Life&Style’s Madeleine Bourne interviews Laura Jackson, founder of the body positive Januhairy campaign
Everyone has heard of Januhairy – and rightfully so. What feels like the longest and dullest month of the year has been blessed with a movement that has got the world talking: women being encouraged to grow out their body hair in an attempt to normalise the taboos surrounding what it’s ‘meant’ to be like to be a woman. And the campaign has made waves internationally, with organisations such as the BBC and Washington Post supporting the amazing things the movement is doing, breaking down taboos women face on a daily basis. However, there are two essential elements of the ground-breaking campaign that a lot of us may not have realised. Redbrick spoke to Januhairy’s founder, 21-year-old Laura Jackson, a University of Exeter drama student, about exactly what Januhairy is about- and it’s not just about women posting images of their body hair on Instagram. It’s so much more than that.
The first significant moment to mention is that one of Januhairy’s main aims (and one that the media have neglected to report on as much) is the charity the movement is raising money and awareness for: Body Gossip. With a Crowdfunding link you can find here, Januhairy is more than just women choosing not to shave. Laura spoke emphatically about exactly what Body Gossip do and why it’s important that, as the campaign picks up momentum, people don’t forget the charity behind the face of the empowering images of women choosing not to shave.
‘Body Gossip [has a] performance project that combines arts and education to empower everybody to be the best version of themselves as possible. The Body Gossip performance project promotes body positivity in the current media age through a creative writing and drama workshop within secondary schools, university areas and community spaces. I think it’s a really good charity that I hadn’t come across before I was researching charities to work with for this campaign, and it needs to be more well-known and supported!’
The funds raised from Januhairy will be going towards helping the Body Gossip team take the project into schools, that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the funds the charity accrues from travelling to schools and putting on the performance.
The campaign managed to raise £1000 for the charity in the early stages of the movement and as momentum picked up, Laura decided to set another target, which hasn’t yet been reached. ‘We’re trying to reach the £2000 mark which I don’t think is high at all- especially as the campaign has gotten so big. But it’s still only very slowly climbing up to that number. I think it’s because people are more interested in the movement of women becoming hairy than they are the charity, but at the end of the day, it’s all for the charity!’ Obviously, awareness of women having a choice about their body hair and breaking down the taboo surrounding the campaign is unfathomably important work, but Body Gossip’s mission statement to aid young people’s journeys to loving themselves is at the heart of Januhairy’s core and is something that warrants equal support. ‘We’re taught things in schools like algebra, which I personally haven’t ever used since! But if I would have been taught to love myself in school, then things might have been quite different.’ Laura speaks with hindsight. ‘This rings very true to Januhairy’s message which is just about understanding your view on yourself and your own body and from that being able to understand other people and other’s bodies.’
The second significant element of Januhairy’s campaign to note, that may have got lost under the media excitement around women learning to love growing their body hair out, is the fact that the campaign is not just about encouraging women to shave. In fact, that’s the smallest part of it! The fact is, Januhairy promotes a positive, inclusive message to all women. Whether you want to shave, or whether you don’t want to shave, the long and short of it is that you should be able to do whatever the heck you want! A judgement free zone, Januhairy supports women’s personal choices, whether that is to grow it out, or shave it off. It’s not a political statement, it’s not stating that women should or shouldn’t shave, it’s reminding us all that we should do exactly what we want, for us and us alone. ‘This campaign isn’t about ‘let’s be hairy forever’, it’s about choice.’ Laura enthuses. ‘It’s also about asking ourselves why we do what we do and who we do it for, and if you’re going to shave, make sure you’re doing it for yourself and no one else. This isn’t about whether you should be hairy and go all out, or whether you should shave, it’s about feeling comfortable to shave however much, or little, you like.’
This internal analysis of why we choose to do the things we do can be applied to many of the taboos women face daily, and Laura is incredibly insightful for a 21-year-old. Now Januhairy has become such an important movement, there are many issues the student potentially wants to tackle next. ‘One thing I might be looking at is the general body image of a woman, how we perceive ourselves and how we feel we always need to correct ourselves. Also, women’s pleasure is something that isn’t talked about within schools. Men’s pleasure is spoken about more. Both would be issues I’d like to tackle. But for now, Januhairy is what it’s focused on!’ And it’s a focus Jackson aims to carry forward. ‘Hopefully I’ll be able to take Januhairy and bring it up again every year, maybe raising funds for a different charity every time.’
But not only is Laura Jackson insightful beyond her years, she also has a refreshingly positive outlook to not only the campaign, but a female’s life. When Januhairy began to gain traction, it seemingly happened overnight, and with a mass audience came masses of positivity, but also negativity in its fair share, too. Rather than letting this impression upon the campaign or make her doubt herself, Laura retained a positive outlook on Januhairy, and allowed the campaign to grow to the success it is today. But that wasn’t without the likes of Piers Morgan trying to halt it. ‘Even Piers Morgan has commented on it and has made a big thing about it online, which if anything is just good for the campaign! The negative responses are helping us understand why it is we’re doing this campaign, and at least it’s being brought up in conversation and is still somewhat being normalised.’
Negative comments have naturally stung Laura when she first read them, but she is wonderfully tolerant of listening to others’ viewpoints, however opposite to her own they might be. This understanding is something the world needs more of. ‘If people are responding negatively, it’s just that they don’t understand [the movement] yet- so I’m not hating on them and I don’t think anyone else should. Let’s just help them understand. I recently had a conversation with a man who disagreed with my opinion, but as we shared our own viewpoints, I did help him to understand my own.’
Laura Jackson may be a 21-year-old student from the University of Exeter who started Januhairy after having to grow out her body hair for an acting role, but she’s also the voice of humans everywhere who have been seeking for a way to crush taboos around gender roles. She’s also a voice to listen to when learning to become more tolerant and understanding in our often fraught and complex world. ‘Januhairy is about listening to one another with open hearts and open minds and trying to understand each other’s viewpoints. If we listen to each other more then in turn, we’re going to be heard more and I just think it’s so important for people to be able to see that.’