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Opinion: Should white women be the face of body hair positivity campaigns?

by | Apr 23, 2022 | Opinion

When white women become the face of a campaign that’s about an issue women of colour face throughout their lives, because it seems ‘trendy’ or ‘quirky’, it invalidates the struggles of all those women of colour.
Body hair positivity campaigns should feature women of colour

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post by a Miley Cyrus Fanpage where she was unapologetically flaunting her armpit hair. Obviously, I liked the post, because who wouldn’t? That’s some cool thing right there! However, that did bring me to a question: Why are only Caucasian women with little-to-no or light coloured body hair always the face of this movement?

Caucasian women have thin, scarce and almost skin-colored body hair as opposed to women of colour who usually have darker and coarser body hair. South Asian girls in the west suffer the consequences of this, and a lot of it has much to do with racial discrimination of course. Such racism, coupled with the desi culture misogyny affects South Asian women in worse ways than you would think — and it contributes right into the generational misogyny brown women face amongst their own people.

As they hit puberty, desi girls see a rise in the growth of their body hair. It brings a strong sense of insecurity, and they unsurprisingly want to get rid of that hair. Desi parents? Oh, you know what their answer would be. The bullying in schools doesn’t help either. This starts a cycle of self-hate, which often stays for life. Women are scared to be seen in their natural state, in fact they start finding themselves disgusting.

When white women become the face of a campaign that’s about an issue women of colour face throughout their lives, because it seems ‘trendy’ or ‘quirky’, it invalidates the struggles of all those women of colour. From making little non-white girls believe that their bodies are disgusting, gross and unhygienic in their natural state, to leading a campaign that’s supposed to focus on that issue seems like a mockery in the face of its victims.

“There was this time where puberty was just commencing and I was gifted a full-blown pube-stache, and to be given a razor to snip it off was a dream. I was thrilled to remove my hair and have baby soft, hairless skin. I was excited to finally be “beautiful”. Until this little fantasy turned into a nightmare. Wherein I found myself disgusting. And if I couldn’t wax it off, I shaved it all. If I was too lazy to do it, I just wouldn’t go out. Because I couldn’t look like that when I was going out, could I? I associated myself with something untidy, unpleasant, and loving myself turned into this tedious task because I couldn’t. Until I was spotless. I had to be spotless every day. I couldn’t miss a patch. I couldn’t feel like a “cactus”. I couldn’t have them calling me a cactus. Because that’s how it should be, right? Because that’s what they said, that’s what they like,” says Eleanor Ysabelle on Instagram (eleanorysabelle | IG)

When white women flaunt their body hair, they’re hailed and praised but when brown women don’t shave, they are met with mockery, shame and ridicule. Feminism will never truly be a revolutionary movement if it continues keeping white women ahead of Black, Indigenous and Women of Colour (BIWoC). Anything that chooses to go with the existing discriminatory practices even if not consciously, can never bring change no matter how hard you try. White women need to stop invading BIWoC spaces and take a step back. It is not to say they don’t face sexism for their body hair or that they don’t struggle with their self-image because of this. It is not to say that they must stop being confident in their own skin by not flaunting their natural hair. But they must make space for women of colour in the movement because it cannot be denied that body hair is not only a gendered issue but also a racial issue. The Body Hair Positivity movement must not be dominated by them. Feminism is for all women. Women of Colour, and Trans Women, are the ones who are ridiculed for their body hair the most and should be heard when they speak.

Neha Sharma
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