These Photos Address the Taboo of Female Body Hair

London-based artist and filmmaker Ben Hopper has launched an extensive photo-series entitled “Natural Beauty,” which features women with body hair.

Although there’s nothing new about the anti-shaving female “revolution,” mass social pressure continues to push women into getting rid of every single stray hair on their bodies. Armpits, legs, and vaginas have been some of the victims of this less-than century-old war on female body hair.

This social-commentary series generally focuses on circus artists, dancers, singers, and performers which proudly go against the arbitrary, male-dominated gaze on the female body. Each photograph features the individual’s story of her journey to hairiness. The models often speak of the circumstances or thoughts that led to their decision to stop shaving.

The incredible musician Amanda Palmer is the subject of one of the photographs, where she also tells us how one day, around the age of 18, she realized that she had been shaving only because she had been told to do it – by television, teen magazines, her sister…Palmer does not like being told what to do. She decided to see what happens if she left the hair grow – and surprise, surprise! Nothing bad happened. She was still getting laid and attracting the sort of people that she liked, experiencing growth in control and self-confidence.

Scroll down to see some kick-ass body hair:

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(1/2) “I realized at one point, when I was about 18, that I was shaving because I’d been doing that told what to do. I can’t remember being ordered to shave my body, but the message was singular and omnipotent when I was 10 years old – YOU WILL SHAVE, IT IS A SIGN OF MATURITY AND WOMANHODD! It came from my sister, from her friends, from television, from teen magazines, from every corner. And there was no voice, from any corner, telling me NOT to shave (expect maybe my mother, who was horrified that I wanted to shave so early because my sister was doing it). But: I hate being told what to do. So I decided to grow it out and see what happened if I stopped doing what people were telling me to do. And nothing bad happened. So I left it. ⠀ I felt like I was back in control of my body without having realized I’d lost control. ⠀ Interestingly, very few people ever made comments about my armpit hair. Children would sometimes stare, and I found myself thinking “How interesting! They have a sense elf what’s ‘normal’ gendered behavior by the time they’re three years old!” And in the relationship department, it probably attracted more men than it deterred. I was emanating a power and a self-confidence that lots of men (and women, I’m bisexual) found really attractive. I remember my friend Emily, who also didn’t shave her legs, always defending herself against anyone who commented that her leg hair was “gross” by throwing her hands up and saying “I’m still getting laid!!” The most fascinating thing to notice in retrospect is that negative comments and judgments from adults almost always came from women. Men, or at least the kind of interesting, intellectual, hip guys I like to attract, never really seemed to care whether there was hair under my arms or not. But women would sometimes take my armpit hair as a personal insult, like a breaking of an agreement that we are all supposed to groom ourselves according to a standard. Obviously, fuck that.” – Amanda Palmer, December 2016

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(1/2) “I started shaving at a young age but didn’t understand that I was disempowering myself by doing so. Times have long gone by where the colour of your skin denoted your position in society. Is body hair, something that is natural with biological purpose really any different to the skin? I think most of us would answer no. I don’t believe it’s anyone’s fault the way that this societies preconceived ideology of beauty has become. I just think that seeing a woman with bodily hair in public has become such a rare occurrence these days that it’s a shock, and lot of the time we instantly take dislike to what we aren’t used to. So by showing my underarms in their natural form, I hope to lessen the impact of shock and judgment on other women who decide to give themselves this freedom. The more people start to see what a natural woman looks like, the less of a deal it will be until hopefully someday it will be not important at all. I also just really want to be able to be myself, without the pressure of having to change myself for other people’s sake. ⠀ It’s part of a much bigger picture and this isn’t about me wanting all women to be hairy, it’s simply a wish for women to be able to express themselves in the way that they want without unjust judgment and expectation from others. Empowering women yes, but also empowering men to feel and think the way they want to, instead of just following societies ideologies of beauty standards. It is a really important role of the man to empower his woman, by accepting her and encouraging her to express herself and be herself."

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“I stopped shaving my body hair as I realised that it is a choice, not a given. That it was unfair to have to spend so much extra time, sometimes money (if getting regular waxes) and energy in order to fulfil this conventional expectation to be hair free. This expectation seemed to be based entirely on my assigned biological gender, which was purely down to chance. Not choice. ⠀ At first, my 17-year-old self was exceptionally proud and liberated. Flashing my underarms and legs with a zesty vigour for pushing social boundaries. I still feel such a way often. However getting older, and becoming more of a ‘grown up woman’, so to speak, I have been more challenged wondering how it could affect others perception of me, mainly professionally. ⠀ Over the years I’ve had mixed responses. Some very gratifying, where other ‘women’ have expressed feeling inspired to stop removing their hair also. On several occasions ‘women’ have called me “so brave” and shared almost sorrowfully their personal inner conflict on the matter. I’ve had conversations with lovers and ‘male’ friends who claimed to find my body hair attractive, symbolic of freedom and nature; that they don’t even notice it/care. I mention this as I think that one of the biggest motivations to remove body hair is wanting to be considered sexually attractive. I’ve definitely also noticed what I think are looks of surprise in public places. But quite frankly I’m not surprised at that as despite becoming somewhat more acceptable, it is still pretty rare to see a ‘woman’ with hairy legs or a man with shaved armpits, for that matter. I too can find myself staring at unusual appearances.” ⠀ Charlot Conway for ‘Natural Beauty’. Photographed May 2018, written July 2018.

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Darian Koszinski, circus artist. Photographed for “Natural Beauty”. May 11, 2018. Words posted as parts in the comments due to IG character limit. ⠀ (1/2) “Shaving, epilating or waxing hurts. I was tired of suffering, trying to adapt to the image of a ‘beautiful young woman’ society is selling us. Everybody told me to shave. As a teenager, it’s a huge subject among girls; where do you shave? What method are you using? It takes so much time and costs so much money (the majority of hair removal products are also not recyclable). All of these reasons coming one after another motivated me to stop shaving. I would often have irritated skin after shaving and being a very sporty person, the sweat and the friction of my clothes would cause pain. The worst thing was having sex on the second day after shaving my vulva. I didn't understand why women would suffer and waste so much time on hiding who they really are. ⠀ It was hard to accept my new image. I am an ash blond, but have BLACK hairs on my legs, armpits and vulva. My legs were the worst; in addition to the long black hair, they’re quite muscly. It made it harder to accept my masculine look but I had a feeling that I needed to stop shaving so I could feel more like myself – accept myself as I really am. Nowadays I love my hair. It definitely makes me feel stronger and in balance with myself. I like touching it and showing it. I sometimes even like to use it to provoke. I kind of enjoy the moments in the Metro; when people seem disturbed looking at my legs. I always hope other women and men can find us, naturally hairy women, as an inspiration. ⠀ There are all kind of reactions – people talking behind my back, curious friends asking for the reason, others who tell me that they love it and others making fun of it, or being disapproving. When I was 17 I had the idea that if I stopped shaving I’d only meet people who really like me and don’t care about these superficial norms of society. It worked out!”

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