Every year, January is filled with desperate attempts to stick to New Years’ resolutions before completely giving up in February. Dry January and Veganuary are both movements attempting to capture these efforts and create a community of people all working towards a similar final goal.
A recent addition is the Janu-hairy movement, originating with Laura Jackson, a student at the University of Exeter. Alongside her ultimate goal of challenging the taboo on women’s body hair Jackson is supporting the charity ‘Body Gossip’, which campaigns through arts and education to encourage everybody to be the best version of themselves and to feel empowered in their body.
Underlying her movement are the feminist ideals of women’s strength and empowerment, and the belief that women should feel comfortable in their bodies without being restricted by societal taboos. Jackson has emphasised that the movement is not intended as an angry feminist tirade against perceived male dominance, but instead as way of creating broader understanding of restrictions women may face and of breaking free of these. However, some have argued that the movement could instead create pressure for women to reject shaving in order to be considered a ‘real’ feminist. This criticism may have some truth behind it but ultimately misses the mark.
The Janu-hairy campaign is intended to demonstrate that women do have the choice as to whether to shave rather than insisting that no feminist would remove body hair. This emphasis on choice and individual control allows the movement to go beyond being a simple fad and to be revolutionary in a time where female body hair is widely seen as unacceptable.
The Janu-hairy movement is revolutionary in terms of its widespread discussion of women’s body hair as being acceptable. It took until 2018 for body hair to even feature in a women’s razor advert, and despite celebrities such as Amandla Stenberg, Rihanna, and Adele all embracing their body hair, women are still judged and criticised if they do not shave. Either for reasons relating to hygiene or appearance there is an overall expectation that women should be free from hair, and with this movement Jackson is creating a space in which women’s autonomy over appearance can be accepted and even celebrated.
Women have used clothing and makeup to rebel against patriarchal values and to celebrate individuality, and the Janu-hairy movement may mark the start of a new freedom regarding body hair.It has now been over a century since British women won the vote, and yet women are still facing judgement and criticism regarding personal appearance. The Janu-hairy movement is simply about allowing women personal choice over their bodies, and the controversy surrounding the movement demonstrates why it is necessary.
Men are typically left to deal with body hair without comment while women are required to be clean shaven; this is not equality and allows no space for personal choice. The act of a woman accepting their body hair is harmless but has been made revolutionary, and it will continue to be revolutionary until women’s freedom of choice is respected.
Image: Karolina Mis via flickr.com