Updated: Friday, 7th August 2020 @ 1:30pm

The prickly issue of women's body hair: Sick social pressure or just basic beauty?

The prickly issue of women's body hair: Sick social pressure or just basic beauty?

| By Ben Weich

Women’s body hair – nice and natural or in need of a shave? For many it’s either too sensitive or too squeamish an issue to discuss, but for others it almost sums up the entire feminist debate.

In recent years women have been ditching the razors as an expression of self-determination, much like modern-day bra burning.

So could this trend be about to hit the mainstream? MM took to the streets of Manchester to find out.

Are women under pressure to shave body hair?

YES 63%
NO 37%

“There is an enormous pressure on women to shave their body hair, it’s must be suffocating,” said Jack Hart, a drama student from Bolton.

BEARDY MAN: Drama student Jack Hart said he admires women who don't shave their body hair

“I have so much admiration for any woman who decides to not shave her body hair. It’s utterly heartbreaking when anyone isn’t allowed to choose how to live,” said the 18-year-old.

While the majority of Mancunians agreed society does heap pressure on women, some even went as far as to argue it’s justified.

“If women want to start growing it that’s up to them – I won’t stop them,” said Ravi Jassal, 22, “But I wouldn’t be attracted to them.

The postgraduate student from Ancoats said: “I think every man would agree and that’s because it’s an absolute standard of beauty. There might be societal pressure but that’s because it’s right.”

David Feeney, 31, agreed with this, saying “It’s definitely my personal preference for women I’m with to shave their body hair.

“Also, people forget us men are under pressure too! We’re supposed to be chivalrous – opening doors for women and such – yet if we’re too macho we’re uncaring or stupid!” said the business consultant from Rusholme.

Others, like 50-year-old artist Tim Garner, took a more philosophical approach.

HAIRY TOPIC: 50-year-old Tim Garner said the question a matter of 'yes' or 'no' 

“I think it’s way too easy to simplify something so complicated into ‘yes’ or ‘no’. How much is any choice a free choice? What is freedom? True freedom, my friend, doesn’t exist.

“It’s a non-issue. Things are the way they are and we have to act within the confines we find ourselves in. That is human existence. Get used to it,” said the Stockport native.

Steph White, 39, said, “I think this issue has been blown all out of proportion, to be honest. The way some women talk about it you’d think we’d been enslaved.

“There are always going to be expectations of people in society. Some are unfair, and some people might not want to conform to them but that’s life.

“And you know what? If someone was brave enough and independent enough to think for themselves and ignore societal pressure – there are a lot of people out there who would find that extremely attractive,” argued the Didsbury care worker.

THAT'S LIFE: Steph White said there are always going to be expectations of people in society

Younger people, perhaps immersed deeper in the ideals of beauty propagated by popular culture, seemed less impelled to back the feminist agenda.

“I don’t really have an opinion. Women shave their body hair because that’s just how it is. I couldn’t imagine women en masse deciding to stop,” said Demetrius Demetriou, a waiter.

“To be honest I don’t see why it’s even a question. I don’t like to see women with hairy bodies. No-one does,” said the 22-year-old city centre resident.

Going against the grain was Ian O’Donoghue, a 32-year-old IT service worker, who spoke of his parallel experiences.

“I’m a gay man but I hang around with straight people. And I’ve never felt any pressure to look or act a certain way.

The Withington native continued “But then again things are different elsewhere. Manchester’s a very accepting city, so you never know – perhaps it could be a hairy women mecca!”

HAIRY WOMEN MECCA?  Ian O’Donoghue said Manchester's a very accepting city

Chef Will Taplin said “A lot of it comes down to capitalism. Society has formed an arbitrary ideal of beauty and one people can make money from.

“So now the magazines and the fashion industry ram it right down our throats,” said the 28-year-old Fallowfield resident, “And I, for one, think it’s unfair. Totally and absolutely unfair.”

Providing the perspective of the older generations was Bernard Harper, 67: “My generation faces next to no pressure.

“The teens and the people in their early twenties? I think they put a lot of pressure on themselves, both sexes do,” said the retiree from Bolton.

Finally social enterprise worker Jakki Cowley wasn’t sure of the root cause of the debate, but was unsparing in her approval of those brave enough to ditch the razor.

DITCH THE RAZOR: Jakki Cowley said she was proud of women brave enough to stop shaving

“It takes a lot of guts, let me tell you. Everyday sexism is alive and well, I see it all the time,” said the 39-year-old from Rusholme.

“But I’d say this to any woman out there who stops shaving: I’m proud of you."

Main Image courtesy of Christi Nielson, with thanks.