"I Was Scared to Be Intimate": Dana Suchow on Learning to Love Her Leg Hair

Body acceptance activist Dana Suchow of DoTheHotPants threw out her razor and changed her life

Meaghan Wray

Body hair positivity activist Dana Suchow wearing a fur coat and white blouse

Before I got my first Venus razor at the age of 13, I never even noticed that having hair in certain places was “wrong.” I believed it was supposed to be there. But now shaving is something I don’t even think about, let alone question. From the casual swipe of a razor before a beach day to the frenzied full-body wax before a last-minute date, it’s all part of my accepted routine.

Dana Suchow grew up with similar beliefs. And although she’s now a face of the body acceptance movement—as the voice behind advocacy platform DoTheHotPants and co-founder of The Ripple, an “intersectional women’s collective empowering women to make waves in their communities”—she, too, isn’t immune to societal beauty pressures that revolve around being thin, hairless and white.

But the New York native is making waves; with her grown-out leg hair, her fierce advocacy for equality and her #MyBodyStory movement, which encourages women to share their experiences with fatphobia to self-harm to eating disorder recovery and more.

Most importantly, she recognizes that the body hair issue affects all women differently, encouraging women of colour to come forward with their own specific challenges, which often reach far beyond the typical plight of white women. As the hilarious Canadian author Scaachi Koul points out, “There’s a political side of brown hair. When you’re a brown girl, you have to fight extra hard for white people to consider you attractive.”

Now visible body hair has come to represent a lot more than skipping a step in the shower or being “granola.” There’s an entire social media movement forged by people like Suchow dedicated to body hair activism. And it’s more than just a passing trend, like Miley’s dyed armpits—although other big-name style stars like Gigi Hadid have since taken up the cause as well.

Here, Suchow shares how accepting every part of her body, including her body hair, has become an act of rebellion, a reinforcement of women’s liberation and a reframing of traditional femininity.

What inspired you to stop removing your body hair?

Last winter I was single and lazy, and I started letting my leg hair grow, which I hadn’t done—without feeling ashamed—since middle school. Then this guy I was seeing texted me out of the blue, asking to meet up. I contemplated shaving, like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight, so let me shave.’ And I shaved everything! When I got home I realized it had zero to do with me wanting to shave, and everything with me wanting to be perceived as beautiful in his eyes. Why did I do that? That was the catalyst.

Why do you think body hair is a “women’s issue?”

As a society, we shame women’s body hair so much. Our jobs, livelihood and mental health are affected by it. If you’re a trans woman, your safety might even depend on shaving. So, all of us women end up trying to fit into an idea that’s been sold to us of what makes a woman a woman. The beauty industry really boxes us in.

Something is not a problem until you’re told it’s a problem. In the ’70s, a full bush was in. Now, we’re doing Brazilians, getting rid of everything, and we are lasering things off.

That’s it. I’ve decided. I’m not calling it “relapse” any longer. And I’m discontinuing the use of my favorite phrase “2 steps forward, 1 step back.” If this year has taught me anything, it’s that every time I thought I fell backwards into nothingness, I had actually tripped forwards; landing on my knees or my face, but never my back. • Every painful moment and every single trauma in my life has taught me something and shaped me into the woman I am today. Is she perfect? No. But she’s always growing & changing. And even if those lessons took years to reveal themselves, she never stopped learning. • Time doesn’t stop if your eating disorder comes back. And the world keeps turning even if past traumas resurface. But you know what? You are not the person you were last year. You are not that child any longer. You’re smarter & stronger today than you’ve ever been in your entire life. How amazing is that? Falling down may be a part of living, but we never fall backwards, we simply trip forwards. Wherever you are in your life right now, it is good enough. YOU are good enough. • And whatever you’re going through, whoever you’re with, please be gentle with yourself as we close out a chaotic year. The holidays are difficult…for some more than others. To my followers without a loving supportive family, I see you, and you are loved. Please allow yourself to take time and reflect on the lessons you learned this year. How can this knowledge help you the next time these problems arise? I know you’ll be stronger the next time around. And even smarter and stronger the time after that? And who knows! Maybe one day they’ll stop holding power over you? To everyone reading, have faith in your knowledge, and give yourself the kindness and love that the world or your family might not be showing you right now. • For anyone struggling, please visit www.DoTheHotpants.com/HELP for a list of 60+ organizations, ranging from eating disorder help, to suicide prevention, to homeless issues, rape support, & LGBTQ+ issues. • Stay strong my loves, keep moving forward. I’m proud of you & your progress, even if you don’t yet see it in yourself • by @mmariarib #DoTheHotpants

A post shared by Hello, I’m Dana “Hotpants” (@dothehotpants) on

How do you reconcile enjoying parts of the beauty industry, while also rejecting parts of it?

