Women, throw down your razors: Januhairy is here. This month-long body-hair amnesty is the new Veganuary. Which is the new Dry January. Which, bless, is so retro it doesn’t even get a neologism. And even Brexit got one of those.
For the women who have been unwittingly celebrating Januhairy since the moment they caught a glimpse of their leg hair in the wintry split-second between removal of jeans and pulling-on of pyjama bottoms and thought: “Fuck it” … well done. You are ahead of the curve. And probably someone who, like me, reacts to any month-long initiative that is ostensibly designed to improve us, but often results in more shame, in much the same way as misogynists react to a woman with hairy legs.
My overall response to Januhairy is … bristly. On the one hand, good for Laura Jackson, the Exeter University student who started the campaign. Just like the hair that never stops growing, this work is never done. We live in a world where a razor advert depicting a woman removing body hair makes the news. It feels ridiculous to say so (pesky internalised misogyny), but it takes genuine guts to go out in summer with bare legs as hairy as mine get. On the other hand, this isn’t exactly a taboo that’s being busted when we’re still illustrating it with that image of Julia Roberts’ hairy pit from the 90s.
And isn’t it always armpits? And white women? You don’t often see campaigns for the rights of whiskers, sideburns, taches, and – whisper it – nipple hair. The fact is, not all body hair is deemed equal, or rather, equally disgusting.
What is a woman to do but, to the best of her ability, whatever the hell she likes? Like a man with his facial hair, I go through phases. I grow my body hair. I shave it off. As I get older I appear to be growing it more than removing it. But when I was a young, brown, hairy girl, it was a different story. In a natural extension of my self-hatred, I hated my body hair. I shaved my arms and watched in horror as the hair sprouted back thicker and blacker, as though my body was expressing my resistance for me. A boy who bullied me mercilessly mocked my moustache every day. Finally I bought some Jolen cream (because it sounded a bit like the Dolly Parton song) and dyed the hair on my upper lip bright orange. Even the hair-removal creams considered my race a joke, it seemed. I would love to say I marched into school with a flaming tangerine tache and, Anne of Green Gables style, cracked a slate over that boy’s head, but I didn’t. I bought some wax strips.