All over the world, women are held to impossible beauty standards. Whether it’s our skin color, our body, our heights, or our body hair. In South Asia, these beauty standards define a woman’s existence.
One of the most commonly accepted and justified beauty standards is a hairless female body.
We have been removing ghair zaroori baal since kingdom come. It’s sold to us, prettied up in pink packaging, with faces of gorgeous women attached to them. From a very young age, we are subjected to the pain of waxing, or the stinging irritation of hair removal creams, under literally no guise except that what we are removing, is not needed.
Mahrukh Merchant, a 23-year old visual artist from Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, decided to project her feelings about female body hair through her thesis project.
The project titled, ‘Ghair Zaroori’, is a brilliant poem aided by great visuals, written from a child’s perspective. The visuals that Mahrukh utilizes are thread and buttons.
The poem starts off with the little girl asking a question to herself: ‘Meinay suna hai larkiyon ke baal nahi hotay…lekin merey tou hain?’
This is a common misconception we hear growing up, and it makes us want to remove all body hair to show people that we really do not have hair.
The next visual aid is beautiful since it folds wax paper into the origami game we used to play as children, perhaps portraying that little girls that are young enough to be playing around are instead being manipulated into getting waxed.
The little girl also talks about various women in her life who have educated her about body hair, and whom she has observed.
First, she mentions the aankh macholi her Aapi plays with her body hair, signifying that her Aapi also goes through the same struggle, every month. Then, she says that her grandmother said that removing body hair was a majbori. This is where the project signifies that the removal of body hair for women is passed down generation to generation.
Her project received immense love from women
We got in touch with Mahrukh to fully understand the thought process and inspiration that went behind the project.
Mahrukh said that the reason she did this entire project was to challenge the idea of societally accepted femininity. Growing up, she had no positive perspective on body hair, and she wanted her project to be exactly that.
Apart from that, she also said that hair removal ads show women as completely hairless because of the unwillingness to accept a woman’s body hair. Her work exists to serve as a reminder that nothing about us is ‘ghair zaroori’ and that women are beautiful regardless of if they choose to remove their body hair or not.
As for the poem, Mahrukh wrote it herself, from a child’s perspective because of the sensitivity that the topic required. The poem narrates a girl talking to herself and questioning herself.
To every girl who's ever been told her body hair is "ghair zaroori" …tum ho zaroori, poori ki poori. ❤️I'm grateful to all my teachers, friends and family who made this film possible.
Gepostet von Mahrukh Merchant am Samstag, 5. Januar 2019
The video is an entire collection of 1200 still photographs put together. The reason Mahrukh chose a bathroom as her set is because hair removal is mostly done in the privacy of bathroom, and the poem also narrates the girl questioning herself about the thing that many of us tend to do in the bathroom.
Mahrukh hopes that her project brings strength to other women, as it did to her.
It is a beautiful initiative that Mahrukh has taken because of the lack of discussion around the topic. Hopefully, this will serve as the beginning point of demolishing at least one useless beauty standard.
Cover image via thriftyfun.com