I was eleven years old and at a family party when my sister pointed at the Hello Kitty plaster on my knee and whispered to my mum, “Did you know she did that shaving her legs?” Unfortunately, her whisper wasn’t quite quiet enough, which made the blood rush to my cheeks, turning them red with embarrassment. I locked myself in my bedroom and began to cry. I was eleven, still in primary school and still playing with My Little Pony, and yet at that young age I was so conscious of my body hair that I was ashamed of it, and that definitely isn’t right.
However, when I thought about this recently, I’m not surprised that at eleven I decided to steal my mum’s razor and hack my legs to pieces in attempt to remove the fair blonde hairs that probably weren’t even visible. All you have to do is flick through the pages of a magazine or watch one advert break, to see beautiful hairless women flooding our mainstream media. Hell, even the women on HAIR REMOVAL advertisements have smooth legs, before they’re shown applying the wax strip or gliding a razor down their leg. There’s a massive secret that these hair removal companies don’t want you to know, and it is this:
FEMALE BODY HAIR EXISTS FOR A REASON, IT HAS A PURPOSE! IT GROWS BECAUSE – SHOCK HORROR – IT’S SUPPOSED TO!
It was starting to dawn on me that this irrational fear was becoming an inconvenience, as I was in a bar and somebody asked to see my tattoo. As I rolled my trousers up to reveal it, to my horror they stroked it to test its authenticity, feeling the stubble that I had forgotten to remove. It was at that moment that I suddenly realised that I needed to get over my preoccupation with body hair, I needed to embrace the stubble and accept that I am a woman and hair grows on my body. So I decided to grow out my underarm hair.
First of all, I’d like to de-bunk some myths and clarify a few things about this whole experience.
1) Having underarm hair is not less hygienic than shaving – that myth isn’t logical at all since men have underarm hair and don’t smell any more than women.
2) I imagine the process that I went through is similar to growing a beard, since each side grew at a different pace and it was a little frustrating.
And 3) It did not make me look or feel any less feminine.
This social experiment was supposed to be a great “fuck you”, to the patriarchal society, “I’m a woman and I’ll let my body hair grow whether you like it or not!”, which was a sound idea in theory but not all that successful when I was actually too embarrassed to show my hairy underarms – which sort of proves my point really.
At first, it took a lot of convincing (and sambuca) to show even my closest friends my hairy armpits, but I was proud of myself when I did, and I became less embarrassed the more people saw. It took one of my drunken feminist rants in which I was damning the patriarchy to fully expose what I had once been so ashamed of.
I was arguing with friend about how there are double standards for different genders and their body hair – how men are deemed more masculine and often more attractive for sporting a beard or stubble whereas women are damned by society and seen as unclean and less attractive – during which I took my jacket off and lifted my arms and asked, “Why isn’t this okay?!” The male in question simply shrugged and said, “I guess it is.” I then realised I’d been making a complete mountain out of a molehill over something as inane as body hair. I didn’t need to make any sort of statement; it’s down to personal preference ultimately. So my underarms remain unshaven, I’m yet to decide whether I’ll keep my new fluffy pals or book in for a waxing appointment. What I have decided? That it’s my body; and it’s none of your fucking business.