Next time you shave your legs and armpits, think about why you’re doing it. Are you doing it because you want to? Or are you simply following beauty conventions set forth by society? And can you ever just say f*ck the razor?
Molly Soda, a Puerto Rico-born web artist and explorer of self-identity, wants you to know that you have an option.
“When I first took the plunge and decided to stop shaving, my biggest fear was that men would no longer find me attractive and that the sight of my body hair would repulse them or scare them away,” she told Nylon. “This thought process is harmful. It teaches us to place value on ourselves, our bodies and our worth based on how we fit into the male gaze.”
The best part about having all her body hair back, is that she’s using it as a tool to “weed out” those guys who just care about her looks and not what she’s really about. So she said “eff you” to those men, as well.
In the end, “Body hair doesn’t make you any less feminine or any less attractive,” she said. “Choosing to shave doesn’t mean that you’re insecure. The strongest statement you can make is to take control of your body and present yourself in whatever way that makes you feel comfortable.”
So shave or don’t shave, but do it for you and no one else.
Check out what else Molly has to say about shaving here.
#1: The scourge of colorism has had a stranglehold on Latinx communities for centuries, and it manifests in insidious ways. Although nicknames like “la morena” are often used in Latinx families as a term of endearment, these seemingly-harmless labels can create deep roots of self-hatred within the subject. This self-hatred can be especially prominent in young women and girls who are taught to tie their self-worth to their outward appearance. And although the Latinx community is doing more now to tackle colorism than it ever has before, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
According to public health officials, the as-yet-unnamed woman arrived at an emergency room “slurring her speech” and “unable to walk or feel her hands and face” public health officials said. She is now in a semi-comatose state. According to friends and family, the woman frequently bought her face-cream from a friend in Mexico. But this time, her Pond’s Rejuveness Anti-Wrinkle Cream had been laced with the toxic heavy metal, mercury. According to officials, the woman is the “first known victim of methylmercury poisoning from a cosmetic in the U.S.”, making her case especially alarming. According to The Daily Beast, the sale of skin-lightening products is “a bustling market” that is “driven by immigrants who buy them from their home countries”.
Although the FDA is tasked with monitoring imported cosmetic products to make sure they reach our health-standards domestically, it is impossible to keep track of unreported and/or illegal trade. That’s why you should be wary when accepting beauty products from a friend or relative who lives out of the country. According to Businessweek: “no one knows how many of the world’s skin-lightening creams are tainted with mercury.” Even if you are sure your friend is trustworthy and the product is safe, in the end, there’s no way to know for certain.
In many Latinx countries, the skin-lightening market is a widespread and lucrative trade that holds no stigma for its customers.
Reports suggest that across the world, the skin-lightening market is valued at $20 billion, which proves how ubiquitous the desire for lighter skin is, cross-culturally. Because of its known melanin-suppressing effects, mercury is often found in skin-lightening products–including “legitimate” products that insist their ingredients are safe. Methylmercury is an extremely toxic compound and is used in things like “thermometers, batteries, and mirrors”. According to experts, long-term exposure “can cause kidney damage, loss of peripheral vision and lack of coordination”. That means that many of these skin-lightening creams that are marketed as being safe are actually laced with poison and are extremely toxic.
Colorism comes from the history of European colonization and oppression in Latin America. Europeans used the socially-constructed idea of race in order to divide and subjugate the people they were trying to conquer. Identifying with white Europeans was a way to prove superiority and therefore align yourself with power. But subsequently, the idea of lighter skin being more desirable has persisted until today. And, as is evidenced above, some Latinos will go to great lengths to appear whiter–even if the outcomes are dangerous.
Fortunately, there are a vast number of Latinx people on Twitter who are vocal about the negative effects of colorism within the community.
Many people in the Latinx community (especially the younger generation) are finally waking up to the realities of life for people who are darker-skinned. Luckily, there is a large cohort of people who are no longer staying silent on the issue.
This Latina has seen colorism manifests itself within her own family:
The beautiful part about being Latinx is the spectrum of colors of the community has–a spectrum that sometimes shows up inside a family.
This Latina recognizes that, while she thought colorism was “normal” when she was younger, she now knows it’s a harmful social construct.
Sometimes it’s hard to see when something is wrong when it’s so ingrained in society.
This person sees colorism as a major divisive factor in the Latino community:
Even when we see representations of ourselves in the media–often the accepted version of a Latino is European-looking one. Look at any telenovela.
This Latina understands that colorism isn’t just a black/white issue:
In reality, colorism is nuanced–it comes from outdated colonial mindsets of white and European-supremacy.
