How my armpits inspired me to make conscious choices

Guest post by Roxie Hunt


I haven’t shaved or waxed my armpits in five years. And, until recently, I hadn’t given it all that much conscious thought, beyond the dull general awareness that I feel about my pit hair when I’m in certain settings.

Today I’m going to talk about armpit hair, and plunge into the realm of conscious choices.

Make conscious choices

I initially stopped shaving because I was going through a break-up. I was bouncing back from a momentary “losing my faith” moment, that quickly resulted in a strong reaffirmation of my faith in life, and love, and all of that.

During this reaffirmation time, I came to understand that I would be fine on my own. Better than fine. I would be great. But, in the process of establishing a new identity as a 25-year-old single woman and mother, some old habits that no longer served had to be replaced with better ones.

I started reading again and listening to music that I liked. I learned how to cook for real. And bake. And garden. I saved up my money and got breast reduction surgery. I bought a Volkswagon van with my tax return, painted pin-stripes on it, and dreamed of taking to the open road with my daughter.

I started noticing my choices, large and small. Turns out, a young woman’s life is filled with choices. All day long we’re excercising our choice muscles. Am I going to get out of bed right now? I can probably stay here another minute or so. Am I going to wear shoes or my usual sandals? What about breakfast? Should I wash this sink full of dishes now, or maybe just wait til they wash themselves later? Should I check Instagram? Again? Really? Should I let my daughter dress herself in paper bags with holes in them because she REALLY REALLY wants to?

I started to take the time to make more conscious choices. I tried not to make choices based on habit or common opinion or What I Think My Mother Would Do or what would Madonna Would Have Done In Her Like a Prayer Days. And it took mental monkey wrangling.

I had to think quick to stay on top of it. I had to meditate and get exercise to help tame the mental monkey. I felt sharper and I felt better. I learned how to take deep breaths. I started listening to my intuition and trusting my gut. And I was amazed to notice how many choices I had been making ignoring my gut and avoiding the choices that were mine to make.

pitsperation 2

Trust Your Gut

When faced with a constant stream of choices, trusting my gut was the key that opened the door to a much more conscious life. Around this time, my daughter started asking questions and I had to choose my responses carefully and go with my gut. “Mama, what are the scars for on your beeboos? Why do you shave your legs with a sharp knife? Your ankle is bleeding. I will make you a band aid out of this flower.”

Around this time, I stopped shaving. I got rid of all razors in the house. It was a combination of protecting my child (she got into every drawer at the age of two), embracing my own hairy-pitted mother, and ridding my life of a routine that I had woefully inflicted on myself since the tender and silky-haired age of 11.

In the past year I have pondered the topic of body hair and my feelings about it. Why would I want to alter my natural body in a way that feels wrong to make someone else feel more comfortable? Whose idea was this anyway? At what point was body hair on a woman not socially acceptable? Why is this even a topic of conversation?

I have basically kept my pit secret tucked carefully into tidy shirts with sleeves at work, and in certain social settings. I have insecurities about offending people with my hairy pits. I work in a salon, a feminist salon at that. But, I still wouldn’t expose my hairy pits there.

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Programmed prejudice

Who says that hairy pits on women are gross, and why? Because prior to that being said, hairy pits were just exactly what they were. Hairy pits. I have seen the damage that is done to a woman’s feelings of self-worth when held to a standard of beauty. And it is not pretty.

Programmed prejudice, babes. Judgments we unconsciously make by following the pack mentality without the awareness of our own personal choice in the matter. Like that time in middle school where everyone picked on that one girl and no one knew why but they kept doing it because they thought they had to because everyone else did it. Our culture is littered with these sorts of prejudices and we get to choose to support them or not.

Our beauty dogma as women in American culture is dictated by programmed prejudice. We leave choices regarding our bodies up to someone else’s ideas of what is right and wrong. We shirk our own social responsibility as women by not making choices in line with our own values, following the belief that our beauty is unattainable without paying the price of judging ourselves, our worth, and our beauty through someone else’s lens. And then on top of that, we literally pay the price by buying our own beauty and supporting these standards. Because business is business, and business must grow, regardless of hair in my armpits, you know?

