The Pits

The other day while wasting spending time on Buzzfeed, one of my favourite websites I saw that they’d posted a video where a bunch of dudes shaved their armpits for the first time. It’s only a few minutes long and I don’t mind waiting for a few minutes while you check it out here.

Back? It’s kinda interesting, isn’t it? What I took from it was that all these guys found it to be a pain and a hassle to do it. One of them comments that he couldn’t imagine doing this every few days,

It really got me thinking about female body hair and the beauty standards our society has. Personally, I’d be screwed if I’d been born female because I struggle with the much lower standards that us blokes have to deal with- tidy hair, clothes without stains on, well maintained facial hair.

Women, however, are subject to a whole mess of daft rules that are drummed home by fashion magazines and websites. It’s ridiculous, and is all based around this unrealistic, unattainable ideal of beauty.

fey

Nowhere is this whole thing more evident than with people’s attitudes towards women’s body hair. There’s that story of John Ruskin, the Victorian art critic, who on his wedding night was reportedly disgusted by the fact his wife had pubic hair, which paintings didn’t have. Whether this story is actually true or not is open for debate, but there’s probably a modern day equivalent where some dude, raised on internet porn and photoshopped adverts is horrified when a partner has revealed a bit of body hair.

I’m not going to wade into a debate on pubic hair. Today, I’m focusing more on body hair in general, especially armpit hair, which is what kick started me thinking about all of this.

Back in 1999, while promoting Notting Hill, Julia Roberts took to the red carpet and was splashed all over the papers because she’d not shaved under her arms.

julia roberts armpits

As a fourteen year old, I was a bit confused, my exposure to naked women at this stage was rather minimal and it struck me as odd. According to a lot of the papers this was a European look, so I probably just thought that on the continent women had under arm hair in the way they had different accents.

Of course, as I grew up I figured it out. Women had body hair like men, but they chose to shave it. A guy could have hair pretty much everywhere and it wasn’t a big deal, well, maybe apart from their backs. I heard some women comment that they didn’t like hairy chests, but others said they quite liked a chest rug on a bloke. It was confusing, but as I’ve never been overly hairy, not something that effected me.

Women, however, seemed to universally shave. It was expected, and it’s what they did.

I didn’t really question it much, until I was at uni. There was a slightly hippie-ish girl who’s name escapes me at present, one day at the Student Union bar she’d worn a vest top and exposed her unshaved armpits. This provoked a bit of revulsion from the people I was with, especially the girls, but I can remember thinking that it wasn’t that a big deal. Her armpit hair didn’t make her instantly repulsive, and besides, if she didn’t want to shave who were we to tell her she had to.

This is something I’ve come across repeatedly over the years. There was a BBC show called Cherry Healy’s How To Get a Life and in an episode about beauty she met a group of women who didn’t shave, and during the episode she discussed with random guys their feelings on it. A lot of them were of the “Hell, no!” school of thought and I remember just thinking they were being douches. If a woman doesn’t want to shave, she doesn’t have to. A guy can have a preference for what they like, but they can’t force their partner to stick with that.

Let’s put it this way, if MWG turned around one day and told me she wanted me to shave “down there” I’d politely tell her that it wasn’t going to happen. I’d give it a trim if she wanted it tidier, but I’m not shaving the boys. I did it once many years ago and it was a thoroughly uncomfortable, itchy experience.

You can discuss it, maybe ask, but at the end of the day the decision is the other person’s. It’s their body, so their rules.

Apparently there’s a movement out there of women who don’t want to shave their armpit hair, and are proud of their armpit hair or “pit kittens”, as one girl I know called them, because it shows they’re making their own choice and because that underarm hair is natural.

pit hair

Image source.

That’s the key thing to remember, women’s bodies are meant to have hair. Now, a woman can choose to shave or trim her hair anyway she wants, but it boggles the mind the level of disgust people have for something that’s perfectly natural.

What’s even more distressing is that a large amount of this revulsion comes from females. The strongest negative reactions towards female body hair has come from women I’ve talked to about it. While writing this I discussed it with MWG and one of her housemates, and both of them felt that body hair on a woman was unattractive.

It just strikes me as odd, and a little sad, that our society and it’s weird beauty standards has got to such a stage that women are actually disgusted with a part of themselves that is totally natural.

I’m not saying everyone should find body hair attractive, and that if you find it unattractive it’s a problem. It’s not, we all have different tastes and that’s fine. What is a problem is how you act on finding it unattractive, basically, if you don’t like something shut up. There’s probably something or someone you find attractive that leaves others cold, you wouldn’t like it if someone was ragging on it, would you?

So, if you don’t like it, just keep it to yourself.

The fact is that at the end of the day, it’s not really about others finding it attractive. It’s about what the individual wants and is comfortable with, and if they don’t want to pick up a razor, they don’t have to. And if they find themselves more attractive with a bit of armpit hair then good for them, because who wants to take that away from someone?

Feeling ugly and uncomfortable within your own skin is a terrible way to be, and you’d have to be extremely callous to want to make someone feel that way. Everyone should be allowed to feel beautiful and comfortable in their own skin, and to make their own choices about what they do with their body.

shaving

I’ve heard and seen these think pieces which talk about body hair and feminism, and for me the two things are only connected on one level- it’s a choice that every woman is free to make for herself. If you chose to shave, great, if you chose not to, great. I don’t like it when sometimes it’s portrayed as being anti-feminist for a girl to shave or wear makeup, or do other things.

Surely the whole point of feminism is that women get the right to make their own choices, and the job of other feminists is to accept and respect those choices, even when it’s not the one you would have made yourself.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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3 Comments on “The Pits”

  1. Beauty standards are one of the most interesting, complex, and misunderstood practices in Hunan history. We typically assume that beauty standards are by men, for men. The irony being that there is a man attracted to just about everything out there, where as women are the ones with a very clear sense of who is attractive and who isn’t.

    The truth is that beauty standards have usually been determined and inforced on women…by women. As you pointed out, the ones most disgusted by the unshaven woman were other women. The entire effect was driven to make it harder for most women to get the most desirable men, so that those women which could set and meet those standards could get the most successful man. A woman who didn’t match those tends could be “shamed” which lowered her status in society, making it harder for her to get a “good mate”. A woman who bucked the standard was a threat to all female power and agency in society because subscribed the standards of behavior women used to dictate male actions towards them. Hence why most women are very virulent about other women who don’t keep to the standard, where as most men have a much more relaxed position on such matters.

  2. […] hair is something I discussed recently in a post, and while I think I got my points across well enough it’s always going to be flawed having a […]


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