Originally published 28/01/2015
So, I haven’t regularly shaved my armpits or pubes in almost 10 months.
The boycott started in response to this Veet ad:
I got a really bad feeling in my stomach watching this ad. And I wasn’t the only one. Thousands of comments flooded Veet’s social media platforms complaining that this campaign was body-shaming and insulting (not to mention blatantly homophobic). I was glad not to be alone. I’d have felt much worse if everyone else had written these commercials off as “wacky, tongue-in-cheek humor” as Veet said in an apology after the backlash.
Again, media campaigns like this go hand-in-hand with the fight for gender equality. I believe gender equality begins by becoming aware of the gender binary, its narrative in society, and the behavioral confines it establishes for people of conventional and non-conventional identities. I believe that my greatest responsibility as a feminist is to challenge these structures and be a part the paradigm shift. It’s why I always try to get the children that I teach to use other colors than just blue, green, pink, and purple during arts and crafts time. (I must say, it’s amazing the way a 4-year-old has already internalized that pink is a “girl’s color” and blue is a “boy’s color”). It’s why I’m open to men wearing make up. And it’s also why I’ve decided to stop shaving.
After Veet infamously highlighted the depth and severity of hair-removal as a social expectation, I began researching hair removal for aesthetic purposes and came across some interesting, and disturbing, revelations.
1) The idea to remove hair for beauty did not begin with men suddenly desiring a completely hairless woman nor did it begin with a mass change in heart among women to suddenly rid our bodies of hair by taking razors to them, or putting hot wax all over them and then ripping it off in strips. No, the idea to remove female body hair began with (get ready for it) another ad campaign! This one in 1915 for Gillette. The razor company. That’s right. Like engagement rings, Valentine’s Day, and make up, companies have once again been able to convince us women that in order to be the most beautiful and loved, we need to have A, B, and C (A Bare Coochie).
2) Another thing I learned was regularly removing body hair also isn’t good for human skin for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, shaving and waxing cause microscopic cuts in the skin that irritate it, causing bumps (staph boils) or ingrown hairs – and we all know those. Perhaps more importantly, let’s focus exclusively on the mons pubis (also known as the top of your vagina where the hair grows, or what I lovingly call my pubes). Now that you’re thinking about it, imagine how microscopic cuts from shaving away your protective hair make it easier to get STDs….. uhh what?! Well, correlation does not always mean causation (which means keeping your vagina hair will, unfortunately, not make you immune to STDs), however, there is a lot of information out there that associates a lack of pubic hair with the a higher vulnerability to infections like HPV and herpes simplex virus.
3) All this research made me wonder: For why? Who are we trying to be with bare pussies anyway?
What people have no hair on their vaginas?
And that was the worst question of all. Take a breath and think about it. Yeah, you’re right: Little girls.
There’s something inherently disturbing about a post-pubescent woman trying to emulate a young girl’s vagina in order to be “attractive” for her man. Like really… what?? I talked to my grandma about this once, and she told me she was shocked to learn that women “these days” shave their pubes. She told me back in the day (60s/70s?) no girls (that she knew of) shaved like that! She also told me no one performed oral sex, so let’s all take a grain of salt here.
But there is plenty of evidence that society’s expectation on women to remove our body hair – especially our pubic hair – has been disturbingly influenced by porn. And while porn can be positive for people of all genders, there’s no doubt the industry as a whole has created, both historically and today, a lot of misconceptions about sex, performance, and genital beauty. Too many narratives in porn play on “girlhood” with aesthetics to match – and somewhere down the line grown ass women go to male-doctors and pay thousands to get their inner lips clipped off.
So yeah. There’s a bit of a rabbit hole when you start to look into the whole to-shave or not-shave question, which usually only comes up in the shower.
We shouldn’t feel this way. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal.
I t ‘ s h a i r .
Yet here we are – companies are out here trying to induce anxiety attacks unless we buy their products, we turn around and internalize and absorb these beliefs into our culture, media intensifies these insecurities, and I’ve got a problem.
1915 is long enough that we’re all now having a bit of cultural amnesia, so let’s remember the roots of all this (pun intended) and snap out of it. It’s the social limitations we’ve constructed in our minds toward and against each other that make something as absolutely meaningless as body hair suddenly a subject of insecurity. Shave or don’t shave, but it doesn’t make you any more or less attractive. And as much as they talk, I can guarantee you, 99.999% of guys won’t turn you down because of your natural hair.
I have to admit, sometimes I do feel self conscious with hairy armpits. At the end of the day, we’re social creatures and when the society rejects you, it can hurt pretty damn bad.
As J Whitehead explains,
If feminism is about choice, then women who make the decision to embrace the Brazilian, in isolation, should be respected (although as we don’t live in a vacuum, such a choice is no mean feat). Those who succumb to peer or partner pressure, body issues or unrealistic images of femininity, should also be respected, at the same time as being treated with compassion and empathy. The politics of disgust are hugely complex and it’s not easy to stand tall and furry while people crinkle their noses in disgust at you.
It’s not easy at all. Sometimes I conform and feel like shit after shaving. Then I swear to never do it again, then a few months later, I feel pressured and shave and the whole cycle would start over again. So I’ve had to really confront myself with this issue and I’m still figuring out how strong I stand with hairy armpits.
But for all of the reasons above, I’ll never put a razor down there again. It doesn’t mean I won’t groom at all, I’ll just do it based on my own comfort level, not on some ideal society has handed me to swallow without remark. I shave my armpits ONLY when I want to. A few weeks ago, I went to the club hairy arm-pitted in a tank top and danced shamelessly. I got to dance with my girlfriends and let them see a girl completely confident in her own skin. Two weeks later, I shaved, and now I’m letting these bad boys grow back out. I think I might even dye them. Because come on, dyed armpits are fucking cool.
What do you think about body hair? Have you ever challenged your beliefs? Has boycotting hair removal ever crossed your mind?
(P.S. This article did not discuss legs because I haven’t touched those since the 8th grade lol)
Thanks for reading!