Sunday, 5 January 2014

Women and hair removal - should it go or let it grow?

Hair removal is just another thing that is expected of women by today's society.  If a female hasn't shaved her underarms or their bikini line they are branded as 'dirty' or 'unhygienic'.  Untidy eyebrows are also heavily criticised, along with unshaved leg hair.  But should women feel so much pressure to remove every last hair on their body?  Or should we feel free to let it grow, and be proud of it?

The history of hair removal is quite interesting.  It wasn't until 1915 that the first razor, specifically for women, was created by Gillette.  A decade later, a leading women's fashion magazine included an advert which featured a woman with her arms raised and her underarms bare.  This was the first of its kind, and set a precedent for the future.

Fast forward to the 1940s and Remington released the first electric razor for women.  Due to a wartime shortage of nylon, more products and recommendations for hair removal became available as women were forced to go bare-legged more frequently.  Ten years later and hair removal was finally publicly accepted.  Women now stepped up the hair removal, heavily relying on razors to shave their legs and underarms, and tweezers to pluck and groom their eyebrows.

The swinging sixties introduced the painful method of waxing to the world, and rapidly became the choice for removing unwanted hair on the legs and under the arms of women.  As the seventies took hold, and the bikini fad of the sixties looked set to stick around, the bikini line became another chore to add to the hair removal list.

Today, hair removal is part of most women's everyday routine - eyebrows, legs, underarms, bikini line...(I could go on).  And there are so many ways to rid yourself of any unwanted body hair - waxing, shaving, threading, plucking, epilating, electrolysis, creams, the list is endless!  Hair removal is one of the biggest markets, with women now removing any hair and every hair.

There was a piece on This Morning that I recently saw about beauty regimes that women conduct in secret.  Hoards of women sent comments in to the show revealing all of their hair removal secrets.  These included: shaving their toes, shaving their knuckles, plucking out whiskers, shaving below their belly button, plucking hairs from round their nipples, and many more.  As these were being read out by Jeff Brazier, who looked as uncomfortable as I felt, I wondered what the world has come to.

Yes, we all get the odd whisker now and again that doesn't grow gradually, just appears an inch long out of nowhere and is swiftly seen to with some tweezers.  But some of the other 'hair removal secrets' were baffling.  Why is there such a stigma on women to have no hair on their bodies?

If a woman doesn't want to shave her armpits any longer, and doesn't want to endure being plucked, waxed, and threaded, why should anyone else care?  There are those who leave their body hair because they're 'a feminist' and are making a stand.  But hair removal isn't about equality of the sexes - men don't make us pluck our eyebrows and wax our underarms so that they appear the stronger, hairier sex.  Sure, most men probably prefer women to be well groomed and preened, but women are the worst culprits for criticising those who choose not to remove every single hair on their body.  Imagine if Vogue put someone on the cover who had dark, thick underarm hair, unplucked eyebrows, thick leg hair, and a bushy bikini line - she would be torn to pieces by the world.

Unfortunately, I am among those who keep this massive industry going.  Shaving, veeting, plucking - I do it all (I don't have any of those crazy hair removal secrets, though).  I remember when I was little I couldn't wait to start shaving my legs and underarms, I saw it as a right of passage to growing up.  I wouldn't say that I, personally, was open to leaving my body hair to do its own thing.  But those who do want to do that shouldn't feel like they can't, or feel like they will be victimised for doing so.

I bet if Beyonce suddenly stopped preening it wouldn't take long for everyone else to follow suit.

Looking to 2014

As I stood in my auntie's garden on New Year's Eve, counting down to 2014, I began to think about what a great year 2013 was.  I graduated from University with a 2:1; survived my first ever festival; spent just over two hours in the same room as Michael Buble; found lots of excuses to drink champagne; and managed to get my best friend to break into a sweat in the gym (I would probably rank this achievement up there with getting my degree).

Those are just a few of my highlights.  There are, of course, many more.  I was able to celebrate one of my closest friends getting engaged, and feel completely honoured that she asked me to be a bridesmaid (for the first time ever!!)  I got myself a kitten; rediscovered what a hangover feels like; and had a brilliant little holiday with my girls in France.

