Body hair for women is a big no-no in terms of societal beauty standards. We are conditioned to believe that women look beautiful when they stick to long hair on their scalp, along with a ‘clean’ hair-less body and perfectly done eyebrows. Any young woman who has dense hair growth on their body often gets bullied and shamed, resulting in everlasting trauma and a lack of self-confidence. To challenge this beauty stereotype, Esther “Queen Esie” Calixte-Bea, a Montreal-based artist started ‘Lavender Project’ three years ago, in order to openly talk about normalising female body hair and taboos related to femininity.
Esther “Queen Esie” Calixte-Bea has more hair growth on her body, as compared to the other women. She spent years being self-conscious about her looks. Opening up about her struggles with chest hair, she recalled in an Instagram post, “I had hid it for years because I was ashamed, scared and simply hated myself.” Esther further added that she wanted to be ‘normal’ like every other girl that surrounded her and wanted to feel beautiful because she looked like how she was told a desirable woman should look like.
Finally, in the summer of 2019, Calixte-Bea decided that it was time to own the hair growth on her body. And thus she started the ‘Lavender Project’ and for the first time, she showed her chest hair to the world. Apart from her mum and aunt, no one knew about her having chest hair until then, not even her friends.
But it was not an easy decision, she said, “One day, I realized I had enough of hating myself, of crying when I saw my body covered in hair and the fact that I was getting hairier the more I removed it. It was draining & depressing. As an artist, I decided to set myself free by creating a project that challenged the taboo of female body hair & femininity.” She accepted and embraced her appearance and created a motto that said – “Power: We wear our body hair with class”. She further explained, “telling the world that female body hair can be beautiful.”
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Chest hair: Okay for men, but yuck for women?
The myth that hairy women are not beautiful and are unhygienic is something that she wanted to break. According to Esther, she chose to redefine beauty for herself against all myths that body hair was ugly & unhygienic simply because she was a woman. “I chose myself and have been a proud hairy woman ever since.”
Body hair on women is nasty, gross and dirty but the same on men is touted to be desirable. Who set these standards? Why is the bar to call women beautiful so high?
Esther revealed that she was very nervous about the response when she first shared her images on social media. Recalling reaction of social media users, she said in an interview, that many women identified with her, “oh my gosh. I thought I was all alone. I have chest hair as well,” she added, “I’ve gotten hundreds of messages and we all think we’re alone.” She has also shared that she has stopped shaving her body hair ever since of May 2020.
She also shared a message for all the other women who have hair body, she said, “Normalizing female body hair is about removing the shame no matter if you have a hormonal disorder or not. Humans have body hair and no one should be ashamed of it. Choose You.”
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Choosing to shave or not is definitely the choice of a person and no one should be forced to keep it or not. But the condition or the mindset we bring up our children in, which portrays body hair differently for different sexes that becomes problematic. No one should be feel obligated to shave off their hair to feel beautiful and hygeinic and neither should one be shamed if they like shaving their arms and legs. Let’s just normalise the existence of body hair on all humans and let them decide what they want to do with it.
Views expressed are the author’s own.