Glamour (South Africa)
Trending: Visible body hair
Visible body hair
Being described as everything from unruly to dirty, women with visible body hair continue to face stigmatisation, for what is ultimately a natural occurrence. Influencer Mimo Mokgosi, 29, is part of a growing movement of young women who are shattering unrealistic beauty norms by happily posting pictures of her body hair on social media.
1 Growing up with different perceptions
Growing up in my community, and society at large, perceptions around women with visible body hair was that it was unacceptable. I often heard people say that it was unladylike to have too much hair. I personally grew up as a very hairy person – I had it all, from my hair to my bushy eyebrows. I’ve always been very confident and smart, even when people attempted to put me down by calling me names like sboyani, maboya or shweni (all derivatives for describing a hairy person). Regardless of the criticism and judgment I faced, I continued to love my hairy arms, back, legs, facial hair and sideburns, as in my family being hairy was never an issue. In fact, it was perceived as normal. My dad was hairy, my mother had a massive Afro, my brother was so hairy that he had to get a cut every week and my sister eventually grew massive dreadlocks.
2 (Not so) smooth operator
Although I was happily hairy as a young person, I eventually experimented with shaving my arms, and I was quite taken aback by how weird and different it looked. A friend of mine insisted that my armpit hair was too visible and that I needed to get rid of it, so I started experimenting with hair removal products. Although it did a clean job, it made me feel incomplete – like something was missing.
Personally, the more I shave the more my hair grows back. I’ve noticed in the parts where I do shave, open pores have led to more growth. Trying to maintain a smooth body while being hairy is hard. However, I’m not against shaving, but it should never be a decision based on what other people think you should do. Now I only shave when I’m getting a tattoo so that the artist can get clean lines and prevent any mistakes caused by obstructions.
3 stigmatising women who don’t shave
People do notice that I don’t shave. I’ve experienced some challenging moments and damaging misconceptions, like being referred to as a “monkey”, and I once came across a post I was tagged on which read, “Hairy women have lice.” It’s disheartening to be categorised with animals, but I don’t entertain these hurtful narratives anymore because focusing on them gives them too much power.
I’ve also been the victim of harassment, where people become invasive and wanted to touch me in public. I get asked uncomfortable questions very often, like whether I take supplements/steroids – men who have a lot of hair are never treated this way.
I’ve come to realise that we don’t accept ourselves fully as a society and that we would rather do things that make us uncomfortable to fit in than stand out. We waste so much time trying to be perfect.
4 Normalising body hair
I happily let my hair grow on my back, arms, legs and on my face. Unfortunately, most women I’ve come across tell me that they would never have the confidence to rock their own body hair as I do. There has been a noticeable shift on social media with movements like #Januhairy and #Bodyhairdontcare. I’ve also received positive responses online. We need to stop trying to keep up with this skewed version of femininity. Self-acceptance has played such a big role in my life that I can truly perceive myself as looking perfectly amazing in being different. This is also reflected in my style of dress, which for me is about wearing anything that I’m comfortable in.
I have no limitations or restrictions when it comes to what I wear, but the most important thing to wear is your confidence. We can further normalise women and ideas around body hair by encouraging them to celebrate who they are in their deepest form. When you love yourself, the world will love you back. The media can play a better role, too, especially in showcasing more women who show their natural body hair, instead of perpetuating negative stereotypes.
“Growing up in my community, and society at large, perceptions around women with visible body hair was that it was unacceptable”