Hot, hirsute, and here to stay - Globally, women are part of various trends against the censure of women’s body hair, however is India on the list? We take a look
Who would have imagined that a woman, and not a man, would receive an award for growing a full beard? But then even a few decades ago, how many women complained of Polycystic Ovaries Disorder (PCOD) and the resultant thick facial hair growth that started Harnaam Kaur’s journey of suffering at puberty.
Finally, fed up of the hair “returning with a vengeance” despite trying different removal techniques, body-hatred and bullying, Harnaam decided to accept nature’s way. Her ‘I don’t care’ attitude first landed her modelling assignments, and recently won her the Guinness World Record.
Her victory though, is not hers alone, but also of feminists who’ve been up in their arm (pits) against the censure of women’s body hair. Mid-2015 saw two strong online campaigns. In China, women’s rights advocate Xiao Meili, launched an underarm hair photo contest that reached over a million people with 40 Chinese women sending pictures. Not much later, #dyepits caught on Instagram in the US with over 700 women posting pictures of funky-coloured armpit hair.
While none of these trends caught on in India and a majority of our urban women line up at salons to wax every exposed, and unexposed, body part, some young women are making their pro-hair choices known loud and clear. One such 26-year-old, Pradnya Waghule, co-founder of Fine Sift patisserie, says, “I religiously do my brows, but the madness has to stop somewhere—many won’t even wear half sleeves when their hands are un-waxed! Not particular about waxing my arms and legs despite thick hair, I just do it once in 1.5-2 years. Though I enjoy wearing sleeveless, I’m lazy with underarms; but to avoid showdowns, I clean up for family occasions.”
For others like the 21-year-old Anuja Nagpure, the pain is just not worth it. She recalls her school farewell day when “most classmates had waxed everything. I’ve seen women scream, have tears in their eyes...even if I feel like cleaning up, say once in 3 months, I shave. If someone comments when I haven’t, I tell them, ‘If you don’t like it, look elsewhere’”.
Shrishti Dutta Chowdhury (22) says,“Whether to keep our hair or remove it, should be our choice; but I realise that our choices are complex and not without internalised misogyny, kyriarchal norms and social insecurities. Personally as my brows, upper lip or arms have fine hair, I don’t bother. But neither do I shave the prominent leg-hair even when going for parties.” A sign of positive change, seen in all three cases, is that their male partners support their choices too, something that’s hard to find even in the Sikh community today, despite their traditional respect for ‘kesh’. For that reason 28-year-old architect, Harsimran Kaur, wanted a partner who shared her values. “When I was 20 – 22, I waxed and plucked everything, but once I began going for satsangs, I found the baptised women far more beautiful though they did none of it. I wished to get baptised too, but first tested how I felt without cleaning up. Fortunately, grooming didn’t matter to my husband either.” But she’s open to the idea of changing her mind later even though it may mean she’ll disappoint her family, who would prefer she left her hair untouched.