- Emiru Okada
What’s Wrong With My Body Hair?
Recently, I was doing some research for my job and found some surveys with striking titles: “What is the most disappointing part of women’s body hair?” “Women’s body hair that men were disappointed by,” and “Which part of women’s unshaved body hair would you care the most?”
Various comments like the following were posted: “I noticed that my girlfriend had coarse body hair...” “Someone who doesn’t shave noticeable parts of the body is irresponsible.” “I can’t fathom with girls who do not shave their pits or legs.” “Lacking cleanliness.” “They should at least give some effort when they see their boyfriends”
In a survey, 80% of men answered, “Women should shave their body hair.” Many of them strongly disliked women’s body hair, giving reasons, such as “Those who don’t are irresponsible” and “Lacking femininity.” I was really surprised to see so many people criticizing women for leaving their body hair as is, even though it grows naturally.
I oftentimes question, “Why are women expected to shave their body hair when men also grow body hair?” I think this question comes to my mind often due to me comparing Japan and the United States: in the United States, I am surrounded by people who embrace themselves for who they are and do what they want to do. Especially recently, people have been very open-minded about body hair and supportive of the “people should do whatever they want to do with their body” mindset.
I also have that perspective and tell my family and friends that shaving should be left to the person to decide. Personally, I do not shave my body hair except for my underarm. Even with my underarm hair, I decide to shave or not to shave depending on my mood. I felt embarrassed to share this until a specific interaction with my friend occurred.
It was the summer of my sophomore year in high school, when I was hanging out with a friend at her house. I noticed that she was wearing a short-sleeved top without shaving her underarm. Out of curiosity, I asked her, “Isn’t it kind of embarrassing to leave your armpit unshaved?” to which she replied back, “Why would I be embarrassed? I love my body.” Her response left me in awe because I have never thought of accepting my body and embracing body positivity until she said it.
However, unfortunately in Japan, it seems like people are unable to do whatever they want to do with their bodies, especially when we look at Japanese advertisements and online surveys. It may be shocking to hear people in the United States and other countries having the mindset of “What’s the problem with being different from people and doing what I want to do?” when it is normalized to hear female celebrities say, “Don’t you think it’s kind of weird to have body hair?” while men’s voices are deemed important when talking about women’s bodies. The frequency of wearing swimsuits and clothes with less coverage increases when summer comes around. Consequently, people see your body more often and that could trigger you to dwell on your insecurities. This can definitely make us feel self-conscious and significantly impact our mental health. It may be especially difficult to do whatever you want to do or do things that are different from others while ignoring all the criticisms when mindsets like “Men shouldn’t care about their body hair and leave it unshaved” and “Women should maintain their cleanliness by shaving” still exist.
If you do not like your body hair, you can shave. If you do not care, you can leave it as is.
It is your body, so you should live the way you want to. Let us stop dichotomizing and saying “like a woman” and “like a man.” Let us use our voices so we can be exposed to various perspectives. Let us advocate so Japan can become a society where people’s decisions are respected.
My body is mine, and your body is yours.
I decide what I want to do with my body.
I make those decisions. And so can you.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, try to look for things that you love about yourself. It’s normal that your body is bigger, smaller, fairer, or darker than the “average” regardless of gender. It’s totally okay to gain or lose weight at your pace and comfort. Even if you have a different point of view than others, fearlessly speak up for yourself. And even if your body doesn’t fit the “average,” love your body for how it is and yourself for who you are.
In hopes that beauty standards in Japan become more inclusive, to a point of extinction.
In hopes that everyone will be able to live the way they want to.
And most importantly, in hopes that people will be able to love themselves the way they are.
I am writing this series, “I Love Myself” with these hopes in mind.
Graphic Design by Ayumi White