“I was born in Romania, but I grew up in Canada, where I never found having hairy legs to be a problem, for example I wore shorts on the street without feeling weird at all. Coming back to Romania, I feel the pressure to either hide my legs or get rid of the hair, as here it is truly taboo for women to have visible body hair." Sanziana Chira, 23, Romania, May 2022

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Fur Real.Reclaiming Body Hair

Alexandra Radu | Malaysia, Romania, Germany

"Fur Real.Reclaiming Body Hair" visualizes femininity with body hair as seen by women around the world who have repositioned their views regarding their own body hair, allowing it to be instead of repressing it.

As kids, we are oblivious to concepts of "femininity", "masculinity","beauty" or "ugliness", but we learn about them via family, peers, and media. In the context of our globalized, fragmented world and of narrow, unrealistic Euro-American centric standards of beauty, many women feel inadequate. The discussion on body hair and femininity focuses primarily on hair removal, and even the majority of ads for hair removal products do not depict the hair, indicating a strong societal repugnance towards women's natural body hair.

An increasing number of women, from various cultures and social layers are challenging these standards. This project aims to celebrate them.

The images document daily life moments envisioned in collaboration with each woman through interviews prior to the photo documentation. Sometimes the photo sessions served in the process of deconstructing interiorised beliefes towards one's body, and healing. 

I leaned into my moustache when lockdowns and masks offered both protection from Covid and an unexpected opportunity for personal reflection and growth. As a photojournalist, I instinctively related with my moustache through self portraits - a healing journey of embracing my facial hair and deconstructing internalised trauma from bullying.

Growing up in Romania, I experienced the societal pressure felt throughout Eastern Europe, where women are expected to remove the hair, particularly from visible areas like the legs, underarms, or upper lip. Despite disliking the practice, I regularly waxed for over 15 years until I moved abroad. Living in SE Asia for the following decade, where body hair is traditionally seen as acceptable, allowed me to shift my perspective and embrace my own.

This led me to create “Fur Real. Reclaiming Body Hair”, a project celebrating women who choose to keep their body hair. Women of various ages, body shapes, and ethnicities speak visually about diverse feminine beauty.

My research includes cultures where body hair is traditionally not seen as undesirable, where beauty standards were disrupted by colonialism and globalization, including but not limited to: Indonesia, India, Ghana, Mexico, Iran, Pakistan.

I interviewed and photographed 17 women from 10 countries, discovering we shared similar experiences regarding body hair and internalised beauty standards. The portraits that stemmed from the interviews were conceptualised together with each woman - documenting daily life moments, while celebrating body hair.

For a better understanding of the social, gender and visual theory I consider necessary for a good approach of this complex subject, I enrolled in 2023 in a cultural visual studies master's program at the University of Bucharest. The current title (work in progress) of my disertation is "Women's body hair, from taboo to normal. A margins - center conversation". 

In addition to photography, “Fur Real.Reclaiming body hair”  is growing online, creating a safe space to discuss feminine beauty with hair, which many of the women I interviewed, including myself, wish we had while growing up insecure of our own beauty.

Aiming to be published in international magazines and exhibited in public spaces visible to large audiences, the project will raise a necessary discussion, challenging the current stereotypical vision of feminine beauty.



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