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Meet The Pakistani-American Artist Taking A Stand To Normalise Body Hair

"We don't have to conform," says Ayqa, 20.

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Meet Ayqa Khan, a first-generation Pakistan-American artist taking a stand against societal pressure for women to remove body hair.

Khan is 20 years old and based in New York. She's a self-taught digital illustrator and photographer who has recently started to "conceptualise and create bodies of work centred around themes and narratives of the first-generation South Asian community."

But she wasn't always as comfortable with her body hair as she is now.

Ayqa Khan

"I would often receive negative comments from friends and family members who tried to instill this idea that body hair is 'unnatural to show' and 'unfeminine-like'. When this happened, it enforced the idea of how the removal of body hair is just a conditioning act done by society. I began to turn inward and dealt with this frustration creatively," she told BuzzFeed.

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Khan says that although she's actively drawing body hair, her intentions are to normalise it.

Ayqa Khan

"It is important for me to normalise body hair because it is something that shouldn't be a huge deal considering body hair is natural and the removal of it is a social construct," she says.

"Some people often criticise the hair on the bodies I draw, claiming it's 'gross,' but these comments are not often at all," she said.

Ayqa Khan

"The judgment and pain that comes with having body hair is one that is harmful and needs to be stopped. Naturally, when I get a hate comment I feel upset about it for a moment. It's really easy to get sucked into negative comments, but I remind myself that these feelings pass and these comments aren't true. I receive a lot of personal messages from women who tell me they are learning to love their body hair because I have allowed to help them see it in a view that is positive and nurturing," she added.

The messages of encouragement as a response to her drawings and photos are from women who can relate and who applaud her bravery.

Ayqa Khan

Here are some she has received:

"So happy to see a desi feminist celebrate body hair! All the body hair posts I ever see are white women with underarm and pubic hair, but I don't see anyone with hair in unglamorised places like arms and chest. It's awesome to see these other hairy areas celebrated, because I don't see it anywhere else. I've always been disgusted with my arm hair to the point of wearing sweaters and long-sleeved shirts in summer to hide it. But I'm happy to see representation on your blog!"

And:

"I'm Latina, so I am 'hairier' than most girls I know and I have fuzz everywhere. I have constantly been judged and laughed at or have heard remarks about how I should shave it or wax it or get laser surgery. I am now 16 and I have yet to accept it and embrace it, but thank you for your body posts and pictures. It makes me know that I am not alone and that I am not weird or 'bigfoot' or a 'wolf' or any names I have been called because of how much fuzz I have. Thank you."

"We don't have to conform to any ideologies of identity," said Khan.

Ayqa Khan

"For people who feel distant from their culture yet feel this unfulfilled connection to it, it is possible to figure out a balance. There have been plenty of moments where I have felt like I don't belong to my culture yet don't feel part of the American culture, and it left me feeling somewhat empty. We don't have to conform to any ideologies of identity. We're not supposed to conform, but to continually progress in a way that best fits our needs."

To see more of Ayqa Khan's work, follow her on Tumblr here.

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