Since the dawn of time, the rules for men and women have been different. The paradoxical societal constraints of gender often rears it’s head when conversations about body hair occur.

There is a standard that’s been set for women to remain smooth, clean, and hairless. Consequence of not meeting it, and immediately you are unfeminine. Yet, if a man’s chest is hairy, they are considered masculine. Ideals about body hair stem from a patriarchal society that dominates women’s public and personal life. A by-product of this male constructed world is internalized misogyny and so women believe to be physically attractive, their skin needs to be stripped raw of any trace that they are human.

Queen Esther and the Lavender Project

Queen Esther, however, challenges this idea of beauty, unapologetically. Her project titled ‘Lavender’ dismantles preconceived notions about hair on women’s bodies. Queen Esther tackles the dogmatic ideal of what femininity is. In her photos she defiantly poses with her chest hair coiling out, armpits gloriously on full display and legs brambling. There is confidence exuding from each photo on her feed. In every post, words of affirmation are written, to remember that any choice you make with your body, is yours and yours alone.

When I first saw the pictures, my own misogyny came out. I admired her but, I would never do that myself. Everything about the Lavender movement was scandalous to me. Her coily, kinky, 4C hair mirrored my own. Queen Esther’s confidence was a sharp contrast to my lack of it. If I did not shave, I’d wear long tops or hoodies. Never would I think of wearing shorts, skirts, or dresses without shaving. But the softness these photos exude tell me having hair doesn’t make you less of a woman. It’s not disgusting or dirty. Now when I see her, I simply see a brave, powerful, and unabashedly self-assured woman who doesn’t quantify her beauty on the basis of the hair on her body.

Femininity shouldn’t survive on the pinnacle of standards constructed by men. Carving our your own path for beauty and womanhood is a task our generation must take seriously.

Despite this project, hair continues to be taboo.

Body Hair is a Choice

In an essay with Harper’s Bazaar in 2019, Emily Ratajkowski commented on body hair as a choice women make. “If I decide to shave my armpits or grow them out, that’s up to me. For me, body hair is another opportunity for women to exercise their ability to choose—a choice based on how they want to feel and their associations with having or not having body hair,’ she said. Emily Ratajkowski posed for the magazine with her armpit hair, and naturally, the policing trolls soon followed. The fact that it was her choice meant nothing to the criticizers.

This is what it boils down to, choice.

To tell women that they must shave, is taking away their choice. Telling women what they should look like and why is a gross infringement on their self-esteem. People feel the need to make comments no-one asked for. Unsolicited advice about which brand is best when shaving. Honestly, if no-one asked. don’t put your two cents in.

The question of body hair should not even be a debate. Choice, choice, and choice is all that matters. Just like how beauty is in the eye of the beholder, femininity differs from person to person. There is no one way to be feminine.

Queen Esther drives in her own lane and sticks to it, a lesson I think every woman should employ in their lives.

 

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Danai Nesta Kupemba

By Danai Nesta Kupemba

Editorial Fellow