That was a lot to think about in ten seconds!

As the television blasted out Big Ben's chimes and everyone began embracing each other, I sipped on my champagne (starting 2014 as I mean to go on!) and pondered about what the year ahead could hold.  I decided I wouldn't make a New Year's Resolution; primarily because by the middle of January I have broken it so many times I always forget what it was.

Instead of thinking of something to change about myself this year, I decided to look at what I wanted to achieve - realistic, achievable, personal goals.  So, here goes:

1. Stop snoozing my alarm so much
Now that I will be working from home everyday I need to be more disciplined with myself and stop wasting my time snoozing in bed.  My record snooze came one morning before work - 52 minutes.  I need to put a stop to that bad habit and start being more pro-active when my alarm goes off.  I will start this from tomorrow.  (I did initially say this would start from 1st January but I fell foul to the tempting button the second day in!)

2. Think less, do more
Yes, this is actually among my goals for 2014!  I am one of the worst people for over-thinking things.  Last year I drove myself crazy wondering 'what if' and creating crazy scenarios in my head.  This year, I am going to try and stop that.  If I don't know the answers straight away I either need to find someone who can tell me, or get on with it until I discover them myself.

3. Follow my heart
This links quite nicely to my previous goal.  It's time to stop weighing up the pros and cons in everything, worrying about the 'what ifs' and dwelling on the negatives, and time to start following my heart.

4. Find a job doing what I love
Hopefully by 31st December 2014 I will have completed my NCTJ Diploma, be a fully qualified journalist, and have a job.  To do that, I need to spend this year getting myself out there and doing as much work experience as humanly possible.

5. Move out (again)
This is probably the least likely of all.  Given that I will be studying for a year and not working full time, I highly doubt I will have the financial ability to support myself and move out.  However, if I find myself a job outside Yorkshire I will have no choice but to move out.  Ideally, I would like to work in London so heading South is the goal for me, if not this year then next.  So, until I find a job, if anyone would like a live-in cleaner/cook/baker I would be happy to oblige.

6. Stop dwelling on the past
I have done lots of stupid things in the past and have a whole load of regrets; but let's be honest, who doesn't?  But dwelling on what went wrong is never going to make things right and move on in the future.  The past needs to be left in the past, it's all about moving forward now.  If something didn't work out previously, there's no point worrying that the same is going to happen again.  By doing that, you invite it to do so.  It's time to learn from the past and my mistakes, and use those lessons to shape my future.

7. Go on holiday
I don't care where I go - Cornwall, Center Parcs, or abroad.  I just want a holiday.  Abroad would be preferable so I can lay on a beach, or by a pool, with a cocktail, my kindle and the red hot sun on my skin.  Winter sun, summer sun - I'll go any time.

8. Find someone to go on holiday with
I'm not opposed to going on holiday by myself, I actually think I would really enjoy it.  But single room supplement is a killer.  So, I'm open to offers!  I like my own space so don't worry about being stuck with me 24/7.  As long as I have a good book and a lilo I could go on holiday with David Cameron and still have a good time.

9. Find something to smile about everyday
Even if I am having a terrible day, it will never be as bad as some people.  So, I am going to find at least one thing everyday to be thankful for, and smile at it.  It won't be difficult as I am sure I will frequently be able to think of more than one thing.  I just need to make sure I do it, and remember how lucky I am .

10. Get over my fear of speaking on the phone
I kind of achieved this last year while working at the council, but I still have a long way to go.  I absolutely hate talking on the phone, always have.  I don't mind Skype or FaceTime, but the thought of a phone conversation makes my palms sweat and my mouth go dry.  I don't know why, because when I get talking it's fine.  But the idea of ringing someone, or somewhere, fills me with dread.  And when my phone rings unexpectedly, that's just something else!  So, this year I aim to make a concious effort to keep in touch more via the phone, instead of choosing to text.


And that is that.

This year is going to be a very exciting one, I cannot wait to see what it brings.  I look forward to coming back to this post this time next year to see how successful I was in my aims and to reflect on 2014.

Happy New Year everyone!