Programmed prejudice is all around us. Try and notice it when you can. And when you do, just remember that you get to choose to agree or not. We live in a consumer culture that is hugely driven by the big industry. We all know this by now. Millions of dollars are made every day by striking fear of our inadequacies and insecurities about how we measure up to others’ standards.

pitsperation 5

We were all born beautiful

At a young age, our views of beauty began to be shaped by what we see and hear around us. As children, our views of ourselves can become distorted so easily by witnessing others judge each other and themselves and us. The lady on the shampoo bottle told me I needed curly hair so I became obsessed with getting a perm because my hair was flat and ugly. I can recall my grandmother lovingly telling me at a young age that if I kept doing ballet, I would end up with fat legs, resulting in a long obsession with my gross fat legs. My other grandmother, bless her, was bulimic for nearly 70 of her 80 years on earth. She fought a war with her own body and lost.

We all have struggled with not feeling beautiful enough. But we are beautiful enough, as-is. And we can choose to believe that or not. And we can teach others that they are beautiful by finding the beauty inside.

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Thinking twice

I’m convinced that body hair is re-emerging within modern-day feminism. It is happening all around you. We are in the throes of a small but powerful shift in the big beauty industry, a 60-billion dollar machine that chugs along, spilling money and empty promises and poor self-esteem and double standards.

The point is, women are questioning their choices as consumers and changing their habits to make way for something better for the next generation. And we need to. This is our responsibility as women. We are talking back to that big powerful machine.

Having hairy pits is direct-action feminism. According to my mother, it’s good old-fashioned ’60s feminism, and to me it feels like 2014 feminism, too. I urge you to practice good old fashioned/ultra-modern feminism with me by making conscious positive choices about your own body, that feel right to you. Whether that means shaving your pits because you like to, or letting them grow because you don’t like shaving. Figure out whose voice is dictating your choice. Is your own self-loving, self-accepting, earth-loving, woman-loving voice involved in the decision?

By having hairy pits, I am exercising my right to make my own choices about my own body. I am modeling that for my daughter. And I just simply feel like three times a woman with silky hair in my pits.

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I invite you all to join me in a quest for a life of conscious living, true, beautiful, and inspired by sharing your pit shots, hairy, stubbly, or shaved, on your social media and hashtagging them #pitcrew. Let’s get this shit growing.

Comments on How my armpits inspired me to make conscious choices

  1. This is a great article and hopefully many people take time reevaluate their lives from time to time. Break-ups can be great catalysts for change, and even though they are painful, a break up can teach us so much about ourselves, arm pit hair and all.
    Ultimately I hope all people can learn to love themselves as they are and as they choose to be.

  2. I have gone through long periods of not shaving – armpits and legs both. I probably would have stuck with not shaving if I hadn’t started swimming on a regular basis as I am not comfortable wearing swimwear without shaving. So…. now I find myself shaving about once every couple weeks. To some degree I am still torn on this. Hair removal makes my life easier in a lot of ways, no weird looks, no questions about hair or how my boyfriend feels about my decision, but as someone who deeply identifies as a feminist and rejects other “musts” such as makeup, heels, hair, etc, I still question my hair removal choices.

    • I didn’t shave for a while, but I got sick of dealing with the self-consciousness, even when people didn’t say anything. So now I use an electric clipper. It gets hair short enough that it just looks like you forgot to shave this morning, which doesn’t bother most people, and it doesn’t cut you or give you razor burn.

  3. I am really debating this issue with myself lately. I want to stop shaving but my significant other is bery opposed to letting it grow. I would love to try Instagram thing too, but when look up your hashtag it comes up with all race cf stuff

  4. I love this! I don’t shave my legs very often, like maybe once or twice a year. People often ask me if it’s a feminist statement. The answer is yes and no. I don’t shave, because it’s a bother that I just don’t feel like participating in. And to me, that is a very powerful statement. It’s okay to say No to social standards, simply because you don’t like them.

  5. Here’s my the ing. Just because I shave it doesn’t mean I’m a slave to the patriarchy. I shave because I prefer it. And I resent the implication that I like it because society told me so. I like it because I like it. Isn’t feminism about self determination, not adhering to a proscribed aesthetic, hairy or not?

