Current patriarchal beauty standards seem to dictate that men are only “manly” when they have a lot of body hair, and women can only be pretty and “feminine” if they lack it. (I shall only be considering male and female for this post as I do not know how it is for people who identify with other genders. Do excuse me.)
As a girl, I have been expected to have waxed arms and clean shaven legs since I was about 13 or 14. The first time I shaved, I was really excited about it. My hair is thick, and by the age of 12, I had been convinced that I look like a gorrilla because I had such thick hair growing on my arms and legs. My mother taught me how to shave and I used to diligently remove my leg-hair whenever it got too long. I used to go to the parlour to wax my arms, and the first time hurt, but my mother told me I would get used to it. I never did. I hated it so much that I started shaving my arms as well. But because my hair is so thick, even a fresh rasor becomes useless after removing the hair on a single leg. The hair gets stuck between the blades and is impossible to remove. Shaving soon became a chore, something I had to do to fit into society and not be teased by the people around me. Also, I am fairly clumsy, so whenever I use a new rasor, I end up cutting myself badly and bleeding a whole lot. I really would not recommend shaving for people as klutzy as I am!
When I was 15, I got my upper lip waxed for the first time, because I had a thin but noticeable moustache. When the sheet was ripped off my mouth along with all my upper lip hair, I blacked out for a second from sheer pain, and could taste something metallic in my mouth. I also had my eyebrows done (because they looked like kambli-poochi- the term for those fuzzy black caterpillars that show up during monsoon, in my home language) and it hurt. A lot. Every time hair is plucked from my skin, en masse, I break into a rash, to boot. Nevertheless, I continued to do all this for years, despite hating it, and never questioned why I was doing this. I only questioned why women liked to physically torture themselves regularly. I mean, aren’t menstrual cramps enough?
After joining college, I was exposed to many new feminist ideologies, and enlightened on the patriarchy and the way in which is worked. The patriarchy is almost as toxic to men as it is to women. It’s a system that bites the hand that feeds it, but the hand that feeds it seems to belong to an idiot, so those who believe and propagate patriarchy continue to suffer under it without even realising it. I came to this conclusion after multiple feminist discussions I had in college, and I also learnt that by shaving, I was denying what was natural to me by subscribing to the patriarchy. This was happy news for a feminist like me, and I quit shaving immediately, deciding to accept my body hair instead. I mean, how can hair on a woman be abnormal if it grows on her? It is natural. Completely natural. If it was so unnatural concepts like waxing, threading and shaving, etc., would not exist, as majority of the women would not have hair on their bodies (and magically only on their heads, because how can bald women ever be attractive?)
After I stopped shaving, and told my mother why I stopped, she was kind enough to accept it, though she continues to wax, shave and thread. What was, and still is, difficult is dealing with my extended and fairly Westernised family. Just recently, I had to deal with two of my aunts who live in the US who asked me why I did not shave. I gave them both the same reason, “I am not subscribing to the patriarchy.” I told one aunt of mine I will only shave for cosplays or rare events, because Japanese cosplay requires you to be hairless whether you are dressing as a male/female/any other gender character. I do not cosplay often, But I like being as accurate as possible when I do. The aunt I told this to sighed in complasence and wished me many such events where I had to cosplay, just so I could shave!
The other aunt of mine had a fight with me over it and said she prefered the men in her life to be hairless as well, declaring that my patriarchy argument was moot. But I have written a paper for one of my classes on why girls enjoy Japanese b/l (boys’ love) comics, and one of the most prominent reasons why women are drawn to them is because the boys are androgynous in appearance and have both stereotypical masculine as well as feminine characteristics, making them the ideal male. It is the same with a lot of women, they prefer boys with feminine qualities without even realising it, and in this day and age, hairlessness is one of the chief characteristics that makes a person feminine. Women feel this way because of that continual patriarchal oppression they suffer. It is purely subconscious. My aunt does not understand just how much the patriarchy has shaped her psychi, and believes she is right in asking me to shave.
Boys have it rough too, I am sure. I do know a few boys who are embarrassed by the fact that they cannot grow a beard and that they do not have manly hairy bodies. They are insulted and mocked for being too feminine, because, obviously, it is a crime to be a woman. How could you ever live it down, looking and/or acting girly? How embarrassing, how shameful! No, it is really not. You boys who can’t grow a beard and have almost no body hair have that androgynous appeal I mentioned in the previous paragraph. You are cute and beautiful just the way you are, and I am sure people who matter will accept you, so go ahead and accept yourself as you are. Even if the people who matter cannot accept you, it is no reason for you not to accept yourself.
Love yourself as you are. It may be hard to stand up against people who have more authority than you, but be brave and do it. Your body hair is natural, and no one other than yourself can tell you what to do with your body. (This does not mean you do stupid things like drugs/ not eating properly and ruining your health. This also does not mean disobeying your doctor and avoiding medication for any type of physical/mental illness. Please make rational distinctions.) The only beauty standards you need to live up to are your own! Never forget that! If you cannot grow body hair or if you have too much, it is not a problem. It becomes a problem if you care about what other people think, but remember you are perfect just as you are! If you want to shave, then go ahead and shave. If you don’t, then don’t. Even if someone is trying to force you into doing something you do not want to do, you can put your foot down and say “No.” It’s okay. Be brave and hold onto your beliefs (with respect to yourself. If you believe in patriarchy /sexism /casteism /classism,etc., please let go of your beliefs right now because they are wrong and harmful to society.) In the end, what matters is to be a good person, and no more. So love yourself as you are, and spread the love!