Women's body hair both in images and as a subject of feminist debate has been attracting increasing attention on social networks in recent times, notably in France where the hashtag "#Jegardemespoils" (which translates as "I'm keeping my body hair") has caused quite a stir over the last few days. We talked to Sara, a 26-year-old journalism student, about giving up waxing, and longstanding beauty diktats on what is and feminine and what is not.
When did you decide not to bother with waxing? Did something trigger your decision?
It was a very slow process. It took me around four years to come to a decision not to bother any more, and there were several reasons for it. First of all it was a matter of money, because it costs a lot for full-leg, bikini and underarm waxing, and you are paying for pain. It was also a feminist act. It bothered me to have to make that kind of effort, especially when you consider all the other efforts you have to make as a woman, so I took a decision to stop. I said to myself why do something that hurts and costs money, and which at the end of the day doesn't really serve any purpose.
Was it an easy decision to take?
No, not at all. You have to break down a substantial mental barrier. Even now after four years, I still notice people of both sexes looking at my legs and armpits, and I'm not completely immune to their reaction.
How do people look at you? Do they make remarks?
Globally, they are quite positive or they don't care, though sometimes they can be a bit critical. But the fact that they look at me is not oppressive, at least i don't feel it is. However, I'm not sure that every woman would see it that way. People often tell me that I'm courageous, especially women who say they would love not to wax, but don't dare to.
When I talk to men, they often say it is all the same to them. However, I should say that my male friends are very feminist and not necessarily representative of people who insist that women should not have body hair. I have bumped into some of these at parties, and they are capable of asking questions like: "Are you sure that you are a woman?" But you only have to respond to them and widen the scope of the discussion. I put them back in their place a bit, and they leave with other ideas... At least I hope they do, because for me not waxing is a militant political act. It is not just a matter of aesthetics. As woman, I also want to tell people to wake up!
Certain detractors tend to say that body hair is not feminine. Do you think that you are less feminine?
Not at all. On the contrary, I believe that my body hair makes me more feminine. I don't exactly know how to explain it, but it really has the opposite effect. For me, it is a strength and it is one that I express when I raise my arms or when I wear skirts.
What is the message that you would like to communicate?
For centuries, women have been killed, imprisoned, mutilated and raped, and we are only really beginning to open our eyes to the condition of women today. Things are changing now, and I am very happy about that. But we should be helping to accelerate that change. We also have to get rid of beauty diktats to make beauty more inclusive of other body types, faces and colors. Body hair is an integral part of these diktats. We have to liberate women from this constraint, because we waste a huge amount of time pursuing mad notions of beauty.
Are you considering giving up other so-called feminine practices?
I already have, given that I rarely bother with makeup. I certainly don't wear it every day, I might put on some once or twice a year for special occasions. But it is no longer part of my daily routine. I have also stopped using deodorant, and I avoid nail polish as much as I can. The only thing that I could never change is the way I relate to my hair. For me, it completely defines my femininity and enables me to be self-confident. But it is a personal thing.
What would you say to girls and women who might be considering giving up waxing?
i would tell them they are on the right path and that it is perfectly normal to hesitate and to have doubts when you start to realize all that is focused in the issue of waxing and body hair. i would advise them to take it slowly, one stage at a time, and to begin with small areas. Every woman should take it at her own pace.