My name is Rebecca and I haven’t shaved under my arms for almost two weeks.
To give you some context for that, I would usually shave them maybe twice a week.
The first time I didn’t, I was just chilling in the bath with a book and I didn’t feel like it.
The second time I didn’t, I forgot to take my shaving foam in the shower and didn’t feel like leaning over the bath, risking hypothermia and a broken neck to reach it.
The third time, I took the shaving foam in the shower with me but it ran out after I’d shaved my legs.
And by yesterday?…I was just curious.
I’ve been shaving my armpits since I was 12 years old. With the exception of the odd week here and there (Glastonbury, paralysed in hospital…you know, the usual glitches) I have been religiously scraping (usually rather blunt) blades of metal under my arms regularly with frighteningly little thought on the matter. Suddenly it occurred to me, I had no idea what my body ‘normally’ looked like without this drastic intervention.
The first time I became aware that my body hair was not fit for public consumption I was 12 years old and in my first year at high school. There was a high-jump contest being held in the school gymnasium and I was there with a group of friends to watch. The gym was crowded and I got separated from them. Straining to see the contestants over the shoulders of the older students, a deep voice boomed out from behind me “Oi! Move your hairy gorilla legs out of the way!” I turned to see a group of lads much older- in hindsight probably in their final year of school, laughing their heads off and patting their catcalling mate on the back.
I moved out of their way. And I went home and told my Mum I wanted to shave my legs. She said I was too young, but that I could shave my underarms instead. Which I’ve got to admit, felt like a consolation prize, since no one could see them under my regulation blue shirt anyway. But I dutifully began the task of removing my armpit hair, and short time later, against my Mum’s wishes, my leg hair followed suit.
It never felt like a decision. It felt like a requirement. And I’ve been fulfilling society’s requirement of what a woman’s underarms should look like for almost 20 years now and I am ready for a fucking interlude.
The thing is, when I couldn’t be arsed to reach my shaving foam, or when I got curious and decided to see how long it would take to grow, I didn’t feel like I was making a political statement. But then I performed a google image search for women’s armpit hair and immediately found an article listing celebrities who’d ‘dared’ to forego shaving their pits and suffered the wrath of the media, and I soon realised that in refusing to- even temporarily- remove my body hair and/or apologise for it, I was making what might be the most radical political act of my life so far. Seriously. People are SO opinionated on this subject. They cannot believe that a woman might like having hair under her arms, or that she might in fact not give a shit.
“If Britney doesn’t have time to shave, maybe she should consider waxing” one article suggested, showing a happily waving Britney Spears, looking great with dark shadows of fine hair under each arm.
“Maybe you should fuck off” I whispered to no one in particular in response.
It was at that moment that I made the decision- a conscious decision, not a default position- to stop shaving under my arms. Maybe not forever (I have already documented my trouble committing to a fake christmas tree for the next three years) but at least until I feel like I want to. Until my armpit hair is bothering me, rather than until it’s bothering anyone else. Because that’s the thing isn’t it? It’s MY hair. They’re MY armpits. It’s MY body.
And maybe that’s why it’s so radical. A woman not removing the hair that society tells her she should is basically saying “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” and as a massive Rage Against the Machine Fan, that’s a standpoint I can fully endorse.
WHY should I, or anyone else shave off the hair that grows naturally under our arms? Because it looks gross? Says who? Because it’s sweaty? In this age of running water and deodorant, I find that hard to believe. Because it’s unfeminine? Well if women aren’t supposed to have it then why the hell does it grow there?! I refuse to believe that evolution just couldnae be arsed to differentiate between men and women’s body hair so thought “fuck it, they’ll invent razors eventually aye?”
Surely it has a purpose? Or if not a purpose then at least it’s benign?!
After reaching this conclusion only yesterday (and informing Chris of my ongoing ‘experiment’) I then went on Facebook today to be greeted by none other than this
It’s a BBC article about people’s responses to a (beautiful) photograph of Oscar winner (yay! Finally!) Leonardo Di Caprio and his parents. Apparently, the most comment-worthy aspect of the picture, showing a very young Leonardo being held aloft by both his parents, is not the fact he looks so incredibly like his Mum, or how happy they all look, or how wonderful it is how much he has accomplished in his career…but instead, the fact that his Mum has hairy armpits. Yep, THAT’S what we all need to expend our energy on. The judgement and vilification of other people’s decisions on what to do with their own bodies, or sorry…no…women’s decisions, women’s bodies.
Because aint nobody commenting on Leonardo Di Caprio’s Dad’s big bushy-ass beard. No 12 year old lad I knew got mocked by a gaggle of 16 year old girls about his facial hair- or lack thereof, and went home and cried to his Mum and hated himself. It just doesn’t work that way.
Women and men might have preferences about whether they like their male partners to have chest hair or back hair etc but that’s exactly how they’re seen- as a preference. Not as a requirement across the board. We didn’t all sit down as a society 50+ years ago and decide that stubbly chins were FUCKING UNACCEPTABLE so how is it that we seemingly collectively made that judgement call on women’s underarms?
So, it seems only fitting that on International Women’s Day 2016, at the wizened old age of -cough- 31, I finally take a stand against this insanity and declare myself an official hairy feminist…or, as I prefer to think of myself…just a normal human being, doing whatever the fuck I feel like with my own body at any given time so long as it’s not hurting anyone else 😉
Happy International Women’s Day to you all!