In February this year a friend of mine posted this meme in her Facebook group and, even though I’ve giggled at the joke when I’ve seen it in the past, this time it really rubbed me up the wrong way and led me to comment in the group “At the risk of being a party pooper….”

The Alt Txt for this image describes a cat lying on a person’s leg (can’t see it myself) but it’s the text that irritated me, speaking to a lifetime of messages telling women and girls that hair on the body is not attractive. Who decided that? It’s not true in all cultures, so why are we so obsessed in the West? Do you think it might have something to do with men pushing their preferences on us, or perhaps the billions in cashflow generated from the beauty industry?

Apparently hair removal goes back as far as cavemen times, when both men and women would use stone and shell tools to remove their hair before a battle, so that enemies couldn’t grab hold of it to gain a fighting advantage. The practice of removal for both sexes can be traced through other cultures too, such as the ancient Egyptians, this time as a symbol of cleanliness and status.

However the push for female depilation started in the late 1800’s in the United States, when one of the women’s magazines encouraged advertisers by telling them that the intention of the magazine was to allow the marketing of their products to women and it was not being published for the benefit of American women.

As clothing styles changed over time the practice of underarm hair removal expanded to legs and pretty much anywhere else you want to be hair-less. (And don’t get me started on decoration!)

At the time of writing this I’ve experienced more than 50 years of depilatory dictatorship. At school, having very dark hair, I was lucky not to be teased too often about my hairy arms and moustache. Nevertheless it was enough to send me to an electrolysis centre at age 16, where they gently explained that my hormones were still evolving and treatment was not allowed until age 18. Since then I’ve shaved, used stinky creams, been sugared, waxed, and had electrolysis. I even had a year or so of regular ‘Hollywood’ waxes, generously tipping the brave girl rummaging around my nethers!!! I’ve spent a small fortune on hair removal, as I do prefer hair-free skin on me as it feels more sensual…the irony being that I much prefer hairy men to smooth!

So why did I get so grumpy about this image when it didn’t bother me before?

Recently, no doubt influenced by being a Trustee for our local rape and sexual abuse centre, I’ve become increasingly aware of the language we have normalised into society, and the messages we consider “OK” for our children to see. Messages that say you are only loveable if you look a certain way, or behave a certain way. The rapid expansion of the internet to peddle idealised bodies and pornography, including kiddie porn, has led to abuse, dysfunctional relationships, and unrealistic expectations. As long as we continue to consume there is an endless supply. So, this is my quiet way of starting to change the narrative…