Feminism

Here’s why I think hairy armpits are beautiful

19 January, 2015

Hairy legs and hairy armpits are beautiful

I made a new friend recently, Del, a diminutive midwife. I have enjoyed quiet conversations over cups of tea (while my children decorate the bathroom walls with crayons), I’ve wondered at her unassuming, almost -but-not-quite-timidity and I’ve absorbed her mindful aura. Then, last week, she yawned and stretched and a shock of black hair gaped at me from her hairy armpits.

ZOMG! Unshaven underarms alert!

It was then that I realised that I LOVE HAIRY WOMEN!

Hairy Armpit Bride

I haven’t shaved regularly for about 15 years – I was even a hairy bride nine years ago.

But it has always been a political and cultural statement, begun very determinedly as a result of doing Women’s Studies at Uni and feeling like pulling out a razor was being beholden to an oppressive patriarchal society. I was gobsmacked that for years I had been so willing to do something every single day to my body purely to fit some image of what a women’s body should look like. For me there isn’t much else of this in my life- I sometimes wear make up, often don’t, sometimes wear nice clothes, mostly look like I’ve rolled through the local retro shop’s bargain bin. There is very little else that I think is so thoroughly embedded in our idea of womanhood as smooth, non- hairiness.

One of my lecturers told the story about how Gillette pretty much CREATED the concept of smooth legged women in order to have a female market for their products and I went home and boshed my razors in the bin, unwilling to have my body commodified.

I stopped shaving immediately and thenceforth, quavering only every so often on steaming hot summer days in London when I felt I didn’t have the internal reserves to sit on the tube having other commuters gawk at my wiry leg hairs.

Some days I didn’t want my body to be a statement.

I haven’t always had such an easy relationship with my body hair. In fact, when I was ten I shaved both my eyebrows off in an attempt to be more beautiful, and moved more properly onto my leg hair once they grew back.

Hairy armpits are beautiful

Hairy armpits are beautiful!

Now, however, I realise my statement has become a part of who I am and what I love about my body- and, turns out, other people’s bodies!

I LOVE MY BODY HAIR. Hairy pits and hairy legs ARE a shrugging off of a sad, unnecessary expectation of women’s bodies but they are also SEXY.

Yup.

When I saw tiny Del’s ferocious pelts as she stretched I was struck by how much this made me feel like she was deeply in touch with her womanhood, that she was brave and even wild.

It is kind of superficial, and possibly could be almost an objectification, but I felt like her body hair signified a certain boldness and a brazen self-acceptance.

I’ve been ruminating about this all quite openly with my husband over the last few days. He made a confession.

When he was a teenager he had a young female maths teacher who didn’t shave. Every time she reached up to make a mark with her chalk all the students used to grimace, repelled by her hairiness, a symbol of her unwomanliness.

How sad is that? She would totally be my friend, these days.

Now Tim tells me that he feels the opposite, that all of my body, including my hair, is alluring.

He married me hairy, and loved me hairy, partly because I was prepared to stand out from the shiny skinned crowd. But now he has come to appreciate body hair, and the way it oozes sensual pheromones, in itself. Hairy armpits are beautiful

Hairy armpits are natural – just not that normal

Don’t stop shaving because I tell you to. That would possibly put me on a par with the teenage boys who talk disgustedly about their female classmates as “having a bush” if they don’t shave. I’m not interested in being another voice telling women what to do with their own bodies. Do what you want with your body, it is yours, in all its awe-inspiring glory.

But do consider that we somewhat perpetuate the normality of bare vulvas, underarms, and legs by shaving them ourselves. We can make what is natural (hairiness) normal, by doing it. (I enjoyed this recent post by a mother and why she has quit her razor due to what she thinks it does to her daughter’s perception of body image.)

But then take that slightly “feminist social obligation” idea a liberating step further and consider the fact that hairiness can come to be loved, both by you, and your partner.

There is a radical self-acceptance in casting aside your razor.

And I reckon there is nothing more wondrous or beautiful than a woman who revels in every natural inch of her body.

I am fortunate to be surrounded right now by glowing women who haven’t touched a razor in years, and being embraced by this crowd seems to almost have retrained my mind about smoothness being normal. I don’t feel shy about my body hair, or like I am making a statement, when in a more mainstream place. I stand tall, basking in the liberated contentment I feel within my body temple. I am miles, MILES, apart from my eating disordered, self conscious teenage self.

Body Hair
I did laugh my socks off at this cartoon but it doesn’t QUITE back up my point that hairy women are sexy!!!

Spread the word, folks. Body hair is making a comeback and it is beautiful.

