Dare to go Hairy?
I had to share my dilemma, so texted a friend: ‘The moment you realise you’re wearing a vest top and you have the hairiest underarms in all the world!’ Her response says a lot about both of us: ‘Lol, been there! This is all the patriarchy’s fault. The f***ing patriarchy’.
Underarms, perhaps, are the least of my worries. Apart from a 4 month stint in 2008, while living in deepest darkest Africa, I have always shaved mine. It seems I feel cleanerthat way – another social construct, I know…
And why did I only feel like I could risk the ‘unclean’ hairy armpit scenario when not in the UK?
My feminist beliefs (and my laziness, but mainly the feminist thing) raise the same old question every time I go to shave my legs in the shower. The usual compromise goes:‘I’ll get rid of the hair, if this particular body part is likely to be seen’.
Does that mean we have to pre-empt hot days or else not wear weather-appropriate clothing if we’re a tad hairy?
And the same goes for any possibility of sexual encounter: does a girl have to prepare for sex or else forgo it entirely?
I once dated a guy who made a comment about almost every hair on my body; he was outraged that I hadn’t automatically known how he likes his women and catered to his whims… He even went so far as to tell me (as if I don’t know my body well enough to have known already), that I had a visibly hairy top lip. This was just after ‘Movember’, one year. Somehow, I don’t see Armpits4August catching on quite so fast, and why are there so many spoofs about women’s versions of this now annual event? (Decembeaver? Fannuary, really?)
Why should I do this for someone else? Why do we allow the public (sexual) gaze to change the way we view our own bodies?
It’s the patriarchy’s fault; blame them. They are to blame for the double standards that require women to be hairless and promote hairiness on men. But who are “they”, really? The magazines, the hair-removal product companies? The discussions about the enforced non-reality of airbrushing upon women in magazine images somehow tend to overlook the hairiness issue.
WOMEN HAVE HAIR ON THEIR BODIES.
I’ve often wondered how it is possible that some young men don’t realise this (yes, I do think there’s a generational thing going on here). Perhaps they’ve had particularlyrestricted relationships with women in the past – very few intimate encounters of the female body, or maybe the women they have seen in real life have simply had strict and meticulous hair removal habits, sharing the apparent social hatred for hair on their own bodies.
This is a feminist issue because it is not just men applying the pressure. Women can be unbelievably cruel and judgemental of each other – every little (hairy) fault on other women’s bodies becomes a reason the proverbial ‘he’ will choose one over the other, because we’re in constant competition with one another, rather than being a network of support for our sex.
Women being hairy shouldn’t be a surprise, nor a bad thing, nor a reason to make a judgement. Being hairy could be an open choice, but right now it’s not – I feel guilty for bowing to social pressures, but I follow some of these unwritten rules because I’m not brave enough to face the looks and comments (I assume) I would get for airing my hairiness. Can’t we change this?