Is body hair feminist activism or #fishingforlikes?

Now there was this moment yesterday when my son said to me: Mom, you have a lot of hair under your arms. First we all laughed together. But then it gave me something to think about. We are in the middle of the second lockdown, my priorities are just elsewhere. Shaving isn't important at the moment, and a little lazy, yeah, I sure am too. But if it's really a matter of priorities, next to homeschooling, paid work and all that other stuff, wouldn't I shave in the summer either? And if I spent more time among people again, what would it be like?

Is body hair a trend on Instagram?
Growing body hair and showing it off is currently a trend on Instagram. The question of body hair is described in the captions as a private, individual decision that concerns no one other than oneself – and at the same time demonstratively put on display. So does that help remove taboos, is it feminist activism or conscious provocation for more likes and reach? Or all together and two sides of the same coin?

Mothball the razor? A lot of attention
Well, that’s not new. In 2016, the student Kristina Lang let her body hair sprout for a year and followed it up on her blog. She recorded her experiences and the reactions of her surroundings in a video diary. She was interviewed and portrayed. Mostly in terms of how men react to their unshaven legs. Whether it was a self-experiment to test one’s own limits and perception or a feminist statement, there was a lot of attention just for the fact that the razor was mothballed. At the beginning of 2019, the student Laura Jackson called under the #januahairy to let body hair grow. There are currently over 12,400 posts under this #, a wonderful gallery of armpit hair. In the past few years, stars like Miley Cyrus, Madonna and the great Jemima Kirke have also kept their armpit hair in the camera. Jemima Kirke tweeted in 2015 with a picture of Sophia Loren with bushy armpits, referring to the attention that her hairy armpits got: It’s just my own personal preference. That being said please can we stop talking about pits? #sophialoren

Men have a choice, women don’t!
But as early as the 1970s, letting body hair grow was a symbol of the sexual liberation of women and thus part of the equal rights movement. Here it was very clear that ‘the personal is political’. A current quote from Melodie Michelberger (a woman I adore), ‘Everything about the body is political’, also hits this notch. And what is clear is that body hair is an uneven issue when it comes to men and women. Men have a choice, women don’t? As the current examples show, body hair is still or always a powerful weapon in the fight against the patriarchal power structures in relation to (women’s) beauty. On the other hand, hair removal is symbolic of the internalized misogynous beauty standards.

Achselhaare Petersilie Gretchenfrage

An aesthetic decision?
The feminist debate is of course dominated by the major political issues: the income gap, abortion rights, violence against women, etc. Nevertheless, feminist activism focuses on the individual: the representation of one’s own body paired with crisp statements and the good old #. This is certainly justified, but don’t we lose sight of the bigger picture if we instead deal with our own bodies and then again display them as political objects? And vice versa, shouldn’t body hair simply be an aesthetic decision? For that, however, body hair would have to be free of taboos, and that is actually not the case. This can be read very easily and strikingly in the comments of the corresponding posts. My personal journey with the subject of body hair started very early – with shaving my legs. In the course of my youth, more and more hair had to be thinned out, legs, armpits and eyebrows (hello, terrible 90s), in one year I even removed my arm hair for the outdoor pool, but in the long run it was too exhausting for me. Then the pubic hair came along at some point. So in the course of my life my body became more and more a hairless zone. Not all of it has stayed that way, but I still spend a lot of time and energy in the never-ending removal of my natural body hair. I never really questioned that, I just did what I thought / think was beautiful. But justified in front of myself that I feel so beautiful and do it for myself.

Shave your legs at INASKA?
At INASKA, too, the subject of body hair is often discussed, at least in passing. Be it just a quick check: Oops, I didn’t epilate my legs at all, can I still record a story like this for Instagram now? Does anyone notice? Because, of course, with swimwear and sports fashion, we are close – to the body, its skin and also its hair. Hello bikini line! We are not taking a completely congruent path with INASKA. We really enjoy working with influencers who stand for body positivity because we believe that this is a very important and big topic.

We love every supposed blemish, every dent, every scar and every hair. Because each one as she likes it. Last year we worked with a great woman who had just decided to let her hair sprout and we were so happy about the beautiful pictures including armpit hair. Our campaign motifs, on the other hand, show wonderful women who consciously do not fully comply with the meaningless common ideal of beauty, but do not wear body hair. That suits us more at the moment.

Elisa, CEO of INASKA

For me personally, the following remains: my body is manipulated by myself in such a way that my own son was not aware that I have armpit hair. But very much that I shave my body. That gnaws a lot at my self-image, to give my son the ground to become a great feminist.
(Mareike Schiller, journalist at INASKA)

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