Young Women Growing Their Armpit Hair? Love Your Pittens!
Possibly the most important thing about feminism and hair is that it’s your choice. In the nicest possible way, we don’t care. So… trim it. Shave it. Dye it. Do whatever you want, because it’s yours. We’ll sail baby-smooth seas and traverse hirsute jungles together, and our final destination? The fabled city of It’s Your Hair – So The World Don’t Need To Care.
“Someone’s sexual attraction to me has little to do with the greatness I have and will achieve as an intellectual. I’m more concerned with what I can do for the world than who thinks I’m sexy. And calling me Amanda Palmer is a huge compliment!”
“I first shaved my armpits a couple of days after my thirteenth birthday. I’d woken up in the morning, stretched in front of the mirror and there they were – three or four thin, wispy dark hairs under each arm. I was horrified! There was no question about it, they’d have to go, and NOW. Even so, as I got older I never saw body hair as a feminist issue, but rather an aesthetic choice, and I never questioned why having no hair