I have always been a hairy Latina woman, but I started growing out my body hair two years ago. I started with my armpit hair. Next came my leg hair. When I stopped shaving my armpit hair, I went into a period where I slowly got used to exposing my body hair in public. The same thing happened when I stopped shaving my legs. I had started a new job and was really nervous about seeming professional. I mean, let’s be honest – not adhering to beauty standards is an act of resistance but it can also come at a pretty big cost, something I have experienced because of my weight, my short hair, my clothing as a low-income person, and my tattoos. Luckily, my boss is a pretty badass woman but it still took me awhile to take the risk of going bare-legged at work. Now I do it all the time though – it’s too fucking hot not to do it anyway but I’m also extremely comfortable with my hairy legs. I am *in love* with how air dances through my hair (something I haven’t experienced since probably childhood) and I finally understand what people talk about when they talk about “sock hair!”
My body hair journey has not always been awesome though. What follows is an excerpt from the first issue of my zine, “Hairy Femme Mother.”
“My body hair awareness journey started when I was in sixth grade. I spent the night at my aunt’s house and my older cousin brought me into the bathroom, had me take off my pants and get in the tub. She showed me how to shave my legs. I remember being slightly ashamed of my hairy chubby legs and consequently in awe of how smooth they could become. I did it every day after that.
At my small co-ed Catholic school, other girls had started shaving their legs too, including my sixth grade best friend. She and I were extremely competitive. During recess one day while sitting on chipped green-painted benches that always gave you splinters, she asked me how often I shaved my legs. I didn’t want to tell her that in order to keep them smooth, I had to shave my legs every single day. Feeling ashamed, I instead sheepishly replied, “every other day.” I sensed a hint of jealousy, probably because she too was a hairy Latina. I immediately regretted lying but I still wasn’t ready to embrace any sort of hairy pride that solidarity with her would bring.
These were the first times I remember being embarrassed of my body hair. I was 10 years old.”
As an adult, my body hair has caused multiple people to stare or comment on my body. I have had to make peace and remind myself that growing my body hair is not necessarily an act of “letting myself go.” As a disabled person with chronic depression, I had to remind myself that my depression steals my energy. Growing out my body hair, means less time and effort in the shower shaving away what will always come back anyway.
My supportive partner helps remind me that I can still be sexy and desirable if I choose to be with my body hair. Writing Hairy Femme Mother and the responses I received from it reminded me that I was not alone and that for so many other femmes, body hair, whether keeping it or removing it, is an act of political resistance, sometimes pain, and often oppression.
I am hairy. I am reclaiming that. But I still shave my beard and my mustache. I still know that I hold privilege where many femmes cannot. For trans femmes and femmes with darker skin than mine, having body hair comes at different costs. My visible body hair is a choice. But for some, the safer or easier choice is to not have it be visible. That is real and that is valid.
For those of us who do choose to grow out our hair on our bodies, let’s talk about it. For those of you who choose not to, I love your stories of resistance too. I’m here for all of us, in hairy solidarity.
Jen is a queer feminist chicana in her thirties living in Los Angeles. She’s been writing zines since she was 18 and used to run MAD People Distro for about seven years in the 2000s. Jen writes more regularly at Skinned Knees, a blog about body positivity and eating disorder recovery. She’s currently into her cats, knitting, and watching too many horror movies. Read more by Jen Venegas HERE and BUY JEN’S ZINES HERE.