    • She says at the end to shave if it feels good to you or to go hairy if it feels good to you-whatever you want. I too love having smooth pits and legs. I think her point was to do whatever feels good to YOU. That’s exactly what being empowered is about. <3

    • But the problem is that when you really look at it it’s virtually impossible to freely choose to shave given how loaded towards it society is.

      There are virtually no unshaven women in the media and this is actually pretty much the same in everyday life. Most us have never seen a woman with full unshaven hair, most of us have never even seen ourselves that way we have been eradicating the evidence so long. Choosing between shaving and not shaving is totally different to choosing between, say, two types of chocolate, unless one of those types of chocolate is outlawed.

      The timing of this post is amazing….A long time deeply conflicted shaver I went swimming today having forgotten to shave. So I accidentally made Roxie’s big gesture but what was amazing was that no one noticed and precisely nothing happend. The thing we fear about this, the thing that controls, is in our heads…..

      • I actually just evaluated this for myself, and I came to this conclusion:

        Whatever human society you belong to in any time or part of the world is going to have a standard of beauty. As social creatures, we share an idea of beauty with our community and are brought up to believe that certain things are beautiful and sexual. If it wasn’t smooth armpits/legs, it would be something else. I personally like the way that I look without much body hair (yes, likely because I was raised that way) and it doesn’t inconvenience me much, so I’m going to keep shaving.

    • Agreed. I don’t think you should stop shaving because you think it makes you less of a feminist. You can be the most hairless, dolled up, perfect little ‘wife’ package and still be a feminist as long as the choices are you’re own.

      Actually, I don’t like hairy pits on men either. Squicks me out. I tell my husband I would prefer if he shaved. Or if that bothered him, to cut it very short. He doesn’t always, but he does sometimes because he knows I like it. Like how I wear very fancy (re: uncomfortable) undies sometimes because he likes it.

      I guess I have a problem with body hair in general. Chest hair…no thanks. It just doesn’t feel very clean to me. I do notice a difference in body odour with my husband. If he doesn’t keep his pit hair short and trim, it starts to stink very quickly, and it is pretty bad. When it’s nice and short, there’s very little odour, and it takes longer to notice it.

      Except for arm and leg hair. On either men OR women. For some reason that doesn’t bother me.

      • My husband shaves his pits because he doesn’t like how the hair itches. I’m learning to love my body hair to an extent. I don’t like when my leg hair is long enough that I can feel the air rush through when I walk, and I prefer my pits just past stubble length. I’ve learned this mostly because I’ve just become really lazy about shaving but I’m lucky enough to live in a very liberal hippie town to make this transition and self discovery easy without outside pressure

          • I’m trying to learn to like the feeling, since shaving is such a big pain in the butt! We’ll see. Maybe I’ll be an occasional shaver, maybe I won’t. Ever since I learned that using electric clippers makes shaving super fast and easy, I protest just a wee bit less when I “have” to now 😛

      • I feel the same way about hairy pits! Long pit hair grosses me out on anyone, male or female, but I just have ‘hair’ issues. I especially hate ‘deodorant balls’ that get caught in long hair.

        I don’t shave mine that often–I think I am going on about a month, but my hair is very slow growing. I”ll shave in about a week so it doesn’t start to smell.

        • Oh gawd the deodorant balls!! That’s the reason my husband doesn’t like stick deodorants. I told him, “You know what would solve that? NO HAIR!” ahaahahaha!

          My hair is slow growing too…ish. I shave my pits about every week or two, but my leg hair grows faster (I don’t understand!) so I shave that as often as possible. I feel the same as someone down below said, I don’t like that feeling of unshaven legs in leggings/stockings/blowing in the wind.

      • Funny. I actually find visible armpit hair on men quite sexy. My husband almost always wears sleeves but on the rare occasion he wears a sleeveless shirt or sits around shirtless, I find myself staring at his armpits. I’ve never told him though… I suspect he’d feel weird about it and stop wearing sleeveless shirts entirely…

        For that matter, I find it pretty sexy on women too… yet I usually shave my own… hmm…

  6. It hurts when your armpit hair gets pulled by your jogging bra. I like jogging. I like jogging comfortably. :{ I dislike shaving. No good choice. It also itches when you put leggings over unshaved legs. And I like leggings. I am too lazy for jeans most days. Again, this saddens me.

