Body hair – love it or loathe it, we all have it and it's a natural part of being human. Some might say it's an evolutionary hangover from our days as apes when we needed a thick coat of hair to keep us warm during the perilous winters. But in modern times it simply keeps sweat and other moisture away from our skin, aiding ventilation.
Body hair is not quite the necessity that it used to be, however, and many of us choose to remove it in the interests of hygiene and to look presentable in public. There are also certain social and cultural expectations about how much hair, and where, is seen as acceptable for both men and women.
Women are constantly criticised for not being feminine enough if they fail to wax their body into a sublime state of smoothness. Most struggle to reach the almost impossible standards of beauty that our culture bestows upon them as the 'feminine ideal' and as a result, are left feeling insecure about their appearance.
This is particularly the case for women with hirsutism, a condition where there is excess hair growth on the face, neck, chest, stomach and thighs. Many women find this condition very distressing and embarrassing, with some resorting to measures such as laser hair removal in order to treat it. Others may turn to shaving, waxing or plucking as a solution, while contraception and prescription hair removal creams can also help.
Hair removal company Veet recently came under fire for their 'Don't Risk Dudeness' campaign, which some say served to highlight women's insecurities and fears about having body hair on display. The advert was criticised by its target audience and many feminists tweeted their disgust that they were being ridiculed for what their bodies do naturally – produce hair.
Women are now beginning to question the notion that smooth armpits and legs are the epitomé of female beauty. At the start of the 20th century, most women wore long skirts so their legs were not on show. As fashions changed and skirts grew shorter, razor companies realized they could market to women and smooth legs became de rigour.
Despite, or sometimes in defiance of, this social pressure to be smooth, some modern women decide to go against conventional beauty rules and freely grow their armpit and leg hair. This is not always an act of rebellion, they may simply chose to avoid spending hours shaving and the skin irritation it can cause.
In recent times there has been a surge in women choosing to dye their armpit hair in bright colours, turning this hair into decoration just as they may choose to dye the hair on their head. By doing so they are drawing attention to the hair, and also subverting the idea that body hair is unattractive.
It's not conventional to show off female body hair and therefore it is often seen as an act of defiance to consciously choose to do so and not care what anyone else thinks. The mainstream media doesn't readily accept body hair, often ridiculing women who sport it, think Julia Roberts at the premiere of Notting Hill or, more recently, Pixie Lott and Scout Willis who flaunted their armpit hair at celebrity events.
While female body hair may not yet be the trendsetting fashion that certain circles would like it to be, there is something to be said for going au naturel. After all, armpit hair or not, we live in a free society and just as some people may choose to pierce or tattoo their skin, what we do with our body hair is a personal preference.
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