“The primary emotion that I connect with my body hair is, I would say shame, and probably discomfort.”
Johanna, 27 years old
How could design be used to end the shaming of women’s body hair? How could it generate more acceptance and advocate for bodily autonomy, diversity and positivity instead?
During my final design project of Design + Change, I was exploring these questions by creating different interventions in the public spaces of Malmö, southern Sweden. The interventions aim to provoke engagement with how we perceive, evaluate, but also construct the image of the female body and to give voice to the silence around gendered body hair. Like that, I want to encourage people to reflect upon the impact of the omnipresence of binary gender roles and their imposed concepts of stereotypes and beauty standards.
What store mannequins look like are decisions of design and hence, a decision to represent certain body norms. By applying (something that looks like) ‘body hair’ on them, I suggested a different representation of female-looking mannequins while portraying a usually hidden body feature as something fashionable and intentional.
Using interventions was my approach to highlight the burden the social norm of female hairlessness creates for individuals into the public’s perception, where norms are reinforced.
Besides, I see interventions as a form of taking agency within the created value systems that shared spaces inhabit and represent. Hence, altering public spaces in their appearance means challenging existing values.
How is your body hair relationship?
A question we don’t ask ourselves, in a society where you only hear about body hair when it is talked about within a capitalist context and how to avoid showing it.
‘Let me tell you that…’ is an opportunity to reflect upon this question and listen to personal, honest and intimate perspectives by different individuals that are usually expected to be hairless. It is an opportunity to understand how social norms can impact people and to acknowledge that body hair is an ordinary part of being human.