself for processing such an ignorant thought: that this woman was severely lacking in the personal hygiene expected of women. I felt promptly disgusted in my attitude, as it dawned on me that such a narrow-minded brashness is precisely what is wrong with our society. Our generation is so deeply immersed into society’s ideals of beauty that we are blind to our true selves and how we really wish to be perceived by the world. We’re unwittingly acting against our own feminist agenda, or at least I was when I judged this woman’s choices.
Why do we shame women with body hair?
It is an unfortunate fact that we still live in a society domineered by a strict set of guidelines, each dictating how each of us should look, dress and live. Society has formed an arbitrary ideal of beauty, one that consequently generates a lot of money for the industry. Now, fashion and beauty industries that have so long dominated our society are in a position to continue their reign, simply because so many of us have become explicitly conditioned by their propaganda.
It suddenly occurred to me that after being a woman for 20 years, I should really start to live like one. Why should we be so heavily disciplined about our own appearance and beauty routines? When did our natural bodily features and functions become unsanitary, a mere sign of a severe lack of hygiene?
why is body hair only seen as “unhygienic” when it’s on a woman’s body?
— soph (14) (@flannelbiebs) July 24, 2015
female body hair is so forbidden that even in women’s razor adverts, the actress shaves an already-bald leg
— sisi (@marsjpg) April 27, 2015
I suddenly felt proud of the woman that I was once so quick to judge. I felt proud that she could love her body as nature intended it. Of course, she may have simply forgotten to shave and would be mortified to think that anybody had noticed and further, dedicated an entire column to her preferences. But she may have been a woman confident enough to stand against society’s expectations of her body, and for that I am extremely happy.
Why do we maintain certain expectations of beauty?
Each morning, I set my alarm precisely to dedicate at least 20 minutes to perfecting my cat eye, 10 minutes of delicately applying my mascara followed by a further 10 minutes of styling my hair. But am I doing this for me, or am I doing this because if I didn’t I would stand out from the crowd as a young woman who in her prime neglected her appearance? There are days when I would love to sling my hair up into a topknot and throw on my comfiest joggers. Why do I consistently feel compelled to reach for a classier, more acceptable option?
Of course, we should take pride in ourselves. Whether that means dedicating time to our makeup routine or proudly leaving our body hair to grow, we should do whatever makes us feel beautiful. At the end of the day, our own choices are going to bring us far more happiness than choices predestined for us by a capitalist society.