My Armpits, My Choice: An Open Letter
Posted by Hanna Foster
September 22, 2015
Dear everyone that I’ve caught staring at the patches of hair under my arms,
You aren’t mistaken; there is DEFINITELY hair there. You can stop staring now. The incessant looking me over after seeing the patches of brown growing beneath my armpits, making sure that I am in fact a female, is both unnecessary and rude. And before you get all defensive saying that I’m “only doing it for attention” and am therefore asking for your gaze, please recognize that the world doesn’t in fact revolve around you and this is a choice I’ve made for myself.
I’m sorry to be so hostile, one just grows tired of the looks of disgust (that our male counterparts rarely receive for their body hair) and rude comments about hygiene and femininity. (Which by the way, armpit hair doesn’t suddenly mean that I don’t bathe or wash myself. And as a matter of fact, I feel cuter and more feminine than ever now that my pits are free to do their thing.)
But I know that it isn’t entirely your fault. You have been raised in a society which consistently works towards policing our bodies; the female body in particular. You have been taught since birth that women are to be “soft” and “smooth” and that female body hair is something of disgust. We treat female body hair as if it is something unnatural, but it is far more natural than the plucking, waxing, and shaving that we do to ourselves in order to maintain this image.
Did you know that armpit hair on women wasn’t considered taboo until the rise of capitalism, when businesses realized that they could make money off of women’s insecurities. There isn’t an exact date that women began shaving, but according to an article by Kathleen Lee-Joe of Dailylife, shaving was so uncommon in the 1920’s that a woman made the news for accidentally cutting herself while shaving. Yet by 1964, 98% of women below the age of 44 did shave. Marketing and advertising were the reason for this change.
I’m not saying that I don’t shave my armpits as a way to give the middle finger to capitalism, at least not entirely. I am a feminist, but this hasn’t been about the movement for me, it has been about my preferences. But if I get to make these decisions for myself, while also somehow challenging beauty standards and helping progress our movement onward, then I’m more than happy to be doing so. However, I have actually come to the decision of growing out my armpit hair while on the journey to self love.
I have struggled for a long time with body acceptance. I’ve always felt insecure, whether it be caused by my weight, acne, or body hair, and I have finally come to a place where I’m learning to love myself. My armpit hair has actually helped me do that. I generally feel more attractive and comfortable with my armpit hair grown. Plus, I don’t have to deal with the constant itching of hair growing back beneath my arms in an already sensitive place.
It is important for me to mention that I’ve been growing my armpit hair out on and off for the past year. And at first, I still felt insecure about it (the looks other people gave me certainly didn’t help). But as time went on, I grew more comfortable in my own skin. I had/have the support of my best friends, family, and boyfriend. I don’t feel that I need their approval, but their support of this decision has definitely helped me feel more comfortable and accepted.
I choose to grow out my armpit hair as a way to express my bodily autonomy. In a time, particularly in Texas, when women are constantly being told what they can and cannot do with their bodies, I have this one thing that I can actually control. I can make this decision and no one else can force me to do otherwise. I feel empowered.
I am not opposed to shaving, I still shave my legs and I shave my armpits every once in a while. The difference is that I’m doing it for me. I shave when I want based on how I feel, not on how others may feel about my body hair. The bottom line is that it is my choice.
It is our choices that give us strength. Our choices to rock that cute crop-top even if we have a little belly, to dye our hair that crazy color we’ve always wanted to try, to get that ridiculous piercing we have wanted for ages but were never allowed to have, to shave or not to shave. This is MY choice and I just ask you to please respect it.