13 APR - 2023
Something most women have done due to the male gaze and capitalism is shave our armpit hair.
The whole idea that women should be hairless originally started when men went to war. Razor companies had nobody to target so they started advertising their products towards women. They targeted armpit hair first, and once that took off, they started advertising bare legs too. Ever since then, the anti-armpit hair propaganda has spiralled out of control and we’ve been tricked into thinking being hairless is synonymous with femininity.
For as long as I can remember, I've been someone who identifies very strongly with their femininity - a ‘girly girl’ if you will. I love wearing makeup and dresses - I love pink, perfume, flowers, Taylor Swift, and the list goes on. A ‘girly girl’ is a term given to a woman who wears traditionally feminine clothing. Obviously, a bit of an outdated expression that could definitely do with a rethink. Simply wearing traditionally feminine clothing doesn't make you a girly girl, clothes aren't gendered, they are just clothes, and there is so much complexity behind both the words feminine and masculine.
It is because of internalised misogyny that we are raised to find armpit and leg hair ‘gross’. Misogyny is a form of sexism that describes prejudice against women and anything that they do. Growing up in a patriarchal society means all women in the Western world have some kind of internalised misogyny, whether we know it or not. Armpit hair, when seen on a woman has connotations to being dirty, smelly, unhygienic, and ugly, but nobody seems to be worried about that when they catch a glimpse of men's hairy underarms. Talk about a double standard.
Recent statistics from MINTEL show one in four women have stopped shaving their armpits in the past few years.
I was often dressed in pink when I was a little girl, and every minute I wore the colours I revelled in it. But as I got older, the internalised misogyny somehow crept up on me. After that, all my 'girly girl' traits went out the window. No more makeup, no more blasting ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ in the car, way less dress-wearing, and strictly no pink. I realised I had been getting some funny looks in P.E class too… perhaps it was time to start shaving?
A study carried out in 2013 called ‘Perilous Patches and Pitstaches: Imagined Versus Lived Experiences of Women's Body Hair Growth’ compared women’s thoughts about body hair, to their experiences of having body hair. These women were asked to grow out their body hair over a 10 week period and report back on their experience. Mothers were disapproving, friends were judgemental, and boyfriends became angry. These women were scrutinised, shamed, and insulted by both strangers, and people that loved them. Crazy right? All of this over some hair?
As my education progressed, I learnt more about bigotry and why so many people have internalised (and sometimes not so internalised) misogyny. Once the internalised misogyny was identifiable, it became easier to catch it each time it ran through my mind. After a lot of hard work, nature began to restore itself and this girly girl was wearing pink and dousing herself in Taylor Swift’s Wonderstruck perfume once again.
I used to be a ‘shave-everything-everyday-without-fail’ type of person, and now I shave my legs maybe once every two weeks (if that) and I don't shave my armpits at all. I love wearing a super sexy, tight fitting dress and lifting my arms to reveal my armpit hair. The way people react when they see my armpits is very telling of who they are, to say the least. Some people even start to treat me differently once they know I grow armpit hair, almost as if I’m challenging them with it.
The simplicity of the saga is that our armpits wouldn’t grow hair if they weren’t supposed to. Scientifically, the reason we have armpit hair is to reduce friction when doing activities like walking or running. Plus, armpit hair is turning into a bit of a trendy fashion statement - recent statistics from MINTEL show one in four women have stopped shaving their armpits in the past few years. Let’s hope this trend isn’t going anywhere soon.
Although we encourage everyone to ditch the razor, whether you trim, shave, wax, or let it grow, what you do with your armpit hair is completely up to you.