Female Body Hair, Is It Accepted?

Arvida Bryström, does the name ring a bell?

Arvida is a Swedish model who challenges gender stereotypes and promotes mental health awareness. But this time she is making headlines for another reason. The twenty-six-year-old recently appeared in an Adidas superstars campaign, where she showed off her unshaven legs. Since then, she has been trolled online by cyberbullies and has since received an overwhelming amount of abuse via Instagram DM’s. Arvida is just one of many models that have been subject to abuse because of their defiance of gender stereotypes and refusal to conform.

‘Disgusting monkey’                                                                         ‘Good luck getting a boyfriend’

Bryström responded to the trolls in this Instagram post.

(Instagram: @arvidabystrom)

More pressingly, in 2017, what is the issue with female body hair? Do you see Ronaldo getting the same response for his hairy legs in Nike adverts? Unfortunately, the double standards remain and are stronger than ever.  This generation is labelled as free, forward-thinking and liberal, so why people are still preoccupied and shocked with the fact that women have body hair? We need to learn that body hair, is not specific to one gender. Perceptions will only change when fashion embraces female body hair, instead of hairless females. This could lead women who choose not to shave, to be more accepted in society.

For men, their grooming choices normally embrace and enhance their body hair, in terms of beards and moustaches. Men don’t have the same pressures to be hairless as women do. There is no expectation that the minute a hair appears on the leg of a man that it needs to be removed, immediately.  As a teenager when the first hairs appear on your body it is treated as a right to womanhood when you first remove your hair. However, why women are expected to abide by archaic, outdated stereotypes of ‘femininity’ and  ‘womanhood’?  All types of body hair, even hair on your head should be a personal decision and one shouldn’t be pressured by society to tame any hair. Overall, there is no scientific difference to body hair, except for its location. It is part of being human and it should be normalised. Additionally, the decision to shave or not is the individual’s choice only and should not be synonymous with attractiveness. The anti-hair culture we have in the Western world is truly infectious and if we can’t respect the fur on someone’s body how can we expect to conquer pressing world issues.

Furthermore, the cost of hair removal products is insanely expensive (for students especially). To have laser hair removal it can cost over £500 for whole body hair removal.  For a simple removal of upper-lip fuzz it can cost anything above £4 every 3 weeks. That amounts to more than £50 p/year just for upper lip hair removal alone. That doesn’t even take into account: eyebrows, under arms, legs, arms, bikini line etc.  These are prices that women can pay, if they want, but it should not be an expectation for women to have to pay out over hundreds of pounds on shavers and wax, for hair growth, that is biological.

‘Dirty feminist’

More importantly, the fact people are using the word feminist as an insult is deeply offensive. Since when has fighting for gender equality been ‘dirty’ and insulting? It should be celebrated and in fact encouraged for people to advocate their views and passions.

I identify as a feminist, feminism for me is the fight for equality between all genders. I think it’s perfectly acceptable for all genders to show their body; however they want, as Byström demonstrates on her Instagram page. Personally, I applaud Byström for her confidence and resilience when dealing with the hate she receives. Despite all the horrendous comments that are left on her photos daily she manages to battle through. Showing the internet trolls that their hateful comments are not going to stop her from breaking gender stereotypes and doing what she does best, modelling.

‘You’re not feminine’

Femininity is not defined by having silky, smooth, shaven legs. Femininity is not about how ‘lady-like’ you appear to be or how you style your hair. It defines the determination, strong willed nature of each individual woman. It should be welcomed, if not celebrated, that women can finally be confident au-natural after years of stereotypes that we have finally broken through.

Byström has since released a statement in which she says, ‘I’m not a feminist hero’ and she’s not. She’s just doing what all women should be able to do, without backlash and fear of being insulted.

Zahra Iqbal

(Image courtesy of Fashion Grunge)