DEAR BODY SHAMERS: AN OPEN LETTER

leila Kigha
Posted January 10, 2017 from Cameroon

 

When I think of myself 15 years ago when I first used a razor on my legs, I regret having ever watched or read what you wrote about my body hair. You made me became more self-conscious about the way I looked I was very embarrassed about my leg hair. I was also too embarrassed to ask for a razor to shave with, so I ended up shaving with a razor and when it grew again it was much more and came with rash.

You might not be used to this form of body shaming but it fueled my education in self-hatred from girlhood to teen hood to womanhood. It came from all directions and never relented. Every magazine I thumbed through, every advertisement I was exposed to, every TV show, every movie taught me that hair on my legs was a mistake that needed correcting. You make us believe we must alter and restrict and mutilate ourselves before anyone will acknowledge our humanity.

You make us ashamed of our body hair that grows on us naturally, which is absurd. We spend time and money shaving off all of our hair without even thinking we have a choice. We do it because society tells us we’re supposed to be totally hairless and not because we had to keep them nice and neat for hygienic reasons.

But I thank God for the day I met Mr. X, who told me to my face a woman is not allowed to let hair grow on her legs. He even went on to cite an example of a lady who had to shave her legs to obtain a job. Contrary to the other times when I was embarrassed and had to shrink in self-hatred, I stood up and told him, if I have to get rid of the things that make me who I am to be appreciated or valued by a man, then I don’t think you are the person I should be talking or dealing with.

From that day my mindset about myself, my body and all God has given to me changed. I pledged to love who God has made me (fearfully and wonderfully) and to carry my head up high when I walk the streets confident that I draw my strength from accepting myself for who I am. I choosed henceforth to genuinely love me and live from that perspective irrespective of what society says.

Permit me to assume that you, too, maybe had been subjected to a moment of body-shaming propaganda of some sort. How deeply did these messages infiltrate you, to make you defensive at the sight of an unaltered female body? To make you hate me that hard?

I didn't create myself, if you lost sight of that for a moment but I refuse to bethat ungrateful to not appreciate who I am fearfully and wonderfully made by the creator. I may need to keep myself decent and neat but I refuse to submit myself to your definition of who a woman should be.

Deep down, we can be as modern and liberal as the next person. We understand the importance of freedom of expression, of breaking gender cliches, of not conforming to social pressures, and of being comfortable in your own skin. But don’t get me wrong because if we’re honest – really honest – few of us would say we prefer a hairy leg to a shaved one. Some men would no doubt say they find it disgusting.

Today i say to all women when i get the opportunity that wecan learn how to stop perpetuating this toxicity from our dominant, anti-female culture.

We can learn how to support and love and be awestruck by each other.

We can be the ones to treat each other as human, when no one else will. We can do better.

I hope one day you know a love of your body so boundless and intoxicating that it emanates from your eyes, your smile, your skin, and graces every person who has the privilege of walking by you.

I hope one day, yourpresence in the world will letgirls and women know that they have the right to give their bodies a chance, and stop conforming to the absurd standards.

I hope you’ll become a catalyst of self-acceptance, inspiring one girl, who inspires her friends, who inspire their teachers, who inspire more women, who inspire their daughters, and their daughters, and their daughters…

I hope one day we all will be free enough to be comfortable in our bodies and not let dictates of men and cultures decide for us how we should appear, feel and be in our own bodies.

I dare to hope…

Sincerely

Leila Kigha

This story was submitted in response to Standing Up.

Comments 7

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JulieG
Jan 10, 2017
Jan 10, 2017

Dear Leila,

I love reading about your transformational moment of standing up to Mr. X!  What a moment that must have been. It's wonderful to see that moment led you to go beyond simply body acceptance, but all the way to LOVE of your body as a gift.  I really appreciated your line "I hope one day you know a love of your body so boundless and intoxicating that it emanates from your eyes, your smile, your skin, and graces every person who has the privilege of walking by you."  What a beautiful world to imagine, where we all radiate and glow and share it with each other.  

Warmly,

Julie

leila Kigha
Jan 11, 2017
Jan 11, 2017

Thank you for the encouragement  my dear. 

Jill Langhus
Jan 11, 2017
Jan 11, 2017

Hi Leila, Thank you for your compelling and inspiring article on body shaming. I agree with what you are saying. I'm naturally a bit of a black sheep and rebel, so if someone tells me to do something, I would naturally be against it, and I can relate to your Mr. X. The media and advertising has a lot to answer for. It doesn't just affect us, though, it also affects men. If the razor companies can sell more razors to men, they don't have any qualms about shaming them into buying razors just like they do for women. It just seems like women and girls have been the main target towards most of the shaming. I also love your paragraph about self acceptance (this needs to occur for both genders) and inspiring other girls and women to do the same and to encourage/support each other as well. I think it's so important and seems to be really lacking, at least what I had seen in the U.S.

leila Kigha
Jan 11, 2017
Jan 11, 2017

You are so right. It is an aspect that affects both Genders and is women have been considered as the voiceless in a male dominated world 

Men have a choice to shave or not and we are expected to accept them that way,  common on!

We need to individually learn to love and accept our bodies n make choices accordingly.

Thank you for your encouraging and enlightening words

Jill Langhus
Jan 12, 2017
Jan 12, 2017

Yes. I see what you mean about there being a double standard. You're welcome. Have a great day:)

Ritkatmwa Gwan Gwan
Jan 17, 2017
Jan 17, 2017

Dear Leila, I am intrigued by your story and I can relate. Thank you for lending your voice to one of the many issues we deal with....You opened my eyes to a deeper dimension to shaving hairs; we get so caught up in these false representations that they become so real to us...

thank you once again.

Rit

leila Kigha
Jan 18, 2017
Jan 18, 2017

Hiya Ritz

i am so happy you could relate and get something from this. My desire is that we get to a point where we are free from the influence of men to live our lives even though we remain in service to all men.

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