It’s that time of year again, the sun comes out and with it the media’s favourite pastime; presenting scantily clad bikini models and celebrities on the covers of magazines and newspapers all over the world. This is supplemented, of course, with perfectly toned and tanned ‘selfie’ snaps of flat washboard stomachs and never-ending legs, plastered over social media sites. It is this which makes the recent popularity of the Hairy Legs Club so refreshing. At a time when women are encouraged to begin the dreaded bikini season diet, a Tumblr blog has emerged which champions natural beauty, while dispelling some of the common myths about what constitutes female beauty.
The Hairy Legs club currently taking social media by storm encourages women to post in with snaps of their hairy legs along with positive comments. The blog has already received an immensely positive response with hundreds of posts from young women who are embracing the site as an opportunity to challenge some of the unrealistic body images prevalent in today’s media. One anonymous blogger gushed “I love this website! I was always ashamed of my hairy legs since I was 10 years old. Finally, a couple of years ago I accepted them… we should not accept what others think beauty is. We must accept our true nature and true beauty.” Another blogger declared “I have hairy legs, and to be honest I feel more ‘feminine’ than ever!”
The trend follows a number of other initiatives to promote a more natural and realistic portrayal of women’s bodies. The ‘Very Hairy Legs’ blog, started on Tumblr by blogger Sarah with the primary aim of encouraging women to embrace their natural beauty, has also been met with enthusiasm. Sarah told her followers: 'This blog is dedicated to females with very hairy legs. Let our legs be the champions!' The daily stream of empowered comments which the blog receives demonstrates the impression it has made on many young girls, with one anonymous blogger confiding “I'm so moved. For all my life I felt wrong, ashamed, different, alone, ugly, unlovable. Discovering this blog, going through the pages, made me cry so hard. I'm not alone. I don't need to be ashamed. I don't need to be scared. I can be proud.”
The Facebook group Women Against Non-essential Grooming has also enjoyed success in challenging stereotypes of female beauty. Described on its Facebook as “a supportive discussion space for women who reject the idea that in order to be considered attractive, feminine, and respectable they had to participate in gendered ‘beauty’ norms, such as removing their body hair and wearing make-up”. Other recent attempts to promote natural beauty have been effective; earlier this year the no make-up selfie craze raised over £8 million for Cancer Research UK, encouraging girls to pose make-up free for a selfie to raise money for the cause.
Yet the very positive outpouring of posts on the The Hairy Legs Club Tumblr also hinted at the darker side of the perfectionism which our media encourages. One blogger posted, “This blog is such a great inspiration! I’m still really self-conscious about my legs but day by day I’m accepting myself a little bit more.” Another blogger described the shame she used to feel “I just came across this website a few weeks back and it honestly blew my mind, in a good way of course. I was so ashamed of my hairiness but through this website I saw girls with even more hairier legs than mine and proudly showing them off.”
Issues surrounding a lack of self-confidence are very real in the UK. A report by the charity Girlguiding published at the of last year found that a growing number of girls in the UK were suffering from low self-esteem, the overall proportion of those surveyed who were not happy with their looks rose to 33 per cent in 2013, from 29 per cent in 2012 and 26 per cent in 2011. One of the key factors found to be causing this increase was the media publishing pictures which “shame” celebrities, with more than seven in ten of those aged 11 to 21 indicating that such pictures made them anxious about the way they look.
In part as a response to these concerns, new initiatives including no make-up selfies and the Hairy Legs Club are thriving, challenging our perceptions of beauty and embracing what women naturally look like. It seems that this refreshing attitude is catching on more and more with young girls increasingly opting to champion the natural - and challenge the media’s Barbie Doll perceptions of beauty.