Ayomide Odumosu, a student at University of California Berkeley, wanted to create a visual project centering around an aspect of women’s body that still has yet to find societal acceptance — body hair, specifically for women of color. As Emma Glassman-Hughes eloquently explained in her piece On Body Hair and Lacks Therof, “When white ladies grow out body hair, the act is considered an expression of rebellion and bravery — maybe unsightly or obnoxious to some, but not altogether that offensive. When women of color grow out their body hair, the act is almost unthinkable — or some women, it’s even dangerous.” Odumosu agrees, and her project “Don’t Touch My Hair: A Visual Exploration of the Socio-Political Implications of Women of Color’s Body Hair & the Policing of Femininity,” exemplifies women of color the way they’d like to be shown.
“Of the few body hair related projects that exist (due to the stigmatization of women’s natural state of being), I found that almost all failed to be represent women of color, perpetuating the continuous erasure of women of color from these pertinent conversations, as well as limiting the allocation of the ‘liberated hairy aesthetic’ to only white women,” Odumosu wrote to me through email. “The acknowledgment of intersectionality in a multitude of discourses, as well as the affirmation of black women and other women of color deemed ‘the other’ is such an important & needed conversation.”
While Odumosu wanted to highlight her subject’s natural femininity and sexuality, she wanted a message to be clear; these bodies are in no way being exploited, but rather, celebrated. “Condemning the natural states of women of color’s bodies propagates the constant denial of our humanity and multidimensionality, normalizing the silencing and exploitation of our bodies. Rejecting these norms showcases the humanity of women of color -- something we've been denied for centuries.”
Odumosu doesn’t want you to just enjoy the series, but to see what society likes to deem "natural beauty" from a new perspective. “I hope this photo series makes you uncomfortable, then liberated. I hope this flips your whole social understanding of gender binaries upside down. I hope you finally come to the ‘radical’ realization that women, are indeed, humans too — and that our gender identity is nuanced & intricate & NOT dependent upon euro-patriarchal standards of beauty & femininity.”