This summer, the Dia Army is growing like never before. In honor of the new crop of inductees, we’re sharing stories of women who’ve looked past society’s expectations of who should show skin and discovered for themselves how they feel the most comfortable in their own bodies. For some, that includes going sleeveless or baring a little midriff—for Sean Pugerude, our Social Content Specialist, that means throwing away her razor and letting her body hair grow. This is Sean’s story, in her own words.
I have a cool social-media job in SoHo. I’m the type of girl who will unapologetically do a face mask on road trips. I’m dating my dream guy and we have an insanely cute puppy. I obsess over designer micro-bags, I love having almond-shaped acrylic nails, and yes—I’m also a fat woman with body hair.
The words “fat woman with body hair” probably conjure a certain mental image for most. An image that for some might negate any other fun, glamorous, or human trait about me.
It’s been over a year since I’ve shaved. That isn’t based on any particular principle, except for my slow discovery that being in a seemingly hairless body didn’t outweigh how much I disliked shaving—which should be a valid enough reason as any. With body positivity becoming more and more mainstream, we’ve slightly widened our idea of who is allowed to be visible. But there still seems to be this unspoken rule: Sure, you can be a size 16, but please leave your belly fat, cellulite, acne, and body hair at home.
If I were thin, the fact that I just don’t enjoy shaving would likely be enough for others. Just the words “thin woman with body hair” invoke a very different mental image. An image that allows for femininity and desirability. She’s an individual, she’s cool, maybe she’s European? There’s humanity and complexity. Unlike our concept of fat women with body hair, which is dismally one-dimensional: “She is a slob.”
“Slob” has really become a coded word that folks love to assign to fat people. Why? Because it’s easy to dismiss—and even excuse the harassment of—someone who you’ve decided doesn’t care about themselves. The thing is, no one can keep up with every expectation that comes along with being a woman. Are there even enough hours in a day? No one can do it all. But fat women especially are required to prove their worth—because they already dare to exist in noncompliant bodies.
When you’re constantly needing to defend your worth, there’s every reason in the world to force yourself to meet the expectations we’re bombarded with. But what would it look like if we let go of those expectations? We’re so used to judging ourselves and others in terms of beauty standards that we miss examining whether or not these routines serve us mentally, emotionally, and holistically.
The truth is, there are plenty of valid reasons why shaving might not be for you—and whatever reason you have is okay. But there are also equally important personal factors that, once acknowledged, will help demonstrate why we should stop judging women, especially fat women, who have visible body hair.
1. Shaving is not always a body-affirming experience.
Call me crazy, but being crunched up in my tiny New York shower, combing over every inch of my body in pursuit of a “perfect” and completely unnatural result, doesn’t make me feel great about myself. As fat women, we’re constantly confronted with situations that challenge our right to feel at home in our bodies. It’s okay to create boundaries and rituals that affirm your experience in order to balance the scales.
2. Stepping away from diet culture may mean stepping away from other triggers.
If you’re in the process of evaluating your relationship with the diet and beauty industry, seemingly harmless habits might not feel the same as they once did. Certain foods, clothes, words, and yes, even grooming habits may not serve your mental health in the same way—and may even trigger harmful thought patterns.
3. Shaving is a time and money suck.
It’s no secret that shaving takes up more time and money than we’d all like. If that time and money would be better spent having a drink with friends, going to therapy, or starting a new hobby, that’s your decision to make.
4. We don’t all have the same mobility.
We often forget the element of ableism that creeps its way into the judgment around weight and beauty standards. The fact of the matter is that not everyone has the mobility to shave every inch of themselves. Or, maybe they can, but it simply takes too much energy. Or maybe chronic illness or pain makes the process lengthy or tedious. Shaving requires more of fat women, especially fat women with chronic pain or disabilities.
5. Hormones don’t care if you want to be silky smooth.
Many women in the plus community are aware of polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. PCOS is a hormonal disorder which can result in more body hair. When you’re fat, getting a proper diagnosis for anything can be a challenge, but dealing with PCOS can be especially invasive and expensive, leaving many of us unsure and blaming ourselves.
6. Refusing to shave encourages radical acceptance.
If we believe in a world where women are allowed to show up as their fullest and best selves, we need to always be challenging the idea that women should comply to diet and beauty rituals that rob them of joy. We don’t need to say yes to everything. We can’t say yes to everything. And no one can decide what taking care of yourself looks like, except for you.
Falling in love with yourself au naturale and undone is worth it. For those days when you feel worn out or downright low, being comfortable in your own skin can be a sanctuary. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with small tokens of kindness to yourself, you can get there. Maybe for you that means not shaving as frequently, going one day a week or month without make-up, skipping on shapewear, or embracing your natural hair texture. It’s your one precious life. Question those expectations that don’t feel right and lean into what makes you feel more like you.
Dia&Co Social Content Specialist & Ex-Shaver