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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I agree, your hair your body your choice. I shave, daily, many places. I was blessed/cursed with a great hair gene. There are many places I don’t want hair because it’s dark thick texture on my pale skin is not pleasing to MY eye. I shave for myself, I feel prettier when I do.
Thank you for this! I haven’t shaved my legs in 3 years, and I only trim my under arm hair when I get dressed up. It was a big scary decision, and even as a feminist, I felt uncomfortable, self-conscious, and weird. It took me at least a year to not feel self conscious about wearing shorts. Now I’m just hairy, and I like it that way, and my husband likes it that way. I think you said it perfectly when you said, “Having hairy pits is direct-action feminism.”
Also, did we ever come up with a unique hashtag? Because I’m totally down with instagramming my hairy pits. But not with the pitcrew hashtag, because car racing + hairy pits = awkward.
In case you want to see what it would look like if you stopped shaving all together.
I love your take on this as it gives me something to fall back on when I start to doubt myself about not shaving (for me it’s legs not pits). It’s not too bad most of the time in colder weather but during swimsuit and shorts weather I find myself feeling self-conscious and at the same time angry at myself for being trained to feel that way. It’s nice to know there are others out there who struggle with the same thing.
I have light brown hair, I rarely shaved my legs because the hair was so light. Now that I am 60, my underarm hair is gone along with the hair on my legs. I wish it happened early, think of the money I could have saved. HA!
It always amazes how much of a furor a little body hair can cause. For several years now, I have shaved when I’ve felt like it, and haven’t shaved when I didn’t feel like it the vast majority of the time. I’ve gone out in public with a few days or even a few weeks of hair growth (on my legs), and even though it has sometimes made me self-conscious, as I am dark-haired, no one has ever said anything to me. I’ve never had a boyfriend object to my hairy or not-hairy state either, which I imagine is pretty lucky, as I have dated a reasonable number of guys.
Maybe people are more okay with hairy legs than armpits though. I have usually kept my armpits shaved, because when it grows out (and I’ve been camping for weeks at a time, so I know what they’re like fully grown out), it gets super itchy, the hair is wirey and stiff and it collects sweat, and results in even more itchiness. I have always wondered how guys can put up with hairy pits, because the itch and the sweat just drives me up the wall. Everyone is different though. 🙂
Thank you so much for writing this article. I’m 21 and haven’t touched my leg or pit hair for months now. Can’t be bothered. I’d prefer to leave all of my body hair intact, but I have super bushy pubes and I get tired of them not fitting in my underwear and getting caught in the elastic, so I trim ’em back from time to time. Ohh god it itches! I feel like there’s no way to win.
Lovely article, though I wonder if you are aware that all the ads on this page are for Venus razors. Shaking my head here, at the “advanced advertising” that manages to aggress its way into the wrong places.
Some time last year, I went to an anime convention with some buddies of mine. As we were gearing up to go out for the day, (which included 3 adults and 11 teenagers in a hotel suite all vying for mirror space, doing one another’s hair, makeup, cinching waists and looking like we were getting ready for war on an alien planet) one of the other adults said, “I don’t care of you are cosplaying (costume-playing) a man, you are going to shave your legs! You’re still women!”
I looked at her and said, “Under what terms is body hair what defines us? Let’s not police decisions others make, and besides, razors cost too much money for me to ritualistically shave for someone else’s expectations. That’s a load of garbage.”
Well, I expected retaliation, but instead, I got a lot of nodding and agreement before everyone went back to doing what they did as-usual. And now, the woman that said we should all shave, doesn’t shave herself! Like you said, it’s all programming! She had never once considered that it was a choice that was hers to make. I’m glad to have opened her mind and maybe saved her some load off her wallet. And I think that your excellent article will do the same. 🙂
Lovely article, though I wonder if you are aware that all the ads on this page are for Venus razors. Shaking my head here, at the “advanced advertising” that manages to aggress
its way into the wrong places.
Yep, advertising algorithms are notorious for being targeted… but not always in the ways that work. That said, this post has gotten a huge amount of hate-read/trainwreck traffic from people who are mortified by the idea of not shaving… so the ads may actually be perfectly spot-on. 😉
I applaud your choice to do what you feel is best for you. I must’ve missed the societal pressure part, though. Growing up, the women in our family shaved their armpits but not down there, well at nine I noticed hair in the shower one day, screamed, and promptly shaved it off (not because society or porn told me to, remember I was nine.) I also shaved under my arms when hair grew there. I am grossed out by pit hair in men and women, equally. Hair in both regions tends to hold an odor. I view it as a cleanliness thing. As long as it’s not my lover unshaven, I’m fine.
I have just stumbled upon this blog and I can’t agree more! As a male, I have hairy pits, if I shaved them I would be classed as less of a male! If I was a female and let them grow……..you know where I am going!
As a male I love to see ladies with hairy pits (I suppose it is the latent hippie in me) but at the end of the day, why the bloody hell not!
OK – I admit it. Ladies with hairy armpits really turn me on! Having said that, I get more turned on by dressing in feminine underwear!
Work that one out!
Comments are closed.