Not Shaving Isn’t Always a Choice for Women of Colour

By Paniz Khosroshahy

Adopted from a piece first published in gal-­dem

I don’t shave, because I believe that the hair removal industry is a product of capitalist patriarchy created to hold women subservient. But last summer, after Miley Cyrus and other white celebrities emerged with visible but barely­there patches of hair on their pits as the epitome of feminism, I knew something wasn’t right.

Body hair is something WoC in western societies are taught to be shameful of from a young age, but hairiness these days is a symbol of enlightenment. Where was hair feminism when we were ashamed of our legs in PE? Where was the full eyebrow trend when so many of us were humiliated for our uni and thick brows, by girls with brows so bright you couldn’t even tell where their skin started? Is there any surprise when the entire focus of this whole “hair is rad” movement is on legs and pits when many WoC have visible hair growth on their chest, toes, upper lip, chin, around their belly button?

In “rad” spaces, hairless pits are the anomaly. To white women that don’t shave: I want to remind you that your ability to be hairy is surely a result of you challenging the patriarchy, but it is also a privilege of your white skin. WoC have been seen as unwomanly, dirty, either hypersexualized or desexualized. White bodies, white features, lighter shades of skin constantly set impossible standards for what WoC are supposed to aspire to. Whereas WoC are shamed throughout their life for their bodies, you are always seen as dainty, fair, soft, vulnerable, sweet, womanly. And even if at some point you do decide to challenge these norms by not shaving, you always have the privilege of fitting back into the “norm”.

And to WoC that are too ashamed, too traumatized, of being made to feel undesirable: your feminism is valid. You body is valid, your desire to not create more stereotypes for your community is valid, your need to escape racial violence is valid. And if any white feminist tells you that you should practice “body positivity”, forcing you to pick allegiances between your gender and race, know that they are not your ally, know that their mere “acceptance” won’t change anything because it is not your body that is the problem but the norms of this society that are based on your erasure. As a wonderful WoC once told me, “I’m here for WoC that wax, thread, laser, shave all damn day… white women will never know that trauma.”