Armpit hair. Love it or loathe it, it’s a naturally occurring trait in human adults. Yet the industry built upon body hair removal is a huge one and, although there seems to be increasing support for proudly ungroomed pits, such as Madonna’s selfie with armpit hair on display, for example, (which is actually a year old but is still appearing in my newsfeed for some reason!), we still have a long way to go before it stops being scandalous enough to draw in media attention.
Some people feel happy and empowered when they make the choice to remove their pit hair, others when they make the choice not to. Either way, it’s your body; just make sure you’re making that choice for yourself and nobody else, especially not for some insulting marketing campaign from a company selling pink razors at twice the price of grey ones aimed at men. These days images of women with body hair are trickling their way back into our frame of vision (I say "back" although I personally didn't live through the period pre-1915, when body hair wasn't such a big deal yet), especially with the accessibility of image sharing platforms like Instagram.
If you’re a person who shaves but you’re considering ditching the razor, here are my top 10 reasons to love your pit hair to help encourage you on your way.
1. It Feels Nice
Okay, everyone’s underarm hair is different, but mine is lovely and soft. Like a tiny underarm kitten, which is admittedly maybe not so great to pet at the end of a hot day for example. But freshly showered, clean and fluffy, I do engage in the occasional armpit stroke. Try it!
2. Underarm Skin Is Sensitive
Protect it with a lush coat of down and avoid irritating it with shaving products. I’ve seen many advertisements for products that help "soothe" or moisturize underarms after shaving. As a non-shaver, I’ve never felt the need to soothe or moisturize my armpits, so I must be doing something right.
3. Beards Are So Popular Right Now
If you’re unable to grow a beard on your face, you can unleash your inner hipster with a stylish armpit beard. Just think how sophisticated you will look, stroking your little armpit beards in contemplation whilst discussing the works of Charles Baudelaire.
4. You Can Dye It To Match Your Hair
Not something I’ve attempted myself (yet) so I cannot give you any tips from personal experience, but there are some great armpit hair dyeing tutorials out there sharing the wisdom. With a vibrant dye job in your pits, everyone will think you’re a natural greenette. (Putting chemicals on your delicate pits may result in the need for "soothing" or moisturizing though — please refer to point 2.)
5. You Have Better Things To Do
In the words of Janet Fraser, “All that time I save in body hair removal I devote to revolution.” Not that I’m expecting you to count up the minutes and fulfill some kind of "revolution quota" or anything, but you can use those precious minutes doing something rather more interesting.
I’m aware that those of you who regularly shave can do it pretty rapidly, but it still adds up, so if you find it more of a hassle than a pleasure to keep on top of your pit grooming regime, you shouldn’t need any other excuse to stop. (Not to mention that the act of body hair removal or non-removal is directly tied into the revolution, challenging the narrow, binary gender norms we are fed!) However, body hair removal is a choice and feminism is all about choice — so if you decide to keep removing your body hair, make sure it actually is a choice; make sure it’s because you want to, not because you feel you have to.
6. You'll Save Money
Tasha Skerman-Gray writes about the connection between body hair removal and capitalism — about the industries that “foster insecurities in women and thus encourage them to buy more products. And because the idealized image of a hairless woman is impossible to maintain, women are encouraged not only to perpetually spend money on depilatory practices but also to participate in a never-ending, time-consuming cycle of hair removal: just one aspect of what Naomi Wolf has termed ‘beauty work’, or the extra labor that women are expected to perform in order to look even half-way respectable.” If you choose not to shave, not only can you avoid feeding this industry, you can also save a few dollars to spend on things you actually want or need.
7. The Environment
The less stuff we throw away, the better, in general. Razor blades and disposable razors included, shaving cream cans too. Yes, they’re recyclable, which makes it slightly better, but if we could stop using so much packaging in the first place, that would be great. This is a point that goes way beyond hair removal though — just think about food packaging and all the shiny plastic bottles we’re manufacturing for shampoos and so on — cutting down on the amount of stuff we throw in the trash is always a winner.
8. You’re In Good Company
Apparently natural body hair is still so shocking that it causes a stir when a high profile celebrity like Madonna shows off her pit hair in a selfie. I’m hoping that the influence of images like these is a way we can start to gradually build some more acceptance (or at the very least, less disgust) at the sight of pit hair on women. I didn’t realize that people were even still repulsed by natural body hair until I happened across some truly awful tabloid articles responding to Madonna’s selfie. Not only is Madge an ally, but there are also some great body positive groups on Facebook that offer great support and insight on matters like this and so much more.
9. Women "Having" To Shave Reinforces The Gender Binary
I’m more of a believer that people of all genders should do whatever the hell they want with their own bodies. These strict notions of gender are harmful to everyone, as they place pressure on individuals to conform to societal rules that may not be in keeping with their own personal choices. I have to accept that it’s easier for me as a cis woman to make the choice to not shave than it might be for a trans woman, as these gender ideas can contribute to the pressure on trans people to "pass."
“No one should ever be punished for not 'looking like a woman right,'” as Jetta Rae discusses in an insightful article on Everyday Feminism. On a more superficial note, a colleague and I shared a "gender equality" high-five when we discovered each other’s grooming choices — that he shaved his armpits (because apparently it’s more comfortable if you go running) and I didn’t shave mine. It’s a choice that should be based on your own lifestyle and comfort, not your gender.
10. It's Your Decision
This is something I have mentioned here again and again, but just to hammer the point home: It really is a choice. You should never have to, or be made to feel you have to, do anything to your body that you really don’t want to, whatever gender you are. That’s what’s known as oppression. If you don’t want to remove your body hair, just don’t. I think armpits are a pretty innocuous part of the human anatomy, really, so if Internet trolls and the oppressive tabloid press could just stop being so repulsed by a hairy armpit for just five minutes, maybe we could work on making it less of a big deal.
Images: Getty (2); Giphy (8); howtohairgirl/Instagram.