Although it’s terrible that this woman was victim of this black market cream, this incident is bringing to light the undeniable harmful impact of colorism within the Latinx community as well as the dangers of skin-lightening products.
As Latinas, we often find humor in our collective struggle of dealing with our body hair. Some of us will spend literally thousands of dollars ripping it off, shaving it lasering it, while others will embrace it for what it is: wear it for what it is. Still, no matter how we approach dealing with our body hair, there’s often a question about how to deal with it and for Latinas, this is something we’ve dealt with since puberty. We all have stories about asking our mamas to let us shave our underarms our legs, particularly the peach fuzz on our upper lips, and recently FIERCE by mitú received a letter from a concerned mother asking us this question:
“I’m a mother of a 10 year old, had my kids super young. I am also Mexican, and by that I mean to say I myself am pretty hairy, my daughter is going through pre-puberty, she’s starting to grow breast[s] and alooooot of body hair… She ha[s] a unibrow and hair [o]n her legs which makes her super self-conscious. We’ve talked about beauty, and her own beauty, as I caught her thinking if she dyed her hair blond she would look more beautiful, or if she had lighter skin. I even caught her not wanting to eat dinner because she didn’t want to get fat. I’m super concerned about what she thinks beauty means, even when I constantly reassure her… I’d like to get an opinion from other empowered Latinas as to how young is too young to let a little girl shave and [do] her eyebrows.”
We asked our followers on Instagram what they had to say about when they thought was an appropriate age to talk with young girls about body hair removal.
From the responses, it looks as if a few points are clear:
1. Young women know by themselves what the right time is.
“I think the topic should be brought up but let them decide to do so when they are ready. I started shaving my legs at around 16. I would stare at my legs during PE class in middle school and would think, ‘ I wonder what the guys think of my hairy legs…’ Lol but I waited until I felt ready, not pressured. My mom never really talked to me about these things so I decided it on my own. Everyone is different though, but I think a girl should be able to decide when at her own time. ~ i do wish my mom would have told me not to shave above the knees”. -Jessica
2. Talking to your children is of primary importance.
“Teach them that these things are natural and razors and wax exist because it’s normal for everyone of different colors, shapes and sizes. If she’s interested in shaving or doing her eyebrows, encourage her to do it (safely and to a reasonable extent). It’s better that she’s comfortable in her own skin and that as a mom, you know what she’s doing to her body as opposed to having another 10 year old give her advice. I had to shave my legs behind my moms back and I had razor bumps forever before I found the internet to get tips on how to do it better.” -Alessandra
3. Body hair removal should be on a young woman’s “own terms.”
“I think it’s better to let her do it on her own terms. Up until I was in seventh grade, I hadn’t shaved my legs. A boy in class asked me ‘why don’t you shave your legs?’ That night, my mom let me shave my legs. It should be on her terms.” -Celeste
4. The teasing we encounter due to body hair can be harmful and have long-lasting effects.
“My mom found me shaving when I was around 10 years old and got so angry that my dad went to my rescue and told her that I was probably just mimicking her. That helped me not get la faja but I was self-conscious about my very hairy legs and bob haircut that had my classmates calling me niña-varón“. -Laura
5. Discussion can help parents decide how to proceed.
“My kid is 10 and so far she hasn’t mentioned it. Thanks ladies for all your stories. This validated what my plans are when that day comes she wants to shave. She doesn’t want to pluck or wax her eyebrows cause she says she doesn’t want the pain…. hey, fine with that. I know that day will come and I will show her how to shave her legs and deal with the rest of her body correctamente.” -Sofia
6. Sometimes, strict rules can backfire.
“I had hairy legs and I wanted to shave as soon as I got to 6th grade PE class. However my mom did not let me. When my sister got to 6th grade, our mom also did not let her but she did it regardless, so upon seeing her do it, I did it in 9th grade without my moms consent. Now that my sister is a mom she promotes whatever her daughter wants to do (as long as she isn’t doing it to ‘fit in’ and simply wants to do it for herself) and even our mom is okay with it after seeing that we did it regardless. She’s said that if she could go back she would because of all the teasing I received throughout high school.” – Iris
7. Shaving can be addictive, it can also be a relief.
“I didn’t start removing body hair until 8th grade. It was for the promotional dance. My mom bought hair removal cream for my arms and my sister tweezed my unibrow. LOL ???? i remember thinking WOOOOOW, I look so different! I got made fun of for having super hairy arms when i was little, so I never looked back and kept at it throughout high school and college. Ahora no me importa, now I can go weeks without shaving” – @skull_flower