    • I do not have itching when I wear leggings or tights over unshaved legs. Maybe it’s just a certain phase in the growing-out that itches you? If it got a little longer, it might not itch any more because it wouldn’t get shoved towards the follicle as much, or wouldn’t be as stiff.
      Not that I’m saying you have to or should try, but if you otherwise want to stop shaving your legs it might be worth it to try to tough it out until it maybe gets better.

      • Absolutely, grown out hair and stubble are too completely different things! The hair on our heads (or rather the skin) would be this itchy if we shaved that as much legs, pits etc.

        I have previously let all my body hair grow, when I realised that I had no idea what I actually looked like. Amazingly it doesn’t actually look as bad grown as it does when stubble. I started shaving again in order to swim regularly but this has inspired me to do it again!

    • I have no problems with the hair in my armpits pulling or leg hair iching when I run. Perhaps just let it grow a little longer? I hadn’t shaved for 8 years when I started running.

      Like some others, I felt a little uncomfortable about my leg hair being visible – now I am very comfortable with it. However, I am inconsistant with how I feel about armpit hair – I really don’t mind it on a personal level, but part of the reason that I don’t wear sleeveless tops in public is because too self-conscious about it. Daft, isn’t it!

      • Dude. I’ll wear shorts without shaving my legs no problem. As long as I’m also wearing boots (or some other ankle covering device).

        What gets me is where the leg fur stops and turns into ankle-land. Can’t do it. If I’m going to be wearing flats or sandals I feel compelled to shave.

        Cultural standards can manifest in such weird ways…

  7. Thank you! I am so glad to see this, I made sure to share on Facebook. As a hairy-pitted lady living in an area where I can count on 1 hand the number of hairy-pitted ladies I’ve seen, this makes me feel so happy, and beautiful! Armpit hair is so sensual, in my opinion. My husband loves it too, which is nice 😉 although his 6 year old daughter told me I MUST shave my armpits for our wedding and when I said I wouldn’t she looked rather horrified yet delighted at the same time… I used to shave EVERYTHING off and now I like the look of my hair. I still shave my legs because I find it more comfortable and I like the way my legs look without hair but the hairy arm pits are here to stay!

  8. “I urge you to practice good old-fashioned/ultra-modern feminism with me by making conscious positive choices about your own body, that feel right to you. Whether that means shaving your pits because you like to, or letting them grow because you don’t like shaving. Figure out whose voice is dictating your choice. Is your own self-loving, self-accepting, earth-loving, woman-loving voice involved in the decision?”

    Best. Ever.

    A few weeks ago I came up with some sketches for a photo series I wanted to do. (I make kind of classically odd pretty photos and sell them for a living) I knew right away that I would use my own body for the images and that I would want natural beautiful armpits for them. Since I was going that way anyway I decided to take a break from shaving my legs too – I figured it wouldn’t hurt. I have never seen them with much hair before, so I was more or less curious. Would it go curly? Would it be grey like my head hair and eyebrows?

    It’s been a few weeks of growth and I am *really* enjoying not shaving. I have extremely sensitive skin, and I can’t even tell you how many times I have actually made my body sick from shaving – enough so that I required antibiotics to fix it. Never once did the idea of just not shaving as a solution cross my mind.

    But, for the sake of my art, here I am and I am not sure if I will go back or not. It seems so silly now. My husband still loves me/finds me still attractive, my dog still cuddles me and my friends still respect me. The only people that have treated me different are people that were *already* treating me different. So who gives a shit about them anyway?

    Legs, sure I’ll probably go back to shaving. I’m kind of annoyed with them right now but I am sticking it out to see if I get more comfortable. However my pits have never BEEN more comfortable. I can raise my arms up with out irritating razor burn, if anything it has made me more active and free with my movements. A freedom I am really enjoying.

    Big thumbs up to this article. Obviously it’s relevant to my life right now, but I enjoyed the direct honesty and the focus on “whatever you choose is right” attitude. Kudos!

