OPINION: Hairy armpit feminist talks of shame


Courtesy of Unsplash.com

A feminine-presenting person stands in a bedroom combing their body hair. Body air, and armpit hair, in particular, has been historically frowned upon when women wear it. Photo via Unsplash.com.

Jackie Galli, Managing for Print

I am ashamed of my armpit hair.

Perhaps it doesn’t make sense saying that when I could easily shave it. But the reason why I want to shave it is the same reason why I have made a promise to myself that I won’t.

I was sitting in my Philosophical Perspectives on Women class taught by Dr. Constance L. Mui early on this semester, and during the lecture she showed the class an excerpt from an article where actress Faith Hill had to not shave her armpits leading up to filming “1883.” She was asked to stop shaving for authenticity to the time period of the movie.

The actress said it was such a “difficult” experience that she thought about getting laser hair removal after the film so she would never have to do that again.

“It really grossed me out,” Hill told Insider.

Hearing her disgust about natural hair on her body that most likely wouldn’t elicit the same visceral reaction if she were a man made me realize I needed to stop shaving.

Removing my armpit hair had never benefited me in any way. Having hair there doesn’t make me sweatier, or warmer, or itch once you get past the initial growing stages. Removing it is an extra step in the shower that does nothing for me.

I will say that while, in my personal life, I have never heard any negative comments since I threw away my razors, and instead only received encouragement, I still feel this intense shame about it.

This feeling that my armpit hair gives me serves as a reminder to me how much misogyny attacks you from the inside. Even in an environment where you are not experiencing overt social pressure, the messaging that many women receive all their lives will continue to impact them.

The only way that I can see changing that conditioned thinking about myself is actively doing the things that make me uncomfortable until that discomfort slowly lessens and eventually disappears entirely.

Growing armpit hair is the first thing I have done to actively fight against the gender norms that have been forced onto me as a woman. And it makes me really uncomfortable.

One night I was getting dressed for a nice dinner, and I was going to wear this dress that would show my underarms. I remember looking at myself and thinking about what people were going to think: I was unclassy, I was dirty, or I was some “crazy hairy armpit feminist” (which probably I am, thank God).

And I wanted to shave so bad. But what I needed was to change my distorted thinking.

Whatever lofty goals one can make to improve the world, and in this case deconstructing gender norms, the easiest place to start is within oneself.

Or perhaps, it may be the hardest.

The sexism that I have faced and will probably continue to face, well, a lot of it will be coming from inside me. That is where that shame comes from for my hairy pits.

And that shame is the problem, not my armpit hair.