Crystal Marchand: I carry the spirit of Januhairy with me throughout the whole year. Photograph: Veronique Desaulniers/Instagram/Januhairy
Ive become a lot more comfortable in my body through this process
This is also Crystal Marchants second Januhairy. The first campaign made a major impression on me. Now I carry the spirit of Januhairy with me throughout the whole year.
Marchant is a transgender woman living in Montreal. She regularly posts about her journey, to get visibility for the community and to try to inspire others.
I dont speak for the trans community, she says. We all speak for ourselves but I didnt see any other trans girls participating. I felt embraced by this campaign and I embraced it right back. Before her transition, she felt pressured not to remove her body hair to fit into a male world. Transitioning prompted her to think deeply about how she felt about the politics of body hair. I asked myself: What do I actually want? What is the social pressure? And do I care? Do I agree with it?
For Marchant, as a trans woman, having visible body hair is something that has led to her being abused. I have been harassed online and in person; people would swear at me, people would call me really derogatory things. People would misgender me: I got taken for male, female, nonbinary, all in one day. So theres a social pressure to blend in. It can be dangerous. If I get misgendered too much, it can really mess with my moods and my self-image.
Now, she says she has become a lot more comfortable in my body. Last year, on the last day of Januhairy, when my body hair was the longest and I had facial hair, I went to the community pool. Im a swimmer, I love to do laps. So I put on my first ever bikini. She describes the event as anticlimactic I just did my laps, came out, everything was fine. The point is, were all the odd one out. Were all different.
Thats why the campaign appealed to me; its not about saying I have to shave or not. Its just about becoming more comfortable with your body and to do it with all these other people in solidarity. Everybodys on their own unique quest and journey of self-discovery. And I think its really beautiful.
Its about self-worth and love
Boo has been growing out her body hair for several years but this is her first year posting online as part of Januhairy. Im an energy healer, and my ethnic background is Indian and West Indian, so I have always been obsessed with tribal cultures. Her belief is that hair is an extension of the nervous system. Its protecting us. Its baffling that we remove it.
Boo says she was motivated by a realisation of how body hair removal is ingrained in society and how images circulated through media entrench this. I believe people will accept whats presented, but all you see through media and entertainment is one image telling people thats what they should adhere to, she says. Thats why she was inspired to join Januhairy and send out alternative images.
Im not saying every woman shouldnt shave. I just want women to make informed decisions and ask themselves why they do it. Its about self-worth and love. I dont want there to be women shaving because they think theyre disgusting if they dont. The fact that were making decisions based on toxic ideals really saddens me.
But Boos relationship to body hair is also informed by losing her mother to cancer when she was 14, after a six-year battle. On a subconscious level, I think another reason I grow out my hair is that I watched my mum lose her hair and her eyebrows twice. I just thought: You dont know what youve got till its gone.
Boos father, she says, is the biggest free spirit I know. He looks like hes walked straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. We used to joke about who had the longest head hair and now we joke about the hair under our arms. Boo says that having this male presence in her life has meant she never frets about the judgment of men about her body hair. If I meet a man not as open- or high-minded as my father, I know thats just that one mans opinion. Boos boyfriend has also been hugely supportive. I know women fret about what their partners think, but if your boyfriend doesnt accept you with hairy armpits, then get a new boyfriend.
Day to day, Boo says she hasnt had many issues since growing out her hair. The only difference she can tell is that she occasionally catches people staring. But I dont mind. I like to make people think.
Ruby Jones: We are programmed to believe that others find body hair disgusting and repulsive. Photograph: Theodore Clarke/Instagram/Januhairy
Now I use my energy on other things that make me happy
Ruby Jones is the co-founder of Januhairy, and teamed up with Laura Jackson in 2018 after the pair attended a panel talk discussing the politics of body hair. That same year, Jones developed a cerebrospinal fluid leak, which caused agonising pain every time she sat or stood. Despite this, I used all my energy making sure I was smooth and hairless, even though I was barely leaving my bedroom.
Going to the salon and getting my waxing done was so physically draining, she says. But I didnt feel as if I had a choice. Being open to having body hair has changed her life. Now I can use that energy on other things that make me happy, she says.
After the first Januhairy, Ruby went on to remove her body hair. Straight away I missed it, and so decided to grow it out again.
Mostly, people have been wholly accepting, including the people she is dating. We are programmed to believe that others find body hair disgusting and repulsive, yet from my experience its really not a big deal at all. She is nevertheless conscious of her own privileges as a young white woman, living in the liberal environment of a university. You get the occasional comment online, one of the most notable was: Being disabled is cool and all, but you really should shave your armpits, its very unhygienic. Do you even shower? Those comments are just one in a sea of positivity and love.
One criticism of Januhairy is that it is a naval-gazing exercise that does little for vulnerable women and, as a movement, is quite individualistic. Jones does not agree. Januhairy is both individualised and a mass-movement. The act of growing your hair is a very personal experience and each woman is going to have their own challenges. But in doing it with a group of people around the world, you stand in solidarity and become part of a community. I feel so proud of the women taking part in Januhairy who continue to make their own choices surrounding their bodies. It is a radical act to rebel against these pressures.