Sunday, 10 June 2012

Hairy Pits

(2 & a bit weeks worth of fuzz...)

About three weeks ago I decided that as a little experiment - and frankly because the exam period is a long, boring one and I wanted something to do - I would grow my armpit hair.

Why? From the moment I developed armpit hair, I'd never considered doing anything with it other than shaving it off and pretending that it didn't exist. It's hammered hard into girls from a young age to deal with "problematic" body hair, because if you are hairy you don't fit into the polished expectation of what it is to be female. I don't see hairy armpits in magazines. Every female I know (as far as I'm aware of) uses some form of hair removal on that area. If you have hairy underarms you'll probably get plagued with "eww"s from the opposite sex, and your mum might even beg that you shave it off because it's not ladylike to have hairy underarms. You are not acceptable as a female unless you modify your body, as apparently the female body in its natural state is not good enough. Isn't that a bit...odd? It's not so much a choice between shaving or not shaving - for the majority of women the only real option is to shave or be deemed disgusting, unfeminine and unattractive. Without the male-dominated view of female beauty as dainty, pristine and hygienic, would women even shave their underarms?

Now I look back I feel sorry for my 13-year old self for feeling pressured into shaving, but I think doing something like this would prove to myself that I can still feel confident without shaving my armpits and more important, not feel like I'm compromising my "sexiness" by doing so. I hoped to prove to myself that next time I go to a festival, instead of worrying  about how on earth I'll stay fuzz-free for a week I'll instead worry about more important things, like running out of vodka. I don't particularly care about having hairy armpits, and I can't quite believe it's taken me this long to realise that if I don't want to shave...well...I don't have to.

Why just armpit hair? Basically because I frequently don't shave my legs for extended periods of time anyway (I'm lazy and I don't really care) and I only started altering my pubes when I become sexually active (what a term, ha). For me personally there's a lot of debate about whether to shave/wax/trim/vajazzle your pubes but no one ever discusses whether to shave or not shave armpit hair. Some people go wild over hairy vaginas and yet I don't think I've ever heard one person say "Armpit hair? Mmm, yeah, that's hot!" It seems that armpit hair is one of those things that's always been seen as inherently unfeminine or unhygienic. 
Even the word "armpit" seems so repulsive that we often replace it with "underarm" because it sounds a bit nicer.

So anyway, I haven't shaved for three weeks-ish and I have a nice little armpit bush growing. Not so much like the Australian bush, a bit more like a slightly feeble Manchester bush that's struggling to grow in a garden after a harsh winter and not a lot of rain - I blame fine hair and being naturally blonde - so it's a bit pathetic, but it's a bush nonetheless. I've found the whole process surprisingly easier than I thought it would be and I don't really know why it never occurred to me to try it before, especially as in the past year I've come to the radical conclusion that my body is my own and I can do whatever the hell I want to it. Obviously no one is chaining us up with our armpits in the air and mowing the fuzz off with a Bic disposable razor, but if you're a woman and you feel that you have to shave your armpits otherwise you'll feel unfeminine, ugly, disgusting and face similar negative comments, then someone is essentially chaining you up and making you shave, and you should be really quite pissed off at being made to feel that way.

The big test was last week, as I went on a night out in a top that allowed me to get my fuzz out in public, and I was pretty nervous about doing so. Obviously when you're dancing you're going to put your hands in the air and do some pretty embarrassing dancing - if you're me, anyway. No one mentioned anything despite the fact that I tried to get my armpits in every photo and was dancing with my arms in the air and pointing to them and generally trying to get them out at every possible moment like a proper drunken idiot. I felt great. Either no one mentioned anything because they were being polite, they didn't notice, they just didn't give a fuck, as it should be. Either way, I felt good for it and I know that if someone did confront me about it, or insult me I'd be confident to unleash a can of feminist rant on their ass. We're all allowed preferences, for example on a guy I absolutely despise soul patches and deep V necks but I don't go round expecting all lads to stop having soul patches and wearing deep V necks just because I don't like them. If you don't like underarm hair it doesn't make you a bad person, and that's perfectly fine, just don't think you should expect me to shave to please you.


I didn't feel any less "womanly", I felt about as sexy as I always do, and if anything I felt more confident. At the end of the day, probably the most important thing I learnt is that it's only hair. It really shouldn't matter, yet body image expectations are such a massive source of unhappiness for many that it suddenly does matter. It's not really about whether or not you shave, it's about feeling comfortable to do what you want with your own body and to realise that it's okay to not fit in with expectations. I think often people get so hung up in the shaving/not-shaving argument that they miss the point. Shave if you want to, and if you don't want to shave...don't shave! The thought that anyone should actually care about a bit of hair coming from your body to the point where they feel like they can get you to change your body to suit their needs? Tell them to fuck off. The most important point is to do what you want. I could decide to shave, I could decide not to shave. I could dye my armpit hair turquoise and plait it and sew sequins onto it. What do it matter to anyone, honestly? Is it even that big a deal? 

[If you want to read more on the subject of body hair alongside body fascism I would massively recommend this post by Nyika.]

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