The demand for hairlessness is continuing to spiral out of control. To quote a classic line from Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman: “I can't believe we've got to a point where it's basically costing us money to have a vagina. They're making us pay for maintenance and upkeep of our lulus”.
She later comments that this money could instead be used for “the electricity bill” or “cheese”. Quite right. In her new health tome The Body Book, Cameron Diaz even praises down-there-hair, and recommends that women cultivate a “lovely curtain of pubic hair”.
But this still doesn’t seem to be trendy; the pressure is still on for us to have a bald eagle for a vagina and legs as slippery and smooth as a baby otter. Just like Tim Minchin’s satirical song "If I Didn’t Have You" we must all be the perfect woman who “suffers from neck-down alopecia”.
Chaetophobia is a marketer’s dream. Ladies, you must have armpits dry enough for your partner to want to kiss it after a ten-mile run, like the actress in the Sure advert. You must also buy a branded epilator for £109.99 (no, really) but don’t worry, you get your money’s worth because it does your face too.
Veet’s strapline (before it got pulled off air) was “Don’t risk dudeness” showing a girl with no-big-deal hairy legs. We’re repeatedly told that before any holiday that requires a bikini selfie you must pile hot beeswax onto your most sensitive areas. You then have to open your legs to a total stranger, who will rip off the follicles inside and outside your thighs and vagina. And in some corners of the UK even eyebrows must be immediately removed, and then drawn back on without a mirror.
Hair-removal is a hot topic among feminists, who are rightly suspicious of any preconceived notions of what makes a woman "womanly". It's all the work of the male gaze, one argument goes, and cannot be adbided by.
But it would be ludicrous to label myself, or anyone else a “bad feminist” just because I shaved, or didn’t shave certain bits here and there. So when I caught wind of the Hairy Legs Club, an online movement to “embrace fuzz” I was rather delighted (as someone who is often a bit furry during the winter months). The group asks women to “submit those fuzzy lady legs” and gives the finger to the classical conditioning we’ve all received since birth.
This group has parted opinions like Moses and the Red Sea. The Women Against Non-Essential Grooming (WANG) Facebook page is a hotbed of opinions. Although most of the comments are positive (“In my perspective this group says ”do whatever makes you happy with your body,” says one), a few suggest otherwise.
Some women have said they felt pressured to join the hairy brigade, and suggested that they are being made to feel guilty for being hairless. One member wrote: “I shave sometimes in the summer or if I go swimming. I'm not where some of the women here are. I'm not strong enough.”
Another member had to leave the group after feeling a bit of an outcast: “I think this group may be a bit too extreme for me. While I'm not shaving because it is winter and my husband doesn't mind either way, I am planning on shaving in summer.”
This movement shouldn’t be about calling people right or wrong; this is about choice. And we’re also allowed to contradict ourselves.
One member of the group explained her decision which doesn’t fit neatly into a box, like many people: “I for example sometimes remove all my pubic hair because I just enjoy the feeling more during sex, but I haven't shaved my armpits in 4 years because of patriarchy pressure!”
To me this comment sums up choice and empowerment. Both women and men should be able to be free to do what they want with their bodies. The judgment and oppression must stop. All of it.
We can create all the Facebook groups we want but essentially all we need to do is remember that as human beings, we can do what we want, when we want, with our own body. We’re all animals after all. Grr.
Emma Gannon is social media editor at The Debrief