I talk about how terrible the makeup industry is all the time. Not makeup; the makeup industry. And you know what? I’ve got [makeup] on right now. I believe in very radical feminism and that we have to completely tear down the system. But at the end of the day, I work at a corporate job. I want to go on dates. I want to feel attractive and sexy in this society. And I know that means fitting society’s beauty standard. But whenever I’m putting makeup on, I question, ‘Why do I have to do this?’ So it’s less about saying that to be a feminist you have to stop wearing makeup, and more about just being aware of what you’re doing. Know the history of the makeup industry and the hair-removal industry. Learn about capitalism, beauty and the idea of the male gaze.

What has it been like dating and being intimate while letting your body hair grow out?

For about six months,  I was too scared to be intimate with someone. I didn’t really date. There were a couple of times I went on a dinner and I didn’t take it any further because I didn’t feel in a comfortable space yet to be like, ‘I have hairy legs!’ When I finally did, it was fine. I was making out and the guy was rubbing my leg. I stopped kissing him, and I looked at him and I said, ‘I don’t shave my leg hair and I haven’t been intimate with anybody yet, and I’m very embarrassed about it.’ He just looked at me, confused, and we went back to kissing, and everything was fine. The sun rose the next day. Earth didn’t split into two.

I’m positive that my privilege plays a huge part in that, though. It’s really important [to say] that I fit society’s beauty standards. Not just because I’m thin and white. I’m [aware of the conventional beauty of] my facial features, I have long hair and I’m curved in the right places. I understand what my body is and what my body looks like, so for me to say dating with body hair has been easy, it’s because I have a lot of privilege.

How do you suggest women ease into this lifestyle?

I don’t want to discourage anybody from wanting to grow their body hair out. I don’t want a woman who is bigger than me or taller than me to say, ‘Well, she can do it because she has beauty privilege.’ I want people to feel comfortable and I want them to push boundaries and know that their body is their own.

It’s really tough to be the one person with hairy legs or the one person going makeup-free. It’s going to be very slow because society is built on beauty privilege, fat phobia, trans phobia and racism.

But it frees up brain space one you let those things go. It can empower women to be accepting of their bodies just the way they are. On a deeper level, you start seeing the cracks and the problems in society.

Hello my loves happy Friday I love you!!! I hope you’re having a good day, and I just want you to know that you mean the WORLD to me. I know I say it all the time, but thank you for following me Thank you for supporting me as well as all the people featured in the #MyBodyStory series. You’ve helped to make DoTheHotpants such a safe and welcoming space, and I don’t have words to tell you how much I appreciate each and every one of you. For those of you who haven’t been following me that long, when I first started growing my leg hair out I had a VERY difficult time accepting my hairy body. But I’m so happy I stuck it out!! Although I definitely couldn’t have done it without your love, this community, your DM’s, your comments, or your hairy legged pics that so many of you sent me in solidarity Getting to this place of acceptance was a long time coming, and full transparency I still have days where exposing my legs feels really hard. But I’m light years away from when I started. And you know what? it’s all because of you. So thank you. My smile in this pic is because of you. And the tears in my eyes as I type this? They’re because of you, too. I hope every single person reading this is having a good Friday. And remember, if you can’t love your body right now…if loving yourself feels too hard…at least be neutral with yourself. Because maybe we can never really get to full body love in this messed up world, but we can at least try to get to body neutrality. Free your mind from the bullshit society has put into it, and make room for the real stuff…like love, learning and life Happy Friday, please take care of yourselves tonight. I love you • (and yes I’m wearing pants in this pic lol…I’m wearing Hotpants!) • *all hate, body shaming, and trolls will be blocked • #DoTheHotpants #leghairdontcare

A post shared by Hello, I’m Dana “Hotpants” (@dothehotpants) on

What is your ultimate goal with tackling the stigma around body hair?

Let’s make it so the next generation doesn’t hate their bodies, so the next generation of girls don’t all have eating disorders by the time they’re in sixth grade. Let’s make it so our young girls aren’t more focused on whether they have leg hair or a moustache than what their grades are and what school they’re going to be able to get into and how they can contribute to society and make the world a better place.

Related:
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