This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sourodipto Sanyal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Hair Is What Men Think Of Women Who Don’t Wax Or Shave

More from Sourodipto Sanyal

By Sourodipto Sanyal for Cake:

November is the month where people show solidarity with the ones who are suffering from cancer by foregoing shaving and grooming. The money that they save in the process is donated to spread awareness about the disease in what is popularly called as No Shave November. Even though this practice is gender neutral and the official website doesn’t say women cannot participate, the draconian grasp of patriarchy ensures that it largely remains a comfortable activity for only men. Men proudly displaying their unshaved faces with the hopes of getting more likes on Facebook has become a common sight during the month of November. Yet, due to the stigma of women having facial hair on any part of their body, society puts obstacles in the path of them trying to show their concern for cancer patients. November is the month when expectations of an intolerant patriarchal mindset are out for everyone to see. Yet, it just isn’t the month of November. Even for the rest of the year many women are burdened with a thought which ideally should be trivial and a thing of the past.

Having done my entire schooling in Delhi, the space where I grew up in wasn’t the friendliest towards girls who had body hair. Almost every boy that I knew didn’t find it a pleasing site. While boys would crack jokes amongst themselves, most girls would get their hair waxed on a very regular basis.

There is an industry which sells the notion that women without hair on their body are more desirable than the ones with it,” says Rajkanya, a 22-year-old young professional, and a graduate of Lady Shri Ram College. She started getting rid of her body hair ever since she was 17, and usually does it once every two months. She identifies as a feminist, yet, she concedes that she, like many others, does end up judging women for having body hair. “I’m in the process of removing such thoughts from my subconscious mind as well,” she added.

Many women have internalised the notion that body hair is something they should do away with. What about men? What do they think about it?

Om Prakash, a 40-year-old man who works in Noida had interesting things to say. He says, “Fir aadmi jaisa ho jayega. Automatic accha nahin lagta.” (It’ll become similar to that of a man then. It doesn’t look nice automatically). After being reminded that eliminating body hair could be a painful exercise for women, he says, “Baal sundar lagne ke liye hatate hai. Jaise aadmi khud hi shave karta hai.” (Hair is removed for looking beautiful. Similar to a man shaving).

But is it the same thing? Bearded men are celebrated in society while the same thing cannot be said for women who have body hair. As I continue my conversation with Om Prakash, he says that women from low-income groups also tend to avoid waxing, as many see it as a financial burden. If women are less likely to afford hair-removal services, does it mean that men from similar backgrounds as them will have more tolerance for body hair? Not necessarily.

A 35-year-old auto driver who works in Gurgaon isn’t very open to women having hair on any part of their body. He says, “Unko shobha nahin deta. Bilkul bekar lagta hai. Jiske liye jo cheez upar wale ne banai hai.” (It doesn’t suit them. It looks horrible. God has made different things for different people.) Thus contradicting himself, since body hair is, after all, natural. He started laughing after I asked him a question on what he felt about women having facial hair. His laughter on the topic speaks for itself.

A woman shaves her legs in the bathtub. Image for representation only. Source: Betsssssy/Flickr.

Class, the way it infiltrates into everything, perhaps has a role to play in how men view body hair. And perhaps not. Srijnan Sanyal, a 54-year-old corporate executive, says “My perception may be urban and possibly sexist. I don’t like body hair. I don’t associate femininity with it.” He believes that it is something very natural to consider women with less body hair as more attractive.

If a woman wants to take the pain for making herself presentable, then what can one do to stop it?” Yet, he concedes that they possibly do so under pressure from society. While referring to both men and women he says, “We don’t exactly live the way nature has created us. We cut our hair and shave our beards.” He is aware of the fact that sexist constructs have resulted in women choosing to shave their body hair, yet it has become such an accepted part of many women’s existence that they themselves regularly do it.

Body hair on women doesn’t gross me out,” says a 23-year-old Indian student who is currently pursuing a master’s in the USA. One of his ex-girlfriends was Korean-American while the other was Indian. Both had asked him whether they should shave. He had told them that it was completely up to them as it was their body.

For Edwin Thomas, a 21-year-old who identifies as gay, and who was born and brought up in Dubai, time had changed what he thought of body hair on women. He says, “I did not like body hair on men or women when I was around the age of 13-16.” Yet, he says that being exposed to a lot of feminist literature towards the end of high school changed his perception of beauty. He started admiring both men and women with different body types, a darker skin tone and even hair on their body.

In a short story by Saadat Hasan Manto, a celebrated South Asian author who wrote during the 1940s and ’50s, a young boy fantasizes about the armpit hair of a woman. Does it mean that there was far more tolerance for body hair on women back in the day? One wonders what Manto would have thought of a society where having something as natural as hair on the body of women has become an uphill task.

You must be to comment.

More from Sourodipto Sanyal

Similar Posts

By payoshni immadi

By Kshitiz Siwakoti

By Mushin No Shin

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below