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A woman who was once so ashamed of her body hair that she would keep her bra on during sex has finally embraced it.
Artist, journalist and performer, Bethany Burgoyne, 29, from London, began shaving her legs and under-arms when she was just 11 years old. By the time she turned 14, she had swapped her razor for an epilator wax strips, as shaving had left her covered in rashes.
For many years, Bethany felt conditioned by society to remove her body hair or else risk being perceived as ‘unattractive’. She felt too self-conscious to wear bikinis, skirts, crop tops or shorts without first blitzing her hair.
Bethany’s shame was so profound in her younger years that she felt unable to take her bra off during sex, as she was just too insecure about her nipple hairs.
After spending years watching people splurge on cosmetic surgery to meet societal expectations of beauty, Bethany grew increasingly frustrated at having to constantly keep on top of her body hair.
The hair removal process was becoming too costly and, in November 2018, she decided to stop waxing or epilating her leg hair, armpits and bum. In March 2019, she took things further and stopped getting rid of her stomach hair and pubes.
At first, it took some time for Bethany to accept her natural body hair, and she initially only visited places where there would be less judgement, such as female spas and nudist beaches. But in August 2019, she appeared on the Channel 4 show Naked Attraction, which left her feeling ‘liberated’.
After being inundated with positive comments from those who admired her decision to embrace her natural body hair, Bethany opted to set up an Instagram account, where she shares empowering photographs of herself fully embracing her hairiness.
Although she’s received some negative comments from men offering to lend her their razor, Bethany feels this has been the best move she’s made.
A few times I have had strangers come up to me and tell me how much they like my body hair, at a party or out and about. This has made such a lasting, positive impression on me.
The best comment I got from someone was after they saw me on Naked Attraction and messaged saying ‘You appearing on the show with hairy legs and pubes was a breath of fresh air – about bloody time’.
Women often want to talk about me keeping my beard the most because it is the thing we talk about the least. They often say they think it’s brave and they don’t know if they could do it too.
On the flip side, I have had comments from males who will tease me about my body hair, offering to lend me their razor or pay for a wax.
This makes my blood boil; it is a reflection of the male assumption that they can tell a woman how to look and police their identity. Putting women down to make themselves feel more superior.
My close network of friends and family have been so very encouraging. They have allowed me to talk through my decision, to relieve moments of insecurity and sadness that I have felt when thinking I am ugly when hairy.
Past and present romantic relationships have been a big part of me feeling good in my skin, having people close to me who I am intimate with not define me by my body hair but instead, recognise my qualities as a person.
It makes me feel like I am sticking two fingers up at the patriarchal society which objectifies women and made me feel insecure and less wonderful as a human just because I had hair on my body.
It has made me realise how much time I was wasting on obsessing over my hair and body image rather than enjoying myself, doing things I love and feeling good all the time, whatever my appearance.
It has helped with my mental wellbeing, I am happier, and I honestly can say, I feel beautiful. Whereas before, when I was trying to control my hair growth and make it disappear, I often felt very ugly and had low self-worth.
The motivation came from wanting to share my image and offer solace to other women who had body hair. It also was a stepping stone in building my confidence.
Each picture I shared and story I told about my hair and wanting to move past my insecurity aided me to do just that. I also gained a lot of traction for the images I have shared of my legs in the bathtub. When a body is in the water, the hairs show up more.
This confused me slightly because what I see are legs. Whereas I think it goes to show how few female legs we see with hair (even adverts selling hair removal products don’t show any hair on a leg for fear it would be ‘unattractive’) and so the images became more fascinating to people.
If boys were given razors to shave their leg and armpit hair instead of girls, what would the world look like?
If adverts didn’t tell us that smooth skin was beautiful, if spots weren’t deemed to be embarrassing, if wrinkles were seen as wisdom, if men were shown wearing thongs shaking their booties then how would the world be different for us as women?
Notice every single advert, sign, image and picture that is portraying a woman, then question it. What is it encouraging you to look like, behave like, act like? Then reverse the message – you can be a hairy, imperfect, a wonderfully unique body shaped individual and you can shine so bright in your own skin.
A very well done to Bethany for feeling empowered and comfortable in her own skin on her own terms.
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