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Body hair from puberty has been socially constructed nuance for women in American culture. I can remember from the first time I sprouted an armpit hair; I hastily removed it in fear that if someone (a boy) saw I would be humiliated. Naturally occurring body hair on women has been a source of shame for all women at some point or another. The beauty industry alone makes millions off of hair removal products such as Nair, waxes and sometimes, painful laser hair-removal treatments.
During my time in college, the notion of female body hair was challenged in a gender studies course. Men endure little to no shame when revealing pit, pube, or leg hair, yet I know women that will go into a state of anxiety if a tiny amount of hair stubble is showing. Anywhere. As a person who has shaved/waxed my pits, brows, legs and bikini region ever since I was a teenager, I finally put the razor down. Why are women’s razors more expensive and of worse quality then men’s razors? The added expense of shitty pink razors and shaving cream is fueled by cultural shame and couldn’t be justified in my eyes anymore.
I stopped shaving my armpits. The public reaction was minimal at first because I kept catching myself trying to hide or conceal my newly grown pit hairs. I finally wore a thin-strapped dress to the Ladybud Relaunch without shaving my armpits (hair now at least 1 inch long). I could feel people gazing when anyone got a glimpse of my untamed body hair. I was not directly confronted by anyone, but I could definitely feel the disturbed vibes even though the Ladybud crowd is generally very easy-going about most anything.
Ultimately, my number one tip for rocking body hair of any sort is to stop shaving. When people give me weird looks or “vibes” about it, I remember to tell myself that my body and any hair attached to it is not offensive or ugly. If the topic of body hair causes immediate feelings of disgust and/or shame, I would advise people to take a deeper look at where those intense feelings originate. Women in particular are stigmatized when they break the parameters of traditional -hairless- femininity that is utterly untrue and unrealistic.
Pressures often stem from the time of puberty when the male gaze is first felt by women. A false type of cleanliness is associated with women who shave, versus women who prefer to keep it natural, as if hair is inherently dirty or unclean. What about Frida Kahlo? Or the super-foxy picture of Sophia Loren rocking hairy pits, while donning an elegant evening gown? Similar to other forms of oppression, the stigma women endure for having body hair is a social construction used to pressure them into proper “feminine” behaviors. Waxing eyebrows or upper lips is often performed under the pressure to be visually appealing to the opposite sex.
Truth be told, I finally stopped giving a shit. I try to love myself a little more each day and shaving my pits is an inconvenience (for me). If anything, I have gotten compliments from women on my “bravery” for opting out of shaving. If women choose to keep it hairless and shaven, that doesn’t mean they are anti-women or feminist. Women should be able to do whatever the fuck they please when it comes to their bodies. I am writing this so that women who choose to keep their body hair will not be shamed for their choices. The goal is that whether you choose to shave or not, nobody will care (or be pressured) either way.
At this point in time, many women still feel the strong pressure to shave and comply with society’s bizarre standards for women. I want little girls entering puberty to be taught to celebrate their changing bodies, not revert back to unrealistic, prepubescent tendencies without ever asking why. If you want to rock a bush, you should. If you want a Brazilian, be my guest. Just don’t hate on a female for whatever option she chooses.