How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.

The night before giving birth, a relative contacted me with a list of must-do’s.

“Don’t forget to shave. You don’t want to go into labor looking like a wolfman,” she reminded me. Her intention was helping me combat any prebirth memory lapses.

But she didn’t know I hadn’t shaved the entire pregnancy and had no intention of shaving before my vaginal birth.

I’ve never cared for the time or scrapes associated with shaving, so it’s not a regular part of my routine. I had every intention to go into labor with a full bush, as I’d done three years before with my first child.

But as a Black woman from a Southern family, I’ve gotten a ton of backlash for my desire to go razor-free.

When I was growing up, my family regularly joked about the “bush” under my arms shortly after my hair came in. But being one of the few unshaven girls in team sports (which required shorts) was the first time I truly felt different.

In the mornings, I’d sneak and use my aunt’s hair removal cream before school and pray I wasn’t left with its horrible egglike smell all day. But the chemical irritation and razor irritated my sensitive skin. I had to make a choice.

What’s the Januhairy campaign?

When I heard about the Januhairy campaign, started by Laura Jackson, I was intrigued. It’s the most recent of several attempts to encourage women to embrace body hair and deviate from the hairless status quo, which Jackson sees as a barrier to authentic self-love.

“Though I felt liberated and more confident in myself, some people around me didn’t understand or agree with why I didn’t shave. I realized that there is still so much more for us to do to be able to accept one another fully and truly,” Jackson told the BBC.

Since then, her efforts have evolved from a one-woman journey to a challenge for women globally via social media. The money raised through Januhairy efforts will be used to promote education and body acceptance through a nonprofit called Body Gossip.

Still, I wonder if Januhairy will do what others haven’t and better cross the cultural/racial divide. We can’t bridge the gap without considering the identity intersections and increased scrutiny faced by marginalized individuals.

For women of color, trans and nonbinary individuals, and those who have hormonal conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the choice not to shave can lead to further isolation from social and employment opportunities, since for non-males, body hair can be associated with a primitive and uncivilized identity. Black actress Mo’Nique faced ridicule for years after sporting unshaven legs.

It’s also worth noting there’s nothing wrong with an individual who chooses to shave their body hair. Acknowledging that freedom is vital to the long-term success of the body acceptance movement.

I can only imagine how much more stressed I would’ve been before labor if I had to worry about locating a razor to remove 12 months of body hair.

My loved ones may poke fun at me for my decision to go shave-free. But it works for me, and that’s most important.

Ironically, the same day Januhairy kicked off, I decided to shave my body hair to signify my postpartum journey.

I haven’t decided whether 2019 will include body hair for me. But I’m excited to see progress toward liberation for those who feel caged in beauty politics and social customs.

In recent years, more women have started participating in No Shave November. Young stars like Willow Smith, Molly Soda, and Harnaam Kaur have embraced body hair and serve as examples for the growing body of unshaven women of color.

My commitment to myself gives me the flexibility to move between shaven and unshaven. I don’t need a social media challenge for that.


Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez is a diversity content specialist whose work can be seen in The Washington Post, InStyle, The Guardian, and other places. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.