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23 Comments

  • Reply ThaliaKR 19 January, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Amen and amen!

    There’s a cool scene in one of Louis de Berniere’s South American novels (maybe Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord) where some guerrillas are leafing through US beauty mags and think they must be medical texts because of all the women who are clearly ill (hairless).

    Also have you seen these fab posters? Go, Amanda!
    http://mic.com/articles/92651/18-empowering-illustrations-to-remind-everyone-who-s-really-in-charge-of-women-s-bodies
    ThaliaKR recently posted…Lent 2015: Everything You Need, All in One PlaceMy Profile

    • Reply ali 20 January, 2015 at 2:24 am

      Oh I love those posters!!! Thanks for the link. Ive plastered them all over pinterest.
      With regard to being hairy, yes to stop donning a razor is taking the ‘ feminist social obligation’ route, but then could we say the same about make up, bras, and hair dye. I too believe that actually women can do the hell they want with their bodies without being chastised for not being feminist enough.

      Hairy pits don’t maketh the woman.

      🙂

  • Reply Vicki 19 January, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    I never understood why women felt the need to shave. I have friends who shave every day as part of their “routine”. When I hear women say that they shave because “they have thick hair” or “dark hair” or “too much hair” I feel a little sad inside. When I was 13 my mother told me “never to shave because you will regret it”. So I did but guess what she was right. All those knicks and scars and the time it took! By not shaving ( and I cannot recall the last time I shaved anything) I feel empowered and proud. Oh and I love the look on people’s faces when you do lift up your arm and they see hairy pits 🙂 The shock and horror of being one of “those” women. I love it!

  • Reply Lilybett 19 January, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    I’ve come to terms with the body hair – all of it – the armpit hair, the leg hair, the belly hair, the nipple hair, the bum hair, the lower back hair, the arm hair, the foot hair, the toe hair, the finger hair. But I struggle with the facial hair. I just can’t go full goatee and it would be a goatee with a dark mo and underchin beard. Maybe it’d be easier if it was pale and wispy instead of dark and wiry, I don’t know. But I just don’t have the emotional energy for it because it’d be an everyday battle, that one, rather than the occasional one if I wear something slightly more revealing. There’s no hiding it, no backing away from it.
    Lilybett recently posted…When he leadsMy Profile

  • Reply Julia van Schoor 20 January, 2015 at 12:50 am

    I agree 100% with what you say and embrace ‘naturalness’ in all its glory but darling, THAT is not pit hair! Spare a thought for those of us who are not blessed with cutesy little tufts of fluff.

  • Reply Lucy 20 January, 2015 at 3:51 am

    Does frequent laziness / giving zero f**ks count as a feminist statement?! If so I am there!

  • Reply Ruth 20 January, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    I love this post lots! Loads of thoughts on it (all positive). I definitely think being in a community where non shaving is the norm would be super helpful in building your comfort levels. I am always happy to be untamed until I have to do something like a work event with my hubby wearing a sleeveless dress (me wearing the dress, not him!) and then I tend to wimp out and shave my underarms because of what I suppose are societal expectations. I need to become braver I suppose 🙂 legs and other bits I never do though.

    Love that someone shared the posters above. The Amanda Palmer one is my fave, and I saw her live at the weekend. She took off all her clothes at the end of her show and I can confirm that she a) is still not shaving and b) is a bloody beautiful woman.
    Ruth recently posted…2015: Time to FocusMy Profile

  • Reply Katherine 21 January, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Thank you for this post! Thank you for voicing this opinion, this truth! Love it, love this blog!

  • Reply E 21 January, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks for this statement!
    I’m still struggling with not shaving – shaving is just not ME but on the same time I find it hard sometimes to stand up to my hairiness. So I’ve come to shaving irregularly and letting it grow all the other times (which feels a lot more like “me”). I love the support from this post and the comments! And the posters linked above…. I guess that’s what ’empowerment’ is about!

  • Reply Eliminationcommunication 22 January, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    You go girl. I haven’t shaved my pit regularly since 1999. It was not an easy thing to do. I always felt like I was smuggling drugs or something in my arm pits.

  • Reply Rebekah Manley-Campbell 23 January, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Personally, I like both hairy and waxed/shaved… It really depends on how I feel, I like the feel of being smooth, and I like it when I have body hair too. I like the difference, and also the different smells… After living for about 22 years now with body hair as I feel like it, I have a bit of a theory about body hair. I recon that it is very personal, and when people remove it they are in some way becoming less personal. I remember removing it for this reason, so that’s why I think this. Everyone’s body hair is different, and it’s like you are protecting yourself from people knowing that about you, about how you look, really look…
    I also know of women who have never seen what their grown out body hair looks like… they don’t know what they actually look like!
    I feel really grateful that I am ‘at peace’ with my decisions to shave/wax/ not shave etc… It’s like I get to decide how I look, depending on how I feel, not on how others will perceive me! I’m not really that worried about that any more. It does help to be around others who don’t judge me for it!

