05 May 2015

Experiment: To shave or not to shave?

Isn't that a little bit ridiculous that we are thought to feel ashamed of our own bodies? Either those are body parts, sounds or smells which are considered as simply gross and unwelcome. Their existence is ignored. Even if body shaming is taught for both genders, woman are still more restricted than man. In most of the times women are told that they should feel ashamed for being proud of their body and exposing it in its natural state. As a punishment to "rebels" for being themselves they are often the black sheep among the peers or even in surrounded society. People always want to be accepted and to belong, that's why in most of the times we take the choice to go against yourself than majority of the people. It appears in all societies and in all levels. Either it's the way of speaking, behavior, choices, priorities or general body appearance.
One of them, very generalized and stigmatized, is women and body hair. True that lately this topic is reaching the tops and is discussed not only in private and secret meetings but also in media, conferences and even we can hear it in public transport as a chit-chat between two people, which is great!
Few days ago I watched this BuzzFedd video where several women and a man took a 30 day challenge to not shave any of their body hair. How it went for them you can see in a video but also me, member of the IHBG, took a bit longer challenge several months ago for a personal research reasons without any intention to share but this video encouraged me to talk about it and where else if not here!?

Motivation: I wanted to know how it feels to let it go! I have been born and raised in Eastern Europe and in my culture it is taken for granted that women have to get rid of their body hair. Since puberty I have been spending time and resources for it. I remember that I was disgusted to see a woman with hairy  legs and armpits. Meanwhile, I was also bothered by my own reaction to a females natural state (considered as unattractive and aggressive) but not males. And I just simply wanted to know how it looks and feels like.

Feelings during the experiment: at first I felt very, very uncomfortable. Whenever I saw my body hair it felt like it does not belong there, that it's not part of me, it's not natural. I was checking it out whenever I had a chance and I had to make sure that no one else notices my little experiment. First couple of weeks I was anxious, always long sleeves and trousers. Just like for the BuzzFeed people, my biggest problem were armpits. 
Time went by and eventually I got used to different self. My body hair did not bother me anymore and at the end I was happy that for the first time I had a chance to see how I actually look! T-shirts and tank tops were not problem any more.

author: Bula Anarbekova
Conclusion: This experiment made me more confident and less judgmental. As soon as I stopped to bother about my own body hair also I stopped to care what are the choices by other women. Even if I don't mind body hair at all my choice is to keep it off because it is less hot (I really felt a difference) and because hairy armpits and quick showers don't work (even with deodorant). It always took more extra time in shower and still, at the end of the day, my clothes were more smelly than before. I could never wear the same shirt the next day. Too much work.
But now I really don't bother to shave one or two days later than I would do before this experiment, usually people don't even notice and even if they do, no one cares that much. It's in our mind.
Stereotypes disproved: I didn't turn my feminism into aggressive one, I did not change my sexual orientation, I did not become less of a woman than before.
All I did was that I got to know myself more and broke my own prejudices.

After doing little research I found out that historically the body hair (in some societies) have been considered unattractive to men and women because of the medical reasons. Although the hair purpose is to protect, the lack of proper hygiene in armpits and pubic area made suitable environment (warm and mild) for vermin and diseases to develop, eventually people noticed that and realized that no hair means no problems.
Nowadays, when we are aware of hygiene body hair are still not accepted. Nowadays we are victims of very stigmatized social construct which shames women, especially young women, defining them primitive and aggressive. Unfortunately persuasion of aggressiveness as a quality for a men but not suitable for a women is still very strong in our society. That is why the stereotype of being a real men includes wild body hair. Although it's slowly changing and for many men hair removal is a trend which is a choice while for women it's still a must.
Anyhow, I don't want to generalize hair removal as a worldwide trend because there are many other cultures (besides Western culture) who do not empathize hair removal as a necessity to fit in the cultural norms. Couple of years ago, while visiting India, I was travelling with another friend and a Indian companion who noticed that I have a razor in my bag. He was very surprised and did not know that any woman in the world ever uses a razor and that it is even a common thing. We had a very interesting conversation for both of us. At that time I was surprised by his reaction but now, when I realize that Western culture does not define the world, I think that it was pretty amazing experience to have!

P.S. I suggest every single woman to leave that razor away for 30 days! Not to prove something to someone but for yourself, to get to know yourself better! And we would love if you could share it with IHBG!

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