Fur is a Feminist Issue

Generally speaking, we think of ourselves as living in an enlightened era. "Ha!" We mock, knowingly. "How mad were those women of the 1950s to go to bed with their makeup on to please their husbands? How their skin must have suffered! Patriarchy, you are cruel!" Give or take a glass ceiling or two, most people assume that the battle of the sexes has been won, yet one hairy problem brings the whole thing crashing down. It is the last taboo of our times. And loathe as I am to be that feminist who advocates ditching the razor, therein lies the problem. Even placard waving, raving Feminists with a capital F like me squirm at the very idea of body fuzz.

Women with body hair seem weird and disgusting. In the Channel 4 documentary "Hairy Women", words like "dirty" and "unclean" were the go-to phrases for women trying to articulate the problem.  The word "unnatural" also cropped up far too many times to be ignored. Now female body hair may be many things, unsightly for one, but unnatural it most certainly is not. This straggly stuff is what we ourselves grow, our bodies producing it for some mysterious evolutionary trick we probably have cavewomen to thank for. Hair is hardly excrement; on men we find it perfectly normal, sexy even. And we love it growing in other places, like on our scalps and eyebrows.

As a teenager I suffered vicious bullying as a result of my body hair, unshaven under my parents' staunch zero-tolerance policy on depilation. The taunts were regressive, homophobic stuff, and I remember even close friends struggled to understand.

Yet I did at least get to know exactly what my body wanted to look like. As soon as I was able, I joined my generation of girls, shaving, waxing, threading and plucking with gusto, although it still intruigues me how my low my peers' tolerance is to regrow. "My legs are like soooo hairy!!!" my gal pals wail, revealing pins with a mere smattering of stubble. The Channel 4 documentary, albeit edgy in its endeavours, conducted a hairy-woman-at-large trial that seemed like child's play compared to my schooldays. The subject lasted a whole four weeks before going back to the salon.

It was when the men packed off for the First World War that American razor companies saw women as the captive gap in the market they needed. Couple this with the birth of Hollywood and the blossoming visual marketing culture; after a century of relentless propaganda from adverts and the media, the rest is hair-free history. When my mother was my age, there was probably still some leeway. Today, a girl who doesn't wax her vagina is considered sexually repellent. Reducing the hair in your nether regions to the level it was when you were 6 is sexy, evocative of porn stars. It is hard not to see this as problematic.

I'm not about to start a personal crusade against hair removal, but its an issue worth considering. Like the very funny Emer O'Toole writes in the Guardian, you'd be surprised how not bothered boys are if you try them - it isn't even about making a political statement, but for your own sanity. Heaven knows, the last time I went on a last-minute date, the bathroom ran red with my hacking, hurried attempt at feminising my body. Actually, not only have I managed to pull with a few weeks regrowth albeit without meaning to, I find most decent straight guys aren't too fussed, just as they usually don't know what cellulite is. And the ones who are bothered should be thought of as the same kind of fetishists as ones who seek it out, non?

I was haunted for years by the unfeminine feeling public displays of unwanted body hair gives you, and only recently started to think about it properly. If hairy women, from the playground to the red carpet, are routinely punished for a body too natural for aesthetic consumption, we must learn to recognise that our minds have been warped somewhat. Just as I constantly hear the mantra that skinny women are kidding themselves, men like a healthy, curvy girl, maybe we should realise straight men won't run a mile at the sight of a stray lock. Or if they do, that we shouldn't run after them.


  1. Loved this post Rena.

    Didn't know about the WW thing and how they targeted women. You've just educated me!

    Great work xxxx

    1. you're welcome! yeah, so much of what we do to ourselves comes down to simple cash till economics.... if they can make money out of an insecurity you can be damn sure they will!! xxx

  2. You make a really good point, Rena! I'm with you on the fact that I won't be ditching the razor anytime soon but I think the obsession with the 'protocol' we have to follow in order to be beautiful has reached dangerous heights. Whether it's shaving, straightening our hair, crimping our hair and even obsessing over whether our skin is bronzed enough - it can all be so ridiculous. In all honesty, who are we trying to please? Is it ourselves or is it just a desperate attempt to pull because, although I would never go without, I don't particularly enjoy waxing!

    1. Thanks Naomi! Yeah, you're right - it's an absolute minefield these days and I don't know who's winning! How many times have you lain there as some lady waps wax on your downstairs and thought "is this for real!?" ?? Ha ha think I'm gonna do more of these opiniony posts :)