Ben Hopper is a London-based photographer who shot a series called “Natural Beauty,” which featured conventionally beautiful female models with exposed armpit hair. The series is jarring and plays off of the deeply ingrained idea that women should be free of all body hair in order to maintain their beauty, and the fact that the body hair doesn’t diminish their attractiveness is supposed to challenge our notions otherwise. It’s quite beautiful and minimal, and overall effective. I don’t entirely understand our collective revulsion about arm pit hair on women, but I admitted earlier this year that I wasn’t entirely immune. It’s a completely internalized prejudice based on an arbitrary standard, and it’s bizarre that someone somewhere decided that women had to remove their body parts in order to be attractive. But it went a step further–it’s not that body hair is unattractive, we’re told that it’s disgusting, unclean, masculine, and horrifying.
That idea is pretty limiting in the grand scheme of things, given that in reality people find a diverse variety of qualities attractive, and not everyone goes for the hairless thing. Hopper himself said that “as [he] matured as a person and an artist, [he] realized [he] liked [armpit hair]. It can be a beautiful look.” I know people of all genders who are attracted to women who don’t remove every ounce of their body hair, and that spans all sexualities, including straight dudes who’ve been told their whole lives to seek out waxed, hair-free women. The problem with having one beauty norm is that not every person on earth fits that mold or finds that mold attractive, even if they’ve been told they’re supposed to.
Hopper wants to be clear that he’s not taking a stand against hair removal if that’s what you want to do with your body.
“I don’t want to say that I want women to start growing their armpit hair. I just think that it’s a possibility and people shouldn’t dismiss it. I’d like people to just question [beauty standards], the whole thing.”
The key here is that all people should feel entitled to do whatever they chose with their bodies, and that beauty norms are stupid wastes of time that don’t actually serve a purpose. I think these photos are all beautiful (and actually really do fit the beauty norm with the exception of the body hair), and I only wish there were more representations of all forms of natural beauty more widely visible.
Photos: Ben Hopper