  • Reply Jen 27 January, 2015 at 9:51 am

    I love this post. If it wasn’t for the looks I’d probably get from people on the bus, I wouldn’t even mind a little bit of fuzzy hair under my arms. I guess I’m a wimp! I like having silky smooth legs when I can be bothered to make the effort but nothing angers me more than those who act like a woman with body hair is ‘not normal’ What the hell?! It’s supposed to be there! That’s why it grows!
    Jen recently posted…The Charity Shop Naughty CornerMy Profile

  • Reply Becky Brown 31 January, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Oh my goodness that hair is nothing compared to what I have at the moment! I have to admit though with me it’s more of a seasonal thing. I don’t own a razor in the winter but as soon as the sun starts to shine in spring it’s all off before I step foot outside. I do love having a husband that doesn’t care either way though.
    Becky Brown recently posted…Jacob Sings The Alphabet…In FrenchMy Profile

  • Reply Becky 1 February, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    Great post Lucy and I like you esentiment of course being entirley natural is entirly normal but when you live in a pltic world its peretty tough to do I find without being the object of stares so i am secretly hairy!!! I have a way to go I guess
    Becky recently posted…Disposable Income Levels and EmploymentMy Profile

  • Reply Becky 1 February, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    So many typos ( above!) many apologies kids chatting away rubbish multitask-er!
    Becky recently posted…Disposable Income Levels and EmploymentMy Profile

  • Reply Purple Ella 5 February, 2015 at 3:49 am

    I love this post. I had many hairy years from late teens to early twenties. Then I became someone who wears lycra for a living (acrobat and trapeze artist) and the commercial work required smoothness as part of the image, and I’ve continued shaving to avoid stares at the baby swim class etc. Honestly though you give me food for thought, perhaps I will regrow my winter coat!

  • Reply denada laurenc 17 September, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Lucy, aku berharap kamu tetap menulis berbagai tulisan inspirasi dan opini. I like your blog 🙂

  • Reply Labrando un HOGAR -Andreina- 4 March, 2016 at 4:03 am

    My armpits were hairy all winter, and only had a problem with it my husband, I told him when he shaved I would do it 🙂

  • Reply Jacki May 16 June, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Rock on! I stopped shaving a while ago…and I love it. It can be hard at times in public but then when I start to doubt I remind myself that our hair is there for a reason…and its part of who I am, if someone has an issue with it, then they aren’t the right ones for me.

    The under chin hair (which I am thinking comes from a estrogen deficiency because I didn’t have it before) does get me but I am working on it.

  • Reply (Mostly) Yummy Mummy 16 June, 2016 at 8:12 am

    So interesting! I have to admit that I always shaved without question until my eldest daughter came to an age where she asked to shave her legs. I think she was about 11 or 12 when the pressure from girls at school started? And it was only then that I came to question the whole thing. I wanted to make it clear to my daughter that it was a choice. That she didn’t have to rid herself of body hair. But I did feel that I had to put my money where my mouth was as it were and go au naturel myself for the very first time in my adult life. I have to say that I found it surprisingly empowering and I’m so glad I did it. After a good few months though I decided that I actually preferred the feeling of smooth skin but it was reassuring to know that I was doing it because I wanted to, you know? As for my daughter, she’s coming up to 17 now and has decided not to shave. I’m glad that I showed her that this was very much her body and her choice. I’m raising one mighty feminist there, she teaches me so much!

  • Reply Leah 16 June, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Thanks for writing this. I recently (about three months ago) decided to stop shaving my underarms because I wanted my toddler daughter to be able to having a good base for accepting her body. (I still shave my legs but only because I love the feeling of smooth legs.) It was a very difficult transition because my hair is DARK and it’s quite noticeable under my arms. And, when I was twelve, my mother shamed me for not shaving, implying that I was disgusting. It’s still something I’m having difficulty overcoming. But, I will do whatever I can to change the stigma for my daughter. Your article helps me continue on that journey. Thank you for your support.

  • Reply JMT 29 June, 2016 at 5:23 am

    Feminist mothering problems: when you baby wants to play with your pit hair while nursing >.<

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 30 June, 2016 at 10:39 am

      TOTALLY!

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