  9. thanks for sharing this. I have been on and off with shaving my armpits for the last three or four years, and I hate knowing that the only reason I do shave them sometimes is because of the discomfort I feel with exposing my hairy pits in public and at work. I hope with time I can finally just not care about making other people uncomfortable with my body hair, but at this time I’m not there yet.

  10. I shave my armpits for sure, and feel uncomfortable if I don’t. But, I only shave my legs on very rare occasions. My skin gets really dry if I shave them and I itch to the point of hurting myself! Much more comfortable for me to just be a little hairy 🙂

  11. Just dropping out of lurker-mode to say, if the reason anyone is hesitating to stop shaving because they fear the reactions of other people then fear not! I stopped shaving near the beginning of summer and have been wearing vests and sundresses regularly- only my closest friends have even noticed and none of them have been anything less than interested and supportive.
    Now it seems crazy that I waited this long.

    • Y’know, I think we’re all really just afraid of the assholes in our middle school who would’ve been right there to make our lives hell for seven hours a day, five days a week. They still exist and they’re still out there, but with a few exceptions, we don’t have to be around them. We can walk away now. They can make fun of us and while we can’t always shake off their words, we can never see that asshole ever again.
      Hurray for building a network of people who offer love, support and encouragement!

      • Haha, I love this. It definitely rings true for me! I only shaved my legs until senior year of high school, and I only shaved under my arms until freshman year of college. Once those jerks were out of the picture, it seemed a silly thing to do, anymore, since I always really hated shaving.

        However! I work with kids, so I tend to cover up when I’m working with 11+ year olds. The younger ones just point out my armpits or ask questions, and I answer them confidently and sort of nonchalantly, hoping it’ll sink into their brains as a totally normal thing. When I work with middle-schoolers, though, I get really self-conscience around them, so I normally just wear clothes that cover my hair so I don’t have to deal with the added stress of their judgements, hah.

  12. Hi–was just directed here by a friend and I want to say a true THANK YOU for this amazing and inspiring article! I had my first true experience with conscious choice through body hair, as well. As a young woman I decided to start making those choices, though that was ended when I began looking for jobs and was admonished for having body hair and not wearing a bra. I’ve adapted to moving about the work place with semi-free body hair but have now begun encountering conscious choice in larger life decisions (career, relationship, etc.) and am really struggling with dropping my natural people-pleasing nature.

    Again, this article really inspired me and made me feel freer in my own mind. You cannot know how much that means to me, but rest assured it has truly strengthened my will to be free! Thanks again! <3

  13. And this is why I never got rid of my pubic hair, despite the increasing trend even here in Europe and people telling me its unhygienic. It felt weird looking like a girl and if a Guy wanted that, I wouldn’t want him. Intuition and choices is what life is all about.

  14. I’ve gone full circle on this issue at least twice now. From age 12, when I started shaving because of jerks on the school bus, to various early 20’s break ups where I put down the razor in a huff, to age 24, when I married a partner who controlled ALL of my choices. I was not allowed to shave, wear deodorant, or really do much grooming outside of brushing my teeth, among other forms of restriction and abuse. First thing I did when I left that partner? Bought a Costco pack of Venus razors and Dove deodorant.

    Now I’m 29, and as a trans person of the non binary persuasion, many of my choices carry an extra layer – will doing this thing or not doing this thing get me labeled as “Not Really Trans”? Too feminine looking today? You’re not really trans, you’re just a lipstick lesbian. Too masculine today? Why don’t you just get hormones and surgery and be a trans man?

    Anyway, I really love this article and I love the invitation to investigate and question our choices. Now if we could just get the rest of the world to leave us alone once we’ve made those choices.

    • I wish I could “This!” your comment more than once because you deserve the support and respect to be who you are. One of my dear friends also identifies as nonbinary, and they get really down sometimes as a result of the whole “Not trans enough!” stuff.

  15. Thank you for writing this. Your voice is beautiful.

    I haven’t shaved in years and I still internalize societal shame. It has lessened over the years, but I feel particularly uncomfortable in very gender-policed spaces, like formal occasions.

    For me, not shaving is a statement. I have a lot of privilege and I like to spend it on symbolic non-conformity. If I can help another woman or a young girl feel more comfortable with her own hair, that’s awesome. If I can challenge one person to rethink their ideas about gender presentation, that’s awesome.

