A Hairy Tale This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 18, 2008
Open your average Seventeen magazine and look at the ads. What are they selling? Razors. I find that perfectly acceptable; people shave and therefore need razors. There is something, however, that I’m not comfortable with: the message. Gillette Venus advertises that shaving your legs will help you release your “inner goddess.” Schick Quattro for Women says that shaving will free you. Nair has its own brand for women called Nair Pretty! What is this saying to the young women of America? They are being forced into an unnatural mold that is ruling their lives and ravaging girls’ self-esteem. What we eat, what we wear, how we act – it is all guided by the ultimate (virtually hairless) woman every man supposedly desires, and I have had enough.

Shaving is an American custom, and a foolish one at that. If we took the time to see the injustice in the social hierarchy our nation is built ­upon, perhaps we could understand beauty in a natural body. I realized how much time I wasted mutilating my body with a razor blade. How can people look positively on that? Whenever I shaved, I cut myself, which isn’t enjoyable. The constant stress of wondering Do I need to shave? is a nuisance. There was no reason for me to continue shaving if I didn’t want to.

So I stopped. The first day of summer, I put down the razor, thinking, Maybe I’ll just try this for a week. At that point it wasn’t even about the media’s incessant pressure, or rebellion against conventional thinking; I stopped purely for comfort. Even though my hair has grown, I realize how comfortable it has made me. It feels as though I’ve opened up a whole new part of my body I didn’t know I had. I feel ­closer to myself and more confident in my body. I wear tank tops and skirts; I’m proud of my body hair. I like to show it off, even for shock value. The choice is mine and I made it.

People talk about it, of course. I’ve lost friends ­because of it, which makes me realize that if someone is ignorant enough to worry about the state of my hair, I shouldn’t be associating with that person in the first place. It hurts to know that those I once valued and cared about are simply conforming clones, and it hurts to hear strangers, even small children, make rude comments about my body hair. I know my friends talk about it with their friends, saying, “She’s the girl with the armpit hair.”

Sometimes I feel like it’s going to prevent me from getting dates, with the way people react to it (mostly teenage boys, howling about how disgusting it is). One of my best friends told me that it was a bad choice. He said the fact that I didn’t shave made him angry, that my body hair made him angry. Needless to say, I don’t speak to him anymore.

Teenage girls judge me just as harshly. Another friend threatened, jokingly, to shave me in my sleep. I know there are girls reading this right now thinking, Shaving ­isn’t that hard. Stop whining and making such a big deal. Body hair is nasty! You were raised to think that way. In your home, on your television, in your bathtub, by your peers, they raised you to believe body hair is gross. I was raised that way too, but I broke through it.

My closest friend tells me that she considered not shaving under her arms, but she would never stop shaving her legs because she thinks she is too hairy. Nobody should judge you as too hairy. I want to scream, “Stop letting other people decide what you are and what you’re not!”

Acceptance is important to people, and yet I don’t understand how some can accept the biggest differences in people – sexual orientation, race, religion – yet find my disdain for shaving revolting and intolerable. You wouldn’t tell Jewish people that their yarmulkes are gross and that they should take them off, so why would you tell me that my body hair is vile and I should shave?

I question the fate of our generation. Think about it: if Miley Cyrus stopped shaving, adolescent girls all over the world would too. Most people will venture to say that they are different from everyone else, but they aren’t.

You can choose to focus on the physical aspect of what I’m doing, and you can point and laugh at my body hair. Or you can take the time to look deep into your beliefs about American culture and see that I have actually freed myself from corporate oppression. You can look down on me for being happy with the natural state of my body, or you can look up to me for thinking for myself and having the guts to say no to peer pressure. The choice is yours.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 285 comments. Post your own now!

