From corsets to radioactive makeup and rib removal to led face paint, the trail to beauty have been historically harmful and even fatal. Women aimed for beauty and paid with their lives. Beauty is pain? I’m not sure I’m convinced…But we’re past all that. It’s the 21st century and everything’s different now. We are better, smarter and more civilised than generations before. We would never cause ourselves so much harm in the name of beauty.
But we do, in New Zealand, 1/100 women and girls have been diagnosed with anorexia. And that’s just the diagnosed cases. The actual number with these issues is likely much higher. Many sufferers go unnoticed. That means you probably know one of them. Shrinking women isn’t just a problem in New Zealand; It is a global epidemic. The ideation of the thin, the worship of the scale and diet culture have created the perfect environment for self-hatred and body insecurity. Hair falling out, low blood pressure, abdominal pain, fatigue, depression, hospitalization and even death. We know the side effects of starvation but that doesn’t stop us. And for what? To be the stick thin model society expects us to be? Is skinny really worth dying for?
But it’s not just the small number of us torturing ourselves for beauty. There is an everyday ritual done by most women; Tweezing, shaving, cutting, waxing, laser treatment. All ways women remove natural body hair. But where did this insane ritual start? And why are we all expected to do this?
The first mention of hair removal involved sharp shells and shark teeth over 32,000 years ago.
During the Renaissance hairlessness was shown as an indicator of high class and women and goddesses in art were depicted without pubic hair.
In 1915, sleeveless dresses came into style and society dictated that women need hairless armpits and in the next 2 years, the first female razor was marketed and had been bought by 1 million women.
By 1972, adorning body hair was considered disgusting, uncivilised, a revolutionary act and the clear marking of a feminist.
Between 1996 and 1999, half a million women had been treated with laser hair removal, making it the third most popular cosmetic procedure in the US at the time. Later that year, Julia Roberts caused controversy and many were outraged and shocked when she wore a sequined dress with unshaved underarms to the Notting Hill premiere.
In the past 20 years, women have been confronting body hair norms and have even started a movement on Instagram called #bodyhairdontcare, with women sharing photos of their unshaven bodies and some even adding hair dye and glitter. This began after Miley Cyrus posted a photo of her with underarm hair to instagram. Since then, Paris Jackson has worn armpit hair to the VMAs red carpet, the number of women between the ages of 16 and 24 removing underarm hair has dropped from 95% to 77% and the number of women with shaven legs has dropped from 92% to 85% between the years 2013 and 2016.
This is huge! This is revolutionary! We have come so far. HoweverInstagram despite these tremendous strides, we still have a long way to go.
self-hatred That is simply untrue and difficult to argue with when it was only last year that Model, Arvida Bystrom received rape threats for having hairy legs in an Adidas Superstar Campaign and Chrissy Teigen told Allure that she feels like she has to shave her whole body everyday despite it being exhausting. Outside the celebrity and fashion sphere, women are still mocked and criticised for a single hair in a place it “shouldn’t be”. Every girl and woman I know removes their body hair and most of the women that I’ve asked have said they do it because “everyone does it” and to not do it would be “gross” and “disgusting” At this point, hair removal doesn’t feel like something people choose to do to look more attractive. It’s become something almost compulsory and is expected. We are not praised for hair removal, we are shamed for failure to follow society’s standards. Hair removal is essentially seen as the bare minimum for being a women.
Every time you look in a magazine, ads on tv or watch a movie, the women we idolize or root for are ALWAYS thin and pretty. They make it look like only people who look a certain way can be happy and that not look like them is a personal failing. But that’s not true. No one looks like the models in magazines. Not even the models in the magazines look like the models in the magazines. A lot of work goes into one photo; professional makeup artists, hairdressers, and photographers work tirelessly to make the model appear “perfect”. Models suck in as lighting and angle choices make the model look ‘better’. The pounds of makeup hide every possible flaw that could otherwise be shown and shatter the illusion that in order to be beautiful, you must first be perfect. After the entire day of photoshoots comes editing. Airbrushing and image cutting, removing flaws and imperfections. It removes the under eye bags, discoloration and the fact the model has actual skin on her bones. And we’re surprised we don’t look like models when we post a selfie? It’s ridiculous. Most of us haven’t even taken any course to help with one of the many skills needed to look like models, let alone all of them, and yet we expect ourselves to be as good as them? At skills, they’ve been mastering for decades? They’ve spent HOURS getting one model photo-ready; you’ve taken 200 selfies in 5 seconds. Don’t pretend that doesn’t make a difference. There is way too much pressure on women and girls to look a certain way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thin and I LOVE makeup, but that doesn’t mean I think the way we expect women to look is normal.
We worship the beauty industry and throw our money at cosmetic companies, plastic surgeons, personal trainers, weight loss producers, and magazines that teach us how to “lose weight fast” and fix the problems they created in the first place.