That is the question that I’ve been struggling with lately. I attended an all-girls catholic high school. When the weather in Ohio changed from cool to frigid and I traded knee high socks for opaque tights I stopped shaving. Even as a cheerleader for one of the all-boys high schools I didn’t bother to shave my legs. To me, it seemed like a waste of time. Even when cheering, it was only one day a week and why go through the hassle and yoga-like poses to shave for an hour and a half long game?
As I grew older I adopted this “no shaving in winter philosophy” to the dismay of many ex boyfriends. I’d argue that I had to deal with their hairy legs and for the cold months they could deal with mine. I hated the double standard of hairy legs on a man-okay vs. hairy legs on a girl-bad. It has to be said that the hair on my body is very fine. You’d never think it by looking at the huge mound of hair on my head but if I go the entire winter without shaving and pull out my shorts for the first spring day you’d not notice the hair unless you were about 2 inches away from my legs.
The latest eczema attack on my body this winter caused me to make several changes to my day-to-day life. I stopped eating gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar for over a month to try to get the excessive and painful itching to stop. I noticed that whenever I shaved my arm pits that I’d get a patch of irritation there so opted to stop shaving my arm pits as well. A hairy arm pit girl, herself, M didn’t mind the almost non-existent arm pit hair that I started sporting just as summer came to a close last year.
For my 30th Birthday, however, the fact that my arm pits were hairy came to a surprise to all of my party-goers, well at least the straight ones. I was pointed at with hands across mouth in disgust.
“Shave your fucking pits, Erika!” One girl shrieked after my fist pumping to a slammin’ song exposed my secret.
“Why?” I shot back.
“It’s gross, that’s why, ” she retorted.
“Don’t look at ’em,” was my reply. “It’s my fucking birthday, goddamnit!”
The heckling didn’t stop there, though. I posted my 30th birthday bash pictures to my facebook page and my “Oh man, you’re gay?!” cousin was the first to post a comment about the hairy pits in question. After, I posted a disclaimer that read, “If hairy armpits offend you, please do not read view these pictures”
Are hairy armpits so offensive? And if so why? We’ll start with the first question-I suppose the easy answer is yes, hairy armpits are offensive to some people. Clearly. I even shaved my armpits and tortured myself in Costa Rica as to not offend my fellow travelers but why are they so?
I find hairy armpits to be some what erotic. I can remember climbing on the shelf in my father’s closet to find his stash of dirty mags and seeing women with soft wisps of hair under their arms. I hadn’t got hair there yet and there was something naughty, almost, about it. I found the Joy of Sex in my mom’s hiding spot and would spend hours not reading about the joys of sex but looking at the illustrations of women with hair in places I didn’t have hair.
I’m a big fan of vintage porn from the 70’s I like to full bush, the hairy pits. Is it a fetish? Could be, I suppose. This post isn’t to explore a hair fetish but rather to question why in a span of 30 years have we taken something natural, like hairy pits or hairy bush to this bald world?
When I first saw a bald crotch in porn I was struck by the nakedness of the woman. I’ll admit that I found that, too erotic and even shaved my own muff to the naked skin. The more I think about the lack of hair the more I get disturbed by it. If you take away something, like hair; a sign of maturity and adulthood for a shaved look are we making a pre-pubescent look more attractive sexually? Those ramifications are beyond disturbing and again, I’m not going into that topic.
So why shave? It has to be said that the notion of shaving is truly a new American idea. And I’ll go as far as to say a white American idea. My mom fought me hard when I asked for my first razor and I ended up spending my own money to buy it so that I could talk about shaving along with the other girls in my 6th grade class. I have pictures of my grandma holding my sister and you can see hair peeking out from under her arms. Most of my older relatives do not shave and while in Costa Rica I noticed that the people there did not either.
Hippies of the 60s didn’t shave, and I don’t imagine that women’s liberation fighters did either but somehow now it seems that most women do. Does it make us feel more clean? Virginal, perhaps? Or have we just bought, literally, into the culture created by companies like Shiek, Bic, and Gillette who remind us that in order to be a Goddess we must remove all of our hair.
The thing I love about queer culture is the acceptance of hair, of feminine beauty as natural as it is. That’s not to say that I don’t know plenty of queer girls who happily shave their legs and arms religiously because I do. It comes down to personal choice, really. It’s refreshing that us queer folks respect and understand that choice.