    I do feel more physically comfortable with all my hairs in place – for me it reduces irritation and bristle. I love hair but I hate bristle!!

  16. fellow seattle-ite here: you expressed (much more eloquently) how i feel/ what i struggle with on a daily basis. i stopped shaving my legs at 19, and my armpits about 5 years ago. my legs have never bothered me, mostly because the leg hair i have is spare and oddly pale.

    i quit shaving my underarms during a lazy spell and noticed i actually smell LESS than when i used to shave. and i was able to switch over to homemade and all-natural deodorant! the crazy feminist hippie in me is so pleased with this—AND YET– i feel super uncomfortable with other people seeing it.

    some of my coworkers know and think it’s awesomely progressive of me and want to know why i’m weird about it, and i’ve never had a really good answer for them. but you nailed it: the combo of our consumer-driven culture and being raised in an environment that doesn’t praise UNIQUE BODIES!

  17. I haven’t shaved pits or legs in my life. I grew up with a resolutely hairy mother (interestingly both my sisters do shave) who taught us that it was absolutely our choice whether to shave or not. For me it is not about any kind of feminist statement, I simply don’t see the point. My husband has never known me any other way and I think he would be genuinely horrified if I did suddenly decide to shave them.

  18. I think this piece makes a lot of good points about making ALL choices conscious ones. So I really appreciate it for giving women confidence to do whatever they choose, whether it’s shavings vs not shaving, or just having the confidence to love their body for what it is.

  19. I really enjoyed reading this. I’m much more comfortable with hairy pits physically, as I have really weird sensitive armpits and shaving is always miserable. I do struggle with other people’s bullshit and judgy comments about it though, both friends and strangers. Nothing like having someone you aren’t in a physical relationship with and whose opinion you didn’t ask for telling you how disgusting they find your hairy armpits. I usually just don’t wear tank tops and sleeveless tops, though reading this has inspired me to try just saying screw it and rocking my hairy armpits however I want.

    FYI, for those wondering how shaving under the arms started, it was popularized in the 20s. By Gillette. To sell women razors. They picked up on the fact that women’s dresses were becoming sleeveless, their safety razor sales to men weren’t as exciting as they were hoping, so they took out ads in women’s magazines about how unsightly hairy underarms were on women and how all the hottest babes were shaving. Leg shaving was even later a phenomenon, it didn’t really start till the 40s. Of course, other cultures in other places have practiced hair removal for different reasons, but the popular idea that women should shave off body hair started in the US mostly as a marketing ploy.

  20. The best part of this for me is the author’s acknowledgement that shaving really is a personal choice. There are those who would insist that a woman who chooses to shave is all but acting against females.

    When I was young, and too punk to live, I refused to shave. Except my head of course. The fact is, that was giving in to expectations as well. In all honesty, I despise body hair. On myself, on men, I just don’t like it. I gave in to it all the same.

    I shave now and when I don’t for a few days I’m not terribly happy. I like the way smooth skin feels. If that ever changes, I’ll retire the razor.

  21. Different strokes for different folks. I have no problem with women not shaving their armpits. I personally think that shaved is more aesthetically pleasing, but I certainly don’t blame anyone for not wanting to take a razor to that sensitive area. In general I’m a fan of less body hair, be it on myself or others, but you won’t catch me shaving my armpits anytime soon! Bottom line, I agree with the overall point of the article, which to me is making your own choices and doing what you want with your own body. So shave or don’t shave to your hearts content!

  22. I love this article so much! So many pieces of it jumped out and spoke loudly to me. Thank you thank you thank you for this, for being who you are and showing the entire world and of course, your daughter, awesomeness! 😀

  23. I shaved my armpits the other day because I was starting to feel self-conscious about it.
    I immediately felt ashamed of myself for letting my weird insecure thoughts about the younger girls at work make me feel unpretty in my skin. “This is not ok, self,” I said, “I broke free because it felt sexy to be ME. Who cares what such and such looks like under her clothes? I look fucking awesome, pit hair and vulva mohawk and all. Bam.”
    So I’m growing it back out.

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