For hundreds of years, women have been subjected to unrealistic beauty standards. London-based photographer Ben Hopper decided to challenge one of those – body hair – by photographing unshaven women. These are a few portraits from his Natural Beauty campaign, and they prove that women are stunning – body hair and all.
15 Photos That Show Women’s Natural Beauty – Armpit Hair and All
“I stopped shaving after reading Judith Butler and realising that I had no idea what my ‘natural’ body looked like, as I was convinced to perform my gender and shave by 15. I then continued not to because I felt the need to overcome the embarrassment I felt for not conforming. Not shaving shouldn’t be a statement but it is. Eventually it became a really liberating experience and showers are so quick and easy now, I will never go back!”
“I stopped shaving my body hair as I realised that it is a choice, not a given. That it was unfair to have to spend so much extra time, sometimes money (if getting regular waxes) and energy in order to fulfil this conventional expectation to be hair free. This expectation seemed to be based entirely on my assigned biological gender, which was purely down to chance. Not choice.”
“I’ve always been very hairy, as a child, teenager and now woman. I always felt very insecure about this as a teenager, thanks to the stigma perpetuated by society that it was not feminine to display the hair on your arms, legs and armpits. I used to spend many hours shaving and also spent a lot of money on razors, creams and sticking plasters only to end up with skin irritations and unnecessary infectious spots that take an age to heal until the next time I had to start the cycle all over again. One day my physical and mental irritation got so intense that I realised that shaving was not healthy for my skin. I did feel slightly unsure at first, however, it felt really good afterward as I knew that by not shaving was making my skin healthier and what I was doing was in some way liberating me from the stigmas and layers of society that I’d been put upon as a child.”
“There are people who are exceptionally rude and who speak from fear. People who say it’s dirty and that I must be a man. The more important questions to ponder are rather why and how do we live in a culture/society that has deemed it acceptable for certain people to have body hair, and unacceptable for others? Isn’t it absurd that it is socially acceptable for humans to have lots of hair on their head, but not on other parts of their same body? Isn’t it ridiculous and ironic that what grows naturally on its own is seen as unnatural? How did we get here?”
“I began to delve deeper into female history and feminism, discovering a much deeper layer of slogans and billboards selling advertisers and giant companies rolling in large sums every year under the “beauty ideal”.
I discovered that there are other women who choose to grow their hair naturally and it does not detract from being beautiful and sensual.”
“The first time I removed body hair, I was around 11 years old. I stole my older sisters razor and attempted to remove all of the hair from my body, not that I had much at the time. I assumed you needed to use a lot of pressure with the blade against my skin and ended up removing strips of flesh from my legs, which caused profuse bleeding. I still remember going to school wrapped in bandages and claiming that I had fallen down a tree. Looking back now, I think of how horrified my mother must’ve been that I had already been conditioned to remove the early signs of puberty that had only just arisen. Without recognising it back then, I had already equated body hair with something monstrous and unnatural that had to be eradicated in order to keep my body effeminate and ‘pure’. As I grew older, I reflected on this instance a lot and the meaning behind it, and eventually just stopped removing my hair altogether.”
“I stopped shaving my armpit hair about 5 years ago, and the rest of my body hair 4 years ago. I was tired of constantly getting rid of my body hair since the age of 11. I started wondering “Why?” – Why do we go through a painful process to get rid of something we were born with that keep growing? Why is being shaved considered to be more feminine? Why is body hair seen as something dirty? … It’s all about these ideas society has put into our heads and it doesn’t even make sense.”
“Growing my armpit hair made me feel confident and beautiful because I made the choice solely for myself, not for anyone else. And that’s what I find drawn to in other people too. People who make choices and follow their own voice in what feels more true to them. It’s inspiring and hella attractive!”
“I first stopped shaving while travelling solo around Mexico. With limited access to showers and too many adventures to be had, shaving became the least of my priorities. Once I realised that people didn’t care whether I had hair or not in addition to no longer having constantly itchy armpits due to stubble, I never looked back. Also having fibromyalgia, which is a chronic illness causing general fatigue and pain, I have to prioritise what activities I dedicate my limited energy to on a daily basis and shaving became something I choose not to do in order to save my limited energy for more important and enjoyable things.”
“I’ve finally reached the stage where I’m happy with my hair, and actually, I love my hair.
I find a little hair truly very beautiful and the altered form just appears somewhat absurd and uncomfortable.
Now I see hair as something soft and feminine, indeed really quite pretty, the opposite of how modern media portrays female body hair.
I’ve come to trust the natural processes of my body. It knows what’s best for my health and me.”
“I let my hair grow for the Natural Beauty project. It really intrigued me to see my whole body in its natural state. I wanted to know what it would feel like and how I would feel. I wanted to witness people’s judgment on my body first-hand.
I wanted to see how that impact would affect myself.
It made me feel natural and vulnerable at first, and eventually empowered.
I’ve grown accustomed to my armpit hair, and it makes me feel beautiful.”
“Shaving, epilating or waxing hurts. I was tired of suffering, trying to adapt to the image of a ‘beautiful young woman’ society is selling us. Everybody told me to shave. As a teenager, it’s a huge subject among girls; where do you shave? What method are you using? It takes so much time and costs so much money (the majority of hair removal products are also not recyclable). All of these reasons coming one after another motivated me to stop shaving.”
“I never stopped shaving because I never started.
I do remember my mother shaving when I was younger and I thought that was pretty unnecessary since she was a strict muslim.
I later realised it’s a thing women do to look more desirable to men.
It really irritated me that the people who reacted negatively to my natural armpit hair were men.”
“I first stopped out of, I guess my “laziness”, and later realising I was just actively allowing myself to be more comfortable. So I let it grow, curious to what it would feel like au natural in an area so taboo and visible to the rest of the world.
It made me feel good! Like myself, like I couldn’t care what others felt, sort of empowered and comfortable in what my body naturally decided to look like.”
“From the age of 12, growing up with extremely sensitive skin, body hair was my worst nightmare. The fact that I’m a brunette with south European descent, living in a cold country without many sunny months was making it even harder.
Body hair was my biggest complex and I just decided to face it and love myself the way I am.
I was tired of the constant struggle.
It made me feel at peace with myself. I realised that we are responsible for what we like and what we don’t like. I realised that beauty is really just in the eye of the beholder and that all of us have a choice.”
Subjective Beauty Standards
Hopper’s idea behind the Natural Beauty project was to highlight the challenging beauty standards that women face in regards to their body hair. He wanted to highlight women who chose to openly go against those beauty standards and break down the idea that to be a beautiful, attractive woman you must be cleanly shaven always.
As many of the women mentioned said, it does not make sense as to why women’s body hair is seen as disgusting and men’s isn’t. Hopper’s project proves that women with their natural hair – natural beauty – are just as desirable as those who shave.
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