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When school breaks were spent cursing the colour and coarseness of your arm hair

‘How society managed to make us hate every inch of ourselves is a crime.’

AS AN ADOLESCENT, you are acutely - painfully - aware of the various ways your body does not conform to societally-imposed beauty ideals.

mirror1 Source: Shutterstock

Indeed, many of us will remember spending days, weeks, months and even years obsessing over these perceived flaws – fixations that many women carry into adulthood.

Unless you were particularly fortunate, it’s likely your teen years were punctuated by moments, conversations and ‘realisations’ which confirmed that you were right all along – your body will just never measure up.

Whether it was due to a particular narrative perpetuated by the fashion and beauty industry or born of a personal insecurity discovered and feasted upon by peers, there are few of us who don’t recall believing that certain features of our teenage bodies would forever hold us back.

As a teen I was conscious of my height, my puppy fat, and my glasses. I envied my petite peers and cursed their slimmer framers; blissfully unaware that their complexion, teeth and myriad other perceived imperfections were keeping them awake at night.

In other words, everyone had something that caused them to resent what they saw in the mirror as they discarded their pyjamas in favour of their school uniform each morning.

And in turn, most of us enjoyed sweet relief when we realised we were devoid of something ‘understood’ to be problematic.

For me, it was arm hair. I might have been too tall, too squishy, and too short-sighted, but with all the insight of a 14-year-old child, I secretly revelled in the fact that I wasn’t too hairy.

shutterstock_613009373 Source: Shutterstock/Seksun Guntanid

The transition from primary to secondary school taught me that any body hair, aside from that located on your head and perched on your brow bone, was something to be conscious of, or indeed, ashamed of.

Lunch breaks were spent analysing the growth and visibility of arm hair as jumper sleeves were pushed up and shirt sleeves were rolled back, and peers lamented the colour and coarseness of the hair they felt compelled to hide, but were forced to expose as summer drew in.

This was one conversation I couldn’t contribute to, and I was grateful. As far as I was concerned, I had enough to worry about; sure, everyone could see that.

And yet the more it was alluded to and analysed across my teenage years, the more conscious I became of any and every strand of hair that appeared on forearms.

And so the cycle continues.

Blissfully however, unlike other insecurities from that period, it didn’t carry itself into adulthood. Not for me, at least.

Indeed, I had genuinely forgotten all about it until a recent post shared by Jameela Jamil sparked a conversation on Twitter which highlighted how deeply entrenched the idea that ‘body hair is bad’ truly is for many women.

Sharing a photo of herself on the cover of Glitter magazine, Jameela drew her followers’ attention to the fact that, on this occasion, the hair on her arms hadn’t been digitally altered or removed.

Hello arm hairs. You used to always be photoshopped out. Nice to see you again. Because you’re a normal and fine thing to have.

The actress and broadcaster’s followers have responded in their droves, with many recalling the moment their insecurity about their arm hair began.


The influx of responses caused Jameela to reflect on the impact a socially-imposed beauty ideal can have on the psyche of an adolescent, and the adult the eventually become.

“Christ, reading girls’ stories on here about their hatred of their arms because of a little hair because we have just erased all body hair on women to make us look pre-pubescent, is making me want to cry,” she wrote on Twitter last night.

How society managed to make us hate every inch of ourselves is a crime.

Jameela’s initial post, which amassed more than 35,000 likes, clearly struck a chord with tens of thousands of individuals, but what about you?

Did the presence of visible arm hair cause you concern as a teen?


Poll Results:

No, not at all. (315)
Yes, but it no longer does. (205)
Yes, and it still does. (195)
No, but it does now. (32)




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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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