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GRL Talk With: Januhairy

Laura Jackson started Januhairy back in 2018, a campaign to celebrate body hair and reclaim patriarchal notions of how and where a woman should grow their hair. Since then, she’s inspired thousands of people through their Instagram to join the movement. As its namesake would suggest, January is a big month for the campaign, so we caught up with its founder to hear more about them…
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Laura Jackson via @januhairy

How did Januhairy come to be?

I wrote and performed a one-woman show in May 2018, all about the ideologies of being a woman and grew out my body hair for the first time just for this performance. There had been some parts that were challenging for me, and others that really opened my eyes to the taboo of body hair on a woman. Some of us don’t like it, some of us do… but we are all still feminine, hygienic and beautiful, no matter how smooth or hairy. After a few weeks of getting used to it, I started to like my natural hair. I also started to like the lack of uncomfortable episodes of shaving. Januhairy is something that I wanted to follow through on from that discussion, to help women feel they are in a safe space to challenge the embedded norms of shaving. It’s an experiment for people taking part and the people viewing the process. And of course, the sponsorship money goes to this years charity, Tree sisters.

What is your mission for Januhairy?

Our mission is to Ignite a conversation and educate one another on the prickly subject of body hair on women. We fight against the pressure to conform to unrealistic standards of beauty that can drive destructive behaviour. We want women around the world to feel confident and empowered with whatever they choose to do with their bodies… free from the judgment of others… free from societal pressures.

“I felt liberated, closer to myself, and I couldn’t remember what I was so terrified about. But then I was reminded, sooner or later, by the judgment of other people”

Has there been much backlash to this movement, and if so, how have you handled this?

There has for sure been some backlash and there is still some at times. I have learnt so much from the beginning of creating Januhairy. If I make mistakes and get called out for not saying things right and including all areas of the topic, then I learn from that. I welcome criticism and negative comments on the movement; Some of them can be quite useful for ways to improve. Others can just be rude and narrow-minded comments, which actually help to remind me and many other people who are having this conversation, why it is that we are doing this movement, and what opinions need to be changed. During the movement, I left all negative comments on the posts so that people can see such mixed opinions, which in turn, gets them to start thinking about their own opinions on the matter. However, after the first month on Januhairy finished, we have made a new policy that any indecent or negative comments will be deleted and may be followed by blocking the user… I want the Januhairy platforms to be a safe space for women to come to, in order to share their story and empower each other. This movement is about empowering women, not sexualising or undermining them.

“Feminism is the right to choose and the right to feel welcome, appreciated and equal, in making that choice. Shave whenever, but make sure you make that choice for you, and no one else.”

What was your personal journey to accepting body hair on yourself?

When I started to grow my hair out for the show, I thought that everyone else’s opinion mattered more than my own. It was during the heatwave in 2018, and I would wear jeans and long tops so no one would see my hair. After the first couple of weeks, I started to really love it, I wore shorts and felt my leg hair in the breeze… something I have never felt before. I felt liberated, closer to myself, and I couldn’t remember what I was so terrified about. But then I was reminded, sooner or later, by the judgment of other people, that this was something that was seen by the majority as abnormal. I had to explain myself to people and I couldn’t just be… me…free from care and judgment.
After the show, I shaved again for a month or so. Then I questioned my actions and thought I was a terrible hypocrite, as I started shaving again. But then I realised, it’s about choice. Feminism is the right to choose and the right to feel welcome, appreciated and equal, in making that choice. Shave whenever, but make sure you make that choice for you, and no one else. Following this, I went on holiday to turkey and started growing my hair again whilst I was out there. For me, it was an act of self-care and therapy; exploring my natural habitat in a place where I would express the most skin in front of others. Even some family members didn’t understand. Having people who love you and are closer to you than most, tell you that your leg hair looks ‘disgusting’ and ‘you should shave’, hurt more than any comment from a stranger. I didn’t shave it, I kept it.
I decided to make Januhairy, as some women, like me, need the initiative and support to step out of the norms and experiment getting to know this part of their bodies. Having a community of women supporting and empowering one another is so important to have when exploring something way out of your comfort zone.  It got a lot of negative comments, just like I did on holiday, but at least those people are talking about it- if we see the same things again, and again, it becomes normal. Hopefully, one day, this subject won’t need to be talked about any more.
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Image by  @pelyagudo via @januhairy

Which three women are inspiring you by embracing their body hair RN?

Firstly, Ruby Jones has had a huge impact on this campaign and helped me make it possible. She started growing her hair for the first time in Januhairy 2019, and never looked back since! She is a hairy girl, loud and proud, and I am so inspired by her every day in her actions and contributions towards the body hair movement. The second person is me! I inspire myself every day- learning to love and accept your body for just the way it is, is a daily challenge as we all know. But every time I see my body hair, I see the love I have for myself. Love that was built over nurturing and exploring a part of my body that I was shaming myself for having for so long. The third person is every woman I see in public who shows off their body hair without a care. Every woman who joined in with Januhairy 2019 and are now making their own choice on what to do with it. Every woman who challenges the destructive behaviours that society programs us into doing.

What’s next for Januhairy? What can we expect from the January campaign?

Januhairy 2020 is going to be big, we’re building a website, partnering with brands and influencers who are supporting the movement, we’ll also start selling merchandise through our website and through the Daughters of Witches clothing line. We are also continuing to support the charity Tree Sisters, who protect and restore natural carbon solutions through reforestation. A message we resonate with as women within this movement; to protect and restore the habitat of our environment, as well as the natural habitat of our personal bodies.

Finally, our usual GRL Talk question. What would you say to your sixteen-year-old self if you could tell her anything?

I know you think that other people’s opinions of you matter more than your own; those other people, and their opinions, are only judging from a place of their own insecurities. Break free from the imprisonment of being societies “perfect woman”. Find validation within yourself, not from anyone else. Be kind to yourself, challenge your thoughts and fuck the patriarchy.
Follow Januhairy HERE.
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