liger002 said...
Apr. 27, 2010 at 3:26 pm
okay well i think your article was super inspiring for some girls, but not for me. i dont kno why but i think having hair on your body is sorta gross. but im not dissing any girls who dont shave, just saying that i will forever stand by my razor. lol
Glendy731 said...
Apr. 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm
I understand where ur coming from, but it wouldnt hurt to shave every once in a while. good luck!
1cutemonki said...
Apr. 26, 2010 at 8:10 pm
I agree with not judging people based on their amount of body hair.  But I personally like a shaved body.  I hope u find a hairy guy too and that you can both be happy that way! Honestly :) PS: You write awesomely!
mcpanicfanic said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm
Your a very good writer and good message about body image, but I think women should shave. Sorry.
LucifersAngel said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 7:13 pm
I have to say, I was one of those clone lackies who obsessed over her shaving days and if her legs were smooth and touchable. But, after reading this, I'm pretty encouraged to stop if I want. I really think people obsess way too much over how they need to look and how they're supposed to look. It's hard to be uncomfortable with your body. I really did love your writing. You came straight forward with the truth.
Thinker said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 10:24 am
People are so uncomfortable with their bodies that they fail to relize that the human for is natural, and the shock of it only a novelty that is eroded with experiance and time. If people just developed some personal self respect then they could live with whatever nature or the media threw at them. "To have self-esteem is overrated. ...Artificaial praise." "Crash into me" Albert Borris. 
LadyJ said...
Apr. 13, 2010 at 4:20 pm
Great essay! I thought you might find this article from the New York Times about celebrity body hair of interest: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/fashion/15skin.html?hpw.
brandisky said...
Apr. 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

this has needed to be said for a long time, i love the Miley Cyrus statement. i idolize you for being yourself and having pride in it.


jOjOsfreakingCIRCUS said...
Apr. 10, 2010 at 10:12 pm
Genius. This has long needed to be said. Please send a copy of this to every classroom in America
stellarachelle said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 11:43 pm
wow, you are brave. I love love love the subtle Miley Cyrus statement :)
Tenthmuse said...
Mar. 25, 2010 at 12:07 am
I shave my underarms and legs, and I have to agree with you on the inconveniance part. Cuts and irritation make me want to altogether stop like you. And I like the natural, human way you approach life. However, I still will probably continue to shave, mostly becuase I like the feeling when my smooth legs rub together and the appearance of hairless underarms. But I really do like this article!
AnneOnnimous replied...
Mar. 27, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I like dhtis article- you had a very good point- but I probably will not stop shaving, necause i like it and i like having smooth legs. I don't do it just because everyone else does, though.


And you shouldn't say that it's just an "American custom" because I'm canadian and we shave as much as you do. And I know that you Americans are raised to put yoursleves first, and to assume that you're the only country that natters, but we do exist too. Not that I have anything again... (more »)

destinee said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 4:15 pm
This was very interesting. I don't shave my legs, but I always shave my other hair, because it's unhygienic to have hair "down there".
Then again, I don't see why people can "conform" to wear fashionable things, but they have a problem with conforming to shaving.
Elisabawth replied...
May 12, 2010 at 6:26 pm
It isn't unhygenic to shave "down there". It can be unhygenic to shave down there. Its like eyelashes if your catchin my drift.
debbydawn said...
Mar. 22, 2010 at 6:52 pm
very interesiting article! i personally think hairless pits might hold less stink but i could be wrong. legs however take way too much time! i only shave when i think my legs will show. tights, leg warmers, leggings and and knee high boots keep me trendy and criticizm free!!! the author does have a really good point about societal expectations for women and unfair judgements based on apperance.
naturelover123 said...
Mar. 20, 2010 at 8:31 pm
This is a cool article. I don't see shaving as bad, but not shaving isn't bad either. Body hair isn't gross...it's natural!
Hippie_Runner said...
Mar. 20, 2010 at 5:39 pm
in sixth grade my armpits had a horse mane and my shirts showed it off. my mom noticed and she said it was time to shave. i really do like shaving my armpits because they get all sweaty when i run and they itch. but i have never in my life shaved my legs. they're fine how they are. hairy or not.
my friends and i make fun of my hairy legs but they are still my friends. im sorry some of your friends didnt agree with you but i idolize you as one of the few girls who will stand against ... (more »)
riley1516 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm
Ive never really considered shaving to be a huge issue.. but i guess people are unrightfully teased if they dont shave. I remember in grade school some girls would get made fun of for having leg hair! we need to look beyond physical appearance
Jasmine7 replied...
Jun. 17, 2010 at 9:24 pm
iouI'm in jun
Margo said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 10:43 am
I've never thought about shaving from that point of view. You can also take it from a guys point of view when it comes to facial hair. When you see a guy with a beard, a lot of people will refer to him as "mountain man" or the like. For a lot of people shaving is about conformity. For some (including me) it's the feel of your skin. Shaving isn't comfortable, but I love the feel of my legs after I shaved.
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