Somewhere along the way, our society began to see body hair on women as not attractive, not feminine, not right. And, having grown up with magazines and advertisements drumming the idea into us, many of us internalised it.
But funnily enough, it continues to grow, so we pluck, we shave and we wax on a regular basis, starting a hair-removal habit in our teens that lasts a lifetime, spending time and money in salons and showers ridding our bodies of an entirely natural part of ourselves.
As award-winning author of The Power, Naomi Alderman, told stylist.co.uk just this week, shaving our legs is not inherently wrong of course, but it’s worth considering whether we do it for ourselves or others.
“Do you feel like it’s not OK to leave the house if you haven’t shaved your legs? And can we think about how men are not under that pressure?” she asks. “It’s absolutely delightful to get dressed up for a lovely evening, but when it goes from being a fun thing to being a chore, and a chore that men don’t have to do, then we need to think about it differently.”
Morgan Mikenas, 20, has not shaved her body hair for a year, and in and amongst her Instagram selfies celebrating gym visits and yoga positions, her distinctly hairy legs make the occasional appearance, catching the attention of her 80,000-plus followers.
Under a post in February, Mikenas writes: “I'm fully aware that my body hair is clearly visible in this picture, and that's the whole reason I posted it. I've have been getting beautiful emails from females who I inspired to stop removing their body hair and have helped send them on their journey of self love. For that reason I refuse to stop sharing my natural self.”
She told i-d.vice.com that she stopped shaving because she found it an inconvenience, and hoped her stance would continue to inspire others.
Her pictures attract a mix of admiring and horrified comments, with many apparently male users seeming to be uncomfortable. One writes, “Damnit this girl is hairier then I am and I'm a guy. I bet she ends up shaving it all off again soon though. This is just for publicity is it not?” while another said “There you got your attention [now] shave that hair off you animal”.
In a video on her Youtube channel with more than a million views, she addresses some of the criticism she’s received, saying, “Thank you for putting your hate out towards me because it’s made me a better person”, adding: “Beauty is your own choice.”
She goes on to say: “Shaving my legs makes me feel powerless. When you make decisions for others, specifically a decision that will make others see you a certain way, a way that culture has designed as ‘sexy and beautiful,’ you lose your power.”
Having recently moved from Midwest America to Las Vegas, in another caption she says she’s seen a change in how people have reacted to her.
“I am not afraid of my truths, of who I really am. I am not afraid to be exposed […] Since moving to Vegas I have gone into public in shorts/tank tops/ bathing suit.. fully exposing my body hair. It was a pleasant surprise for me! People out here look at me like I am no different/look directly into my eyes and acknowledge me as an authentic human being.”
In December, she said she’d “never have the urge” to start shaving again and described it as helping her “break free from expectations that society has of me and other women. Not shaving is a lifestyle in itself. Because society tells us that our body hair is disgusting”.
However the Instagrammer insists she’s not a feminist, captioning another video with the message: “Also I forget to mention I AM NOT A FEMINIST. I am just a human being who believes we are all equal no matter gender and want respect and acceptance for each and every human being out there.”
Although that sounds exactly like feminism to us.
Main image: instagram.com/i_am_morgie