10 Mayo 2017 11:14
'Your judgements do not effect the way I look at myself. I'm not trying to impress/please anyone but myself... because if I started looking at myself through the eyes of people who do not value/respect me, I would not be happy.'
In recent months Morgan Mikenas has had to get to used to being the target of a barrage of judgements and opinions from people she doesn't know. She's received plenty of inspiring messages and compliments, but also lots of abuse. And all because of photos like this one:
Yes, the photo is a little shocking. But... why should it be?
In our Western society, body hair on women is considered unsightly, unhygienic, and even antinatural – although this wasn't always the case – and there is a huge industry dedicated to keeping that perception alive.
Hair removal is so internalised in our culture that many women have trouble explaining why they do it. They just do it without thinking. But there are some who manage to break free of such constraints. Women who say: enough! Free the hair, free the woman.
A new generation of women are defending armpit hair as a natural part of female beauty. But Mikenas has taken this one step further.
A year ago, Mikenas decided to stop shaving her legs. Her initial motivation however, was not to make a feminist statement. It was something more mundane.
'It just took so much of my time to get in the shower and have to shave everything and then wash my hair and wash my body,' Mikenas says in a video seen by over one million people. 'One day I was like, "Why am I doing this anymore? This just takes so much time!" So I just let it do its thing and grow out.'
Mikenas liked how her hair looked and felt, and she decided not to hide it in her Instagram photos. Soon, her more than 70,000 followers were pulled into a debate that Mikenas now feels perfectly comfortable being at the centre of.
As her hair grew, Mikenas grew into her role as a sort of ambassador for female body hair. 'By showing my body hair I hope to make an impact,' Mikenas captioned a recent pic that highlights the hair on her legs. 'Stop listening to the voices that told us our whole life that we need to look a certain way to be valued, respected, attractive or healthy. It's up to every person to decide what makes them feel most comfortable within themselves.'
'After I let [my body hair] do its thing and grow out, I realized "oh hey, this is kinda nice,"' she said in one video. 'It started getting super soft. When you shave your body hair, it's prickly, itchy, and uncomfortable.'
Her decision has provoked as much criticism as praise. For instance, she said that some of the children she takes swimming have hassled her about it. One told her: 'Oh my god, you look like a man. You didn't shave.' Meanwhile, on social media, trolls have lumbered out of their caves to leave cruel messages such as 'I spat out my breakfast when I saw your photos,' or 'you are disgusting.'
It doesn't matter to Morgan. She's not going to stop anytime soon.
In the past, when her leg hair would grow out slightly, she'd feel 'dirty' and 'ashamed'. 'So then,' she adds, 'I would feel obligated to go shave my legs so I would feel good and feel sexy.' But things have changed. 'I freakin' love my body hair. I love the hair that grows on my body. I just like being my most natural and human self.'
And she has one final message for her haters:
'Your perception of me is a reflection of you; my reaction to you is an awareness of me. We only have one person to answer to in this life, and that's ourselves! Know your worth even if others don't :)'