I don't remember the first time I shaved my legs, but it was probably around the time I got my first period. When I was that age, it seemed like shaving my body hair was as inevitable as getting my period - it was a rite of passage, even.
The idea of removing and maintaining body hair is so ingrained in women’s minds that there are entire industries dedicated to waxing, plucking, and threading it.
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A woman must be well-maintained. Groomed, even, down to her smallest of strand of pubic hair, in order to be considered in good health. And this maintenance is directly equated with a woman’s worth, particularly in the public eye.
Growing up, one of the hardest parts of being a woman was constantly being told that you could look better. You could be better, if only you were more beautiful. Businesses create products and advertise them as the secret to beauty — which ultimately translates to the secret to health.
In my experience as a twenty-something woman, these are four of the most common beauty and women’s health myths I bought into but subsequently kicked from my mind completely.
1. Having hair on your body is unclean.
Many myths such as these construct a narrow point of view of what constitutes “good health” among women. When women have hair on their bodies, it’s common socially to equate that hair with being “dirty” or unclean.
When I was in high school, sometimes I’d feel ashamed if I went too many weeks without shaving my legs. If someone saw the dark, coarse strands protruding from my ankles on hot summer days, I’d feel a pang of embarrassment. It meant I was unkept, lazy, and “letting myself go.”
In hindsight, these emotions were such a waste of valuable time.
Humans don’t have hair on their bodies for no reason. A human being is still an animal, after all. Hair is meant to insulate our bodies, to protect us, and provide sensory functions.