It’s not middle school, I have body hair

For brown girls, hair removal is a rite of passage

The pressure to be hairless can be overwhelming.
As a brown girl, I was blessed with naturally thick, healthy, wavy brown hair. I have the bushy-brow look that’s been in style for the last few years—even though I pluck them every two weeks to make sure I have two eyebrows instead of one. 
However, my genetics also translate into hair on the rest of my body. 
I’ve been going to my waxing lady, Valentina, since the tender age of thirteen. It’s a rite of passage for brown girls—laying exposed on a waxing table, paper crinkling under your body as you brace yourself for the next strip and the burn that follows. 
Though my hair pattern isn’t overwhelmingly difficult to manage, it differs from the representations of body hair I see across social media and every day at a predominantly white institution like Queen’s. I roll my eyes whenever I hear my friends complaining that the hair on their legs is growing back, especially when the “hair” they’re referring to is blonde, thin, and practically invisible. 
My ethnic friends and I all have a horror story of being called out in middle school for the hair on our arms. Growing up, I took every precaution to ensure I was as traditionally feminine as my white counterparts, even though I was comparing myself to an unrealistic standard.
I thought this feeling would fade as I grew up, but I’m still hyper-aware of my body hair at Queen’s. 
There’s still an overwhelming expectation that women be hairless in 2021. During the pandemic, I think many women felt free from the pressure to constantly wax or take care of their body hair—salons were closed, after all. However, pressure to be smooth and “clean” quickly seeped back into mainstream media and Western culture as soon as lockdowns ended. 
Any time a celebrity is spotted with body hair, they become a headline. It’s considered feminist to choose not to remove body hair, rather than being a natural experience and valid choice free of a political agenda. 
I was conditioned—and am still conditioned—to believe that letting my body hair be is unnatural and unattractive. This stigma has carried over into my romantic and sexual relationships, and I was genuinely surprised the first time a man told me I “didn’t need to shave for him.” 
I wish I could write that I don’t care about other people’s perceptions of me, and that I’m fine with being stared at whenever I wear a bikini without shaving the morning before swimming. But this simply isn’t true. 
I feel more attractive and comfortable in my own skin when my legs are shaved, arms are waxed, and eyebrows are plucked. But in the stages in between a wax or shave, I want to reach a point where I feel comfortable in the natural reality of having hair on my body. 
We’ve all heard people say “body hair is natural,” and then stare at women who have hair under their arms or on their bikini line. The biggest realization I’ve had is many of my romantic partners actually find some body hair attractive. If they don’t respect the fact that I am a grown woman with hair in places other than my head, it’s an immediate red flag. 
It’s difficult to believe that visible body hair is normal and not an immediate turn-off. But I think the first step to challenging the stigma around hair is to stop critiquing it on our own bodies—regardless of what lanky 12-year-old  boys told us in gym class. 

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