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For the past month, women around the world have been celebrating the joys of ditching hair-removal products as part of a campaign called Januhairy. Here, they share their stories. T hings have come a long way sincewhen the actor Julia Roberts hit headlines globally for wearing a dress that exposed her unshaven armpits.
Brands are cottoning on, too. Last year, Nike and No7 ran advertisements with models showing body hair underarms and upper lip respectively.
Even the ubiquitous advert trope of a woman shaving an already shaven leg was challenged by the razor company Billie, which had natural hairy women collateral that showed underarm, leg and pubic hair. In real life, however, the sight of a woman in public with body hair remains rare, although norms are slowly changing almost one in four women under 25 no longer shave their armpits, compared with just one in 20 inaccording to the market analyst Mintel.
One campaign that is helping to continue this trend, and normalise body hair on women, is Januhairyan initiative that encourages women to grow their body hair for the month of January and share images of themselves online. Started by students Laura Jackson and Ruby Jones inthe campaign hashtag has now attracted thousands of posts from women across the world.
Laura Jackson was a student at Exeter University when she first grew out her body hair.
It was May and she was working on a one-woman stage show she had written and would perform in. Girls are often introduced to depilatory products and techniques by relatives, borrowing razors and trying to imitate their mothers. She recalls a family holiday shortly after this, when she was in her early teens. I was so horrified. How dare she not shave? But for Jackson, growing out her body hair forced her to rethink her relationship to it.
She is keen to point out that Januhairy is not about shaming women who choose to remove body and facial hair. Darker hair is more visible and requires more work to achieve a hairless look.
I have black hair, so having dark body hair makes my skin look darker. Those two are linked. Just look at Bollywood; all the actresses are fair. My mum told me that my grandma performed a treatment on me using atta [a flour-and-water mix used to make chapattis] which she massaged all over my body and then removed to remove the hair. It would have been painful and I would have cried a lot, but it probably has removed a lot of the hair I would have had.
I remember that when I was in year 9 one of the boys asked if I was doing Movember. That hurt because he went out of his way to say it. Part of that growing acceptance is the increasing circulation of alternative images of women that campaigns such as Januhairy have helped to encourage. The importance of beauty is something she has been grappling with, though. And I wonder why is it that for something to be accepted and normalised, it has to be glamorised and made to seem beautiful.
But maybe movements like this reframe what is beautiful. Now I carry the spirit of Januhairy with me throughout the whole year. Marchand is a transgender woman living in Montreal. I felt natural hairy women by natural hairy women campaign and I embraced it right back. Transitioning prompted her to think deeply about how she felt about the politics of body hair. What is the social pressure?
And do I care? Do I agree with it? For Marchand, as a trans woman, having visible body hair is something that has led to her being abused. People would misgender me: I got taken for male, female, nonbinary, all in one day. It can be dangerous. If I get misgendered too much, it can really mess with my moods and my self-image. So I put on my first ever bikini.
Boo has been growing out her body hair for several years but this is her first year posting online as part of Januhairy. Boo says she was motivated by a realisation of how body hair removal is ingrained in society and how images circulated through media entrench this. I just want women to make informed decisions and ask themselves why they do it. We used to joke about who had the longest head hair and now we joke about the hair under our arms.
The only difference she can tell is that she occasionally catches people staring. I like to make people think. Ruby Jones is the co-founder of Januhairy, and teamed up with Laura Jackson in after the pair attended a panel talk discussing the politics of body hair. That same year, Jones developed a cerebrospinal fluid leak, which caused agonising pain every time she sat or stood.
After the first Januhairy, Ruby went on to remove her body hair. Mostly, people have been wholly accepting, including the people she is dating. Do you even shower? One criticism of Januhairy is that it is a navel-gazing exercise that does little for vulnerable women and, as a movement, is quite individualistic.
Jones does not agree.
The act of growing your hair is a very personal experience and each woman is going to have their own challenges. But in doing it with a group of people around the world, you stand in solidarity and become part of a community. I feel so proud of the women taking part in Januhairy who continue to make their own choices surrounding their bodies. It is a radical act to rebel against these pressures. Coco Khan. Wed 29 Jan Reuse this content.Natural hairy women
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