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Speaking up about beauty, bullying and body hair

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Posted on: 04/11/18
Markana Minor (left) and Jennifer Do are part of a campaign that speaks out about body confidence and bullying, in particular body hair.

Body hair is not only natural, it’s one of our defining characteristics as mammals. Before birth, we are all covered by a downy layer of hair known as lanugo. Most of us shed that hair by the time we are born. Later, we adopt societal beliefs about male and female body hair.

Conspicuous hair on the arms, legs and elsewhere on the female body, is largely considered undesirable and unattractive. More and more young women, however are making a personal and social statement by choosing not to remove sightly body hair.

Thursday marks the 6th annual “Day of Pink” — an international event against bullying and discrimination, especially relating to the LGBTQ community. The event will sprout nationwide conversations about social media behaviour, inclusivity, and acceptance along with gender constructs, body shaming and more.

For women with prominent body hair, these concepts are often entangled. While not LGBTQ-specific, it appears the dialogue about body hair is shifting among young adults who are questioning binary concepts of gender and challenging assumed beauty standards.

Jennifer Do, a Toronto-based cosmetics consultant now in her 30s, recalls her teen years and an awareness of the disparity between the dark hair that covered her forearms, and the smooth hairless bodies that she saw on television.

Advertisements devoid of women with visible body hair, encouraged the removal of “unwanted” hair with shaving, waxing and depilatory products. “Commercials made me believe I had to be hairless,” she said, along with the hurtful laughs and comments from peers and family during those years.

Do, together with model Markana Minor and fashion design student, Tiffani Colwell, are speaking up about body confidence and bullying in a new body positivity project created by Toronto artist, Chris Pieneman. Do, Minor and Colwell, who all identify as women with hairy arms, share their experiences in a series of online video stories.

Colwell, who endured name calling like “monkey” and “gorilla” in her youth, and who happens to identify as genderqueer, loves participating in this dialogue. “This is something I didn’t realize was a relatable experience. It’s definitely a valid conversation. We need to strive toward a culture where we are accepting of people’s bodies,” she says.

Last fall, sportswear company Adidas raised eyebrows with an ad campaign that included a young Swedish woman baring unshaved legs while modelling sneakers in a short lace dress. While the company hailed her boldness on Instagram, the move was met with mixed reviews as the model, Arvida Byström, received responses ranging from “you go girl” to reported rape threats.

Likewise, Canadian fitness personality, Gabby Scheyen, received a combination of negative and supportive comments in response to a bikini beach pic posted on Instagram. The most loyal of her 239K followers were quick to defend her natural beauty, after “Shave your forearms” and “That hair on your arm tho …” appeared in the comments.

For women who feel more confident and attractive without body hair, there’s no shortage of razors, wax strips, and laser treatments available to achieve their desired look. However it’s refreshing to see the conversation shifting to one of choice rather than supposition.

At a time when bullies can shatter confidence and damage a person’s social acceptance with a few words and the click of a button, it’s encouraging to see young women taking online to support one another, and to challenge this generation-old beauty esthetic.Read more at:long formal dresses | 2017 formal dresses


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