Growing Up Hairy


Debbie says:

The “love your body” mantra can be tyrannical to someone whose body is in pain, does not conform to their gender identity, or simply isn’t what they want it to be. Loving your body is great if it works for you; plenty of people who don’t love, or don’t even like, their bodies have perfectly good lives.

If loving your body is a goal for you personally, one way in is to learn to judge your body by what it’s like to live in, rather than how it looks to other people.  As a body image activist, I’ve learned this lesson many times over: I’ve heard it applied to fat, to skin color, to disability and disfigurement, to fragility, and more.

Vreni‘s “How I Learned to Love Being a Hairy Lady,” published in The Nib, tells a different, though familiar story of the same journey, with a very appealing graphic story style.

Like so many such stories, she starts with the childhood experience of learning she was different. As she got older, it didn’t go away. Her big breasts were the inspiration for some teenage envy …

She goes into some very useful history of women shaving their legs, including that this choice is not even 100 years old and that it gained popularity during World War II, when stockings were rationed and hard to get.

And, again like so many stories of body acceptance, she learned to think about what she could do, as well as how she appeared.

I guarantee you Vreni’s story will help some hairy women, and some not hairy women and gender nonconforming people with other body image problems. I hope it will also come to the attention of some men. Ever since I read Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, by Susan Faludi, nearly 20 years ago, I’ve been aware of how much advertising and media are shifting men towards judging themselves by their appearance, while we labor in the fields of shifting everyone towards judging themselves as little as reasonable … and doing that based on how it feels to live in their bodies.

Everyone doing work like this shifts the narrative back just a little towards lived experience rather than looks, towards our own stories rather than preconceived expectations. So, thanks to Vreni, for telling your story!