For the month of November, Stacey Solomon and her fellow Loose Women panellists stopped shaving their body hair. Here, Solomon tells stylist.co.uk why she wanted to make such a strong point about the beauty standards expected of women.
It would be impossible to create an exhaustive list of all the beauty standards that women are forced to live up to on a daily basis. To be an acceptable member of society, we must exhibit good hair, good skin, good teeth and good nails – and that’s the absolute bare minimum.
But one of the most prevalent (and if you think about it, weirdest) beauty standards that women are expected to uphold is that of being hair-free. Hairy underarms, legs and faces have no place in our world despite being entirely natural, and while many women are working to overturn this ridiculous notion, it is still considered headline news if a woman walks a red carpet with hairy underarms or stubbly legs.
Madonna’s daughter Lourdes Leon was accused of “attention-seeking” when she was spotted on a beach with hairy underams earlier this year, while Julia Roberts’ display of underarm hair at the Notting Hill premiere in 1999 is still referenced in 2017, nearly 20 years on.
This mass-shaming of women with armpit hair, and body hair in general, hasn’t escaped the attention of Stacey Solomon, a singer and former I’m A Celebrity winner who is also a panellist on ITV’s Loose Women. Frustrated by the societal demands to be hair-free, she stopped shaving her legs, underarms and pubic hair for the whole of November – and, in her own words, she “really can’t see what the big deal is”.
“Just because society tells you to do something, it doesn’t mean you have to,” she says. “I do like to shave my legs sometimes, but that’s mainly for the feel of it. I don’t have a problem with hair. I don’t think it’s weird.”
Solomon uses the example of razor adverts aimed at women to emphasise how uncomfortable society as a whole finds the concept of women with body hair.
“I am so sick of seeing razor adverts with women shaving smooth legs – it completely defeats the object,” she says. “If it was an advert of what was really happening, there would be hair stuck in the blades and the woman would be cutting herself. But no, women with hair must be freaks, so we can’t even put them in the adverts for razors”.
Of course, these adverts aren’t the only ones to conceal the truth about women’s bodies. Just last month, a sanitary towel advert made the news for being the first to show ‘blood’, rather than a freakishly unreal blue liquid.
“Let’s put this into perspective,” says Solomon. “I can educate my kids and say, ‘I do not leak blue liquid, I leak blood’, and people might not want to see that because they’re squeamish, which is fine. But I don’t understand what the problem is with hair – men can have hairy legs, but women can’t. There’s outrage if I don’t shave my naturally hairy body, but what do people want me to do? It’s just my body.”
The outrage Solomon speaks of is evident on her Instagram page. Earlier this week she shared an image of herself wearing some new boots, a hint of her unshaven legs on show, with her 655,000 followers. Within minutes, furious comments began rolling in.
“Oh my f**king god, she’s a bear,” wrote one user.
“Well it’s quite obvious you and Joe [Solomon’s partner] haven’t had sex for weeks judging by the hair growth on your legs,” added another.
And how does the presenter respond to these comments?
“I just want to say to them, get a grip,” Stacey says. “How can something completely natural and normal on my body be disgusting?”
Refreshingly, her attitude is one that more and more women seem to be adopting; a recent study found that one in four women under the age of 25 have stopped shaving their underarms. And Solomon’s own friends and family, both female and male, are completely nonplussed about her shaving experiment – after all, in her own words, “How weird would it be if my family gave a crap about how hairy I was?”
Adding that she is a “hairy girl” she says, “People probably think I’m less attractive now, but I don’t feel any less attractive.
“Shaving is such an effort and it takes so much time out of my day – I have to do strange yoga positions to get to the parts that I need, it’s a horrible task and I’m glad to be rid of it. The thing that bothers me most is how offended people are by hair – I can’t go out in a skirt because people will call me disgusting, so I do feel a bit limited in what I wear.”
Stacey took part in the experiment alongside her fellow Loose Women panellists, including Kaye Adams, Linda Robson and Nadia Sawalha.
Speaking to stylist.co.uk about why she wanted to stop shaving, Adams says, “Anything that breaks down the stereotypes of what a female is ‘meant’ to look like, feel like and smell like is worthwhile in my book.” And in response to the question of whether she was embarrassed to be seen with a bit of body hair, she adds: “I’d be embarrassed by being embarrassed. We need to get a sense of perspective here.”
Robson agrees: “There is far too much pressure, especially on young girls, to shave. I’ve not missed it at all and I’m going to keep it up.”
And what has the experiment shown Solomon about the general beauty pressures faced by women on a daily basis?
“It has absolutely made me think about the pressures women face, but I think it’s starting to creep into men as well,” she says. “I think people will always be made to feel insecure about themselves so they buy into certain products, such as razors.
“Why am I not allowed to be hairy? Why is it such a big deal? I think it’s such an unfair thing and I don’t like it, so I’m going to grow my hair and if anyone has a problem with it, they’ll just have to have a problem with it.”
Loose Women airs weekdays at 12.30pm on ITV
Images: Rex Features