8. Conversations about shaving can be tearful.
“I was 10 I think. I had a similar experience as her daughter – I was/am super hairy, and growing up in a very white community, I had visibly hairy legs (and pits). My mom wouldn’t let me shave until I broke down crying after gym class in 5th grade. Anyways, now I don’t shave at all – our bodies grow hair for a reason and I love my body. I get it though, being 10 is the worst”. – Alicia
9. You don’t have to wait for your child to bring it up.
“As soon as it bothers her [enough to] address it. It takes years to build the confidence to walk around with body hair. Years! Kids at school can be cruel.” -Miriam
10. You can set a due date.
“That’s a hard one. I’m also the mother of a 10 year old girl. I let her shave her legs when she turned 10. I was the same she. We’re not only hairy, but we have dark hair, with light skin. I remember what it was like, being teased about my hairy legs. So if it gives her a little more confidence, then so be it. What I did tell her is that, because we are so hairy, with dark hair, our eyebrows were beautiful. They’re naturally thick… now she wants to get her brows threaded for shape though”. -Stephanie
11. Butttt maybe tell her why she might not want to touch her eyebrows.
“My mom NEVER let me or anyone touch my eyebrows and after 25 years on this earth not one person (but myself) have touched these brows. I am PROUD of the strong eyebrows I inherited. I started to shave my armpit hair at about 11, legs at about 13/14, and pubic hair (because of peer pressure) at 15. I am firmly in the camp that likes to shave my body hair, but my bestie grows hers like a forest and I love her for it. I remember when my prima started to grow leg hair and she wanted to shave because girls were making fun of her. I told her to do what she wanted and not what they wanted.” -Ava
12. Singling out can happen.
” [I was in the] 3rd grade, but I can remember feeling so embarrassed about the black hairs on my legs and arms as early as 1st grade. All the white kids would stare and ask. I even had a white boy tell me I had a mustache to my face!” -Cristina
13. Have “the talk” with her right before middle school.
“My mom sat me down and had a talk with me about my body hair before entering middle school. I was so naive and didn’t even think I’d encounter the kind of bullying I experienced over HAIR. Sorry, I just have more body hair than you??? Like what? I was 15 when I started waxing and shaving my body.” – Zoe
14. Be sure #bodylove is part of the conversation.
“If we didn’t have to shave because of our beauty standards we wouldn’t. I wear pants most of the year so I don’t have to. Nobody likes feeling the pain of the eyebrow threading or waxing. I only did it because I got picked on by everyone and my mom would hit me when I did. I’m 24 and my mom says no to shaving but she doesn’t have to because she’s as smooth as a whale. Always teach them to love their body . Ask them if they are doing it for them or for someone else? Extrinsic motives aren’t as good as intrinsic. #loveyourbody”. -Nubia
15. Don’t let her feel pressured to remove it. Show her all of her options.
“Responding from my laser hair removal place…I shaved my legs for the first time at age 10. My brother used to tease me mercilessly about my hairy legs. He’s 7 years older. I became so self-conscious that I started wearing pantyhose every day, even with shorts! I begged my parents to let me shave. They eventually and VERY reluctantly said yes. My mom was attending night school at the time and had to go to class, so my father demonstrated how to do it. So much pressure to be perfectly hairless. I admire those who don’t feel compelled to succumb to the pressure. She’s beautiful with or without the hair!” – Felicia
16. After all, there’s a lot to love about our body hair.
“I think any age is the appropriate age to begin a conversation about what beauty means and the more specific to this post, the options women have especially if those young girls are bringing it up already! I believe I started removing body hair when I was around 11 or 12 years old. Shaving my legs was something I figured I had to do if it was noticeable, but something I would do that I no longer do was shave my arms because other girls would boast about how smooth their arms were and it made me feel ashamed for having darker noticeable arm hair. Now, I love it!” -Carmen
17. Mothers should let their daughters shave when their children “feel the need.”
“My mom let my sister and I shave when we felt the need. We could always go talk to her about stuff like that. She never wanted us to get picked on because we grew up in a very white community. I think it’s super important to continue reminding and showing her what beauty really is. My concern would be why she is feeling so self-conscious. Who or what is influencing her to think she needs to meet certain beauty standards. I reached a point where I would shave every day during the summer and I would occasionally shave during winter for God knows what reason. Now I couldn’t care less if I have some visible stubble because I was too lazy to shave.” -Stephanie