I’ve been struggling on how to approach this topic because it’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life and has been an unseen point of pain and insecurity in every relationship I’ve had. Body hair; in the Sikh religion, we are taught to never cut or remove our hair from any part of our body as it is the most natural and Godly state to be in. We are created in the most perfect way so to alter that in any way, shape or form would be an insult to not only ourselves but our creator.
Just a little point to mention- reading forums and discussion threads on blogs and websites about this has really opened up my eyes as to how many Sikh youth struggle with body hair and the dilemma of keeping it or cutting it. It holds a lot of loaded feelings and animosity towards not only our own religion but the people who instilled such conflicting beliefs in us from day one.
I didn’t grow up super religious and neither were my parents after my grandmother died so I’ve been doing my eyebrows, shaving/waxing everything since I was 13 years old. I was a hairy child and always felt self-conscious and ugly about having a hairy neck or face or legs so my mother took great strides to make sure I didn’t have to deal with that. I love my mom and I did get bullied but, in her mind, this was one less thing kids could tease me about.
As I grew up, it became more and more apparent that I wasn’t blessed with my mom’s genes and I concluded that I was indeed, a beast. I felt that the only way to seem attractive to myself and to the opposite sex was to burn, wax, shave and cut EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF HAIR OFF OF MY BODY (with that type of passion and dedication as per the caps) except for my perfect hair on my head and my flawlessly shaped eyebrows. I would look at magazines and movies and tv shows and wonder why these smooth skinned, light pigmented women had such hairless figures and why I was cursed with this disgusting, hairy body. Why did my creator want to torture me?
It started off as a harmless thorn in my hairy paw and became this elaborate and shameful gremlin that grew and lived inside of me every single minute of every day. When I started dating, I always made sure I was perfectly smooth at all possible times but sometimes the hair would grow back and I would receive some of the most hurtful comments and feedback that would make me invert back into a little girl, wishing her body would morph into something I, and someone else, could love. I would question my entire being and purpose for living because my legs were stubbly or that my vagina wasn’t perfectly smooth like a motherfucking 5-year-old baby’s. It was exhausting, took pieces of my soul and made me think I was a mistake, a shameful troll, every time I felt I needed to do it.
Now I just want to say, some women may not understand this as this is a problem a lot of Punjabi/Sikh/Indian girls face. We are beautiful and loving and strong and probably one of the most eclectic and sexiest species on the planet but body hair is a universal issue that stands in our faces our entire lives. And we are not only fed conflicting messages between our religion, faith and environment, but the men and women in our lives also tell us things that tend to leave nothing but confusion behind.
We are told by religious leaders, who are mostly men, that we are not to cut our hair, change our bodies or alter anything in any way. And in our daily lives, our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, boyfriends, husbands, wives, encourage us to change ourselves (make up, waxing/shaving, etc) to look more attractive and better to the opposite sex so we can get married and have the life that we are expected to. Then you take into account the general public that feeds us messages of hairless, white skin that is clearly more attractive and popular than the darker, ‘less perfect’ version, and we are pretty much a knotted, confused group of people.
Again, I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious household but my grandmother, whenever she came over, would always pick at our faces, bodies and hair and point out the little things that we could ‘improve’ upon. She’s a little insane but over years and years of that and other messages in my family and the way I was brought up, etc, something inside of me shifted. I went from a little girl who thought everything was possible, to a highly insecure woman full of shame and regret for almost two decades.
Fast forward to today and while I still struggle, I’m more aware. My last romantic interest told me that he wanted me smooth, no stubble, no roots, no anything. If he touched any part of my body and it had some hair or stubble or something that wasn’t smooth, it was a mistake and the face he would make is still burned in my mind. And this takes me back to any other man I’ve been with (all Punjabi) that have had his exact thoughts and reactions for the type of way I should be and what they expected. So when I look back to how they were raised, to want and expect certain things because their fathers expected the same out of their mothers, and they magically got it all, it’s not really a surprise to me to hear that same poison being spewed back. It’s still shitty though, so they can go fuck themselves.
And it’s not only me and my hair that has been the subject of ridicule and shaming. I’ve heard this my entire life towards girls that I’ve known, getting teased about the hair on their sideburns or eyebrows or upper lip or anywhere that it wasn’t socially accepted to have it. And it’s actually extremely and violently wrong and has created such a shame and fear based culture that it’s taken me nearly 3 decades to even acknowledge or let alone talk about it. So I’m going to talk about it.
I am a female with body hair. I am expected to not have any traces of my natural state and if I do, I am guilted, shamed and coerced into thinking I am not woman enough. I am to be tender, soft, approachable and kissable and never let a man see me sweat or fart or even a little bit hairy because it gets in the way of who I’m supposed to be. I am a Punjabi girl with roots that go further back than some countries, I am deep and spiritual and beautiful, full of love and joy and generosity and complexity but only when I am wound up like a doll by a man to be so. I am to kiss but not love, have sex but not attach, speak but not shout and be pretty without being ‘too much’ or I’ll be a threat. And I am so fucking sick of it.
So how do I feel about grooming in general? I love it, I take pride in it and it gives me a greater sense of self to perfect, add or subtract to a routine in my own time, at my own will. But it’s on my terms and my terms only. This is not something that anyone has access to or has a say about. If I am in a relationship with a man and he makes some remark about my hair coming back on my legs or vagina or arms or anything, instead of feeling remorse and hatred towards myself, I will say this to myself instead:
This is my body and my creator has made it to mimic himself, an ominous and perfect place to house life, love and light. I am to respect it not despite of it’s hair or sweat or blood but because of it. And it is not for anyone else to own but MYSELF. Anyone that gets the opportunity to be in it, around it, on top of it, is simply a witness to its greatness. Any destructive feedback, negative comments or bullshit against my body and how it’s been moulded gets no more access or anymore of my precious time.
I’m still trying to get this right and honestly, to be stronger than what I’ve been is still a daily struggle, but I’m trying.