Who Decided Girls Should Remove Their Hair?
Everywhere I go, I see the same message “let’s get smooth skin”.
When I'm on the train, models on ads address that "now is the time for you to try hair removal." Even on SNS accounts and YouTube channels, questions like, "you still haven't gone to hair removal salons?" or "women who don't wax their body hair are not seen or treated as women" are commonly asked. As a person who has never been to a hair removal salon, I feel as if I'm blamed for not going.
Hair removal salons now exist everywhere, and Japanese girls start deciding which hair removal salon to go to as they start attending college; they spend their time and money in order to remove their "unwanted hair."
Something I don't want people to misunderstand is that I don't have any intention of blaming those who get hair removals. Of course, self-improvement is great; if investing money and time for smooth, hair-less skin is one's best choice, I think that's totally awesome.
However, I wonder if anyone ever feels the following:
"I wouldn't get my hair removed if I had the choice not to go because honestly, it's bothersome"
"But everyone's doing it"
"Others might think I'm weird if I don't have smooth, hair-less skin"
Despite these thoughts, many women still choose to call their body hair "unwanted hair," and this whole idea of getting smooth skin has been deeply cultivated by the media for decades. For example, you barely see any models or actors on TV or magazines with arm or armpit hair. As a matter of fact, smooth skin is now called "loved skin" on many ads on TV or social media.
It's as if people who leave their body hair as it is are neither beautiful nor loved.
This social atmosphere is what drives women to get their body hair removed.
"Do you get hair removals because you think leaving it is not beautiful or you won't be loved?" I'm sure that even if you ask this question to those who go to hair removal salons, the answer will not be "yes." This is because getting "unwanted hair" removed has become an implicit idea.
Since April 2020, Aoi Murata who is a student at Akita University of Art has been taking action to withdraw YouTube ads that look down on body hair or even body shape through "change.org," a petition website. As of December 2020, about 47,000 signatures have been collected and Murata has also been interviewed by multiple media such as Abema TV, Mainichi and Asahi Shinbun. I immediately signed the petition because I was very happy that a young woman like her stood up and took action. Keeping in mind that there are people taking actions to withdraw certain ads on social media, why don't we take a moment to confidently or proudly say the following?
"This is my body," and that "body hair is natural."
These movements have been receiving attention on social media.
In order to normalize body hair as something natural, the "Januhairy" movement on Instagram has been posting pictures of pubic, armpit, shin hair and body hair in general. This account @januhairy currently has 34K followers, and is expanding its viewers. Furthermore, amongst the gen Z, "unicorn hair" or dying armpit hair in different colors has been a recent trend. Many famous celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Ashely Graham and Madonna have also posted pictures of themselves with body hair on social media and also walked on the red carpet, consciously showing their body hair.
Outside Japan, there are many role models who try to normalize the idea that body hair is natural.
Many women outside Japan are taking action through the Januhairy project, but with the social atmosphere in Japan, it's still difficult for women to confidently leave their natural body hair unshaved. I never went to hair removal salons and I don't intend on going, but as I start to wear revealing clothes as it gets warm outside, I feel like I have to shave my body hair.
Even in Japan, there was an advertisement that spread positive messages through social media in 2020. Kai Corporation, a manufacturer of knives and cutting tools addressed a message saying "you choose what's wasteful." Kai Corporation also conducted a survey, asking about hair removals to 600 people (male and female) ages between 15-39 years old and the result was surprising; 90% of those who participated answered "I want to make my own decisions regarding body hair removals just like fashion." I don't want to be crushed by the pressure of "common sense" after learning that many young people want freedom over their body hair.
This ongoing pressure that "women's body hair is unnatural and therefore should be removed" has been trying to control our actions by making hair removals "common sense." However, your body is yours no matter what other people say; therefore, you have control over your natural body hair. No one has the right to say you're not beautiful or not loved just because you leave your body hair.
If you ever feel pressured by these messages or ads of hair removals, I want you to think about those who fought against it; they are strong and beautiful even with visible body hair.
What I don't want people to forget, is that you have the freedom to choose what beauty is to you.
Translated by Yulia Ikumi
Edited by Meg NH
Graphics by Maya Kubota