Female Body Hair


In Western, modern day Feminism, choosing not to shave your body hair is becoming more and more popular. When a woman is known to not shave all of the visible parts of her body, she is often met with disgust, and comments about how it’s ‘not-ladylike’ or ‘not-feminine’. But why are women expected to be shaven, when men quite obviously, aren’t? This all comes down to the equality of the sexes, men are allowed to be in control of their own body hair, and what they do with it, but when a woman shows hair that is considered ‘shave-able’, she is instantly labelled with slurs referring to her femininity and hygiene. 

Pixie Lott attended a film premiere in 2012, wearing a sleeveless dress that ‘exposed’ an apparent ‘Fashion Faux Pas’ (The Daily Mail, 2012). The very same writer that described natural hair growth as a ‘faux pas’, meaning ‘stumble’ or tactless act in French, also claimed Pixie was attempting to copy Julia Roberts, who in 1999 attended The Notting Hill premiere with unshaven armpits. Within the whole article, the only hint of a nod to Pixie’s musical talents say that she is an ‘up and coming’ fashion icon within the musical circuit; but this is then destroyed by the following comment ‘she appeared to have forgotten one very important part of her grooming routine.’ That quote really says it all; women are expected to shave their armpits, whether they want to or not. If they do not, it’s deemed to be forgetful and apparently demonstrates a lack of effort put into their appearance. 
“I believe all women should shave, for several reasons. First of all, shaving is part of good hygiene. If a woman does not shave her armpits, she will bring in more odor. Same goes for other parts of the body. Also, women should shave because It's the feminine thing to do. Women are feminine, men are masculine. If women stopped shaving, who would know the difference anymore?” 

                                                                       - Debate.Org ‘Should Women Shave’, against argument 

First of all, within this argument, the person mentions good hygiene. I’m just going to nip this in the bud now, men (generally!!!!!) do not shave their armpits, and do women say that they should because they stink? No. Because the majority of men don’t smell, they use personal hygiene products, just like (most) women. They shower, just like (most) women. And they maintain a decent level of personal hygiene, just like (most) women. Secondly, where does it say that women can’t be masculine, and men can’t be feminine? I wasn’t aware of a rulebook that came with our birth-assigned sexes? And finally, frankly, the conclusive argument that this person has written is simply laughable.

Obviously, this is not an issue that can be decided through a majority vote. The decision whether to shave, or not to shave, is down to the women, and their personal opinion on it. But even if the votes cast, were to enforce women against shaving, this would still be taking the choice away from the woman – which is just the other negative extreme. This false sense of empowerment is one that is widely adopted across misogynistic culture; and can also be found when males glorify a woman’s right to say no to sexual intercourse, when in fact this is a human right. 

Male ownership over the female form is a major part of the patriarchal society that we live in, men often have the last word on what society thinks a woman’s body should look like, based on whether they are sexually attracted to it; this argument works perfectly when it is used on body hair. Since pornographic images became popular, the pubic hair of a woman has always had ‘trends’ – these trends are derived from what the (often male) sexual partner would prefer. Pubic hair ‘trends’ have fluctuated throughout the years, but currently there is an on-going theme of being clean-shaven, which is associated with a ‘younger’ girl; with a slight comeback of pubic hair within reason. 

Consequently, when women (rightly so) take it upon themselves to take advantage of their right to choose whether they shave or not, the patriarchal male is subsequently threatened, which causes quite a backlash. For instance, men and boys take to the Internet referring to women who don't shave as animals, in an effort to dehumanise them, and therefore attempt to invalidate their choices. 

“Why do some girls not shave their armpit hair like funk its disgusting”

“No reason for anyone man or woman to be proud of armpit hair. it is disgusting and a source of stench and filth shave your god damn armpit”

“I don't think it's a feminist thing to not shave your armpit hair. I think it's about cleanliness. Gimme a break. I can't.”

These are just a couple of posts I found on Twitter, by searching ‘shave armpit’ – let’s just say that it didn't take me long. The main theme is about hygiene, which I have already discussed; but another point that people tend to make is about it not being attractive. People, in general, don’t seem to realise that not everything a woman does, is done to be deemed attractive by the male of the species. For one, some women are homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual etc.; and another, some women just don’t care what you think. And who is to say that hair isn’t attractive? 

The whole argument that is composed in response to women choosing whether to shave or not, is marginally based on said women actually caring what other people think. And even if you do care what certain people think, if they valued your right to a choice, they would let you do as you please, even if they personally disagree with it. 

I realise that this post so far, may seem like I am completely against people who wish to shave, please do not be fooled by my angry (and ever so tired of people staring at my armpits) exterior. Women are not wrong for associating their sex/gender with hairlessness. Each day, I can guarantee that there is a new story in a gossip magazine about a celebrity (or not) who has ‘forgotten to shave’ before some sort of awards ceremony or premier. As with the Pixie Lott ‘incident’ the theme of the article usually disgraces the woman, refers to her ‘lack of effort’ and highlights other purely misogynistic arguments why the woman in question should cover herself. Either that or wax from head to toe. 

Within advertising, even advertising for razors/waxing strips etc., the woman is usually completely hairless (which in my opinion completely defeats the object of the product...?). Veet even released an advert in 2014, featuring a couple waking up next to each other, when  the man went to stroke the woman's legs and felt stubble, the screen flicked and the woman in bed (the one with the stubbly legs) was replaced by a man. I really don't have to explain what's so wrong with that advert. Within the same series of adverts, Veet featured a woman running for the bus, when she lifts her arm to reveal a hairy armpit (the armpit she apparently 'shaved yesterday'). These adverts just poke fun at a woman's choice to shave or not, devaluing their opinions and personal choices. 

The whole point of this post is to highlight that women have a choice whether to shave or not, and not feel pressured either way. Up until very recently, I shaved every part of my body, consistently. I was grossed out by hair, and then I set myself the challenge to let my armpit hair grow… it was amazing how good it felt to be able to choose. Because I don't shave my armpits, people accuse me of ‘shouting about it’ when I wear a vest top, or if I ever mention it – this (I can only assume) is because they are not personally comfortable with a woman not shaving. The fact that I cannot mention female body hair without being told to be quiet, or to stop making a fuss, proves a much larger point that I am trying to make. Women are expected to shave, and men are not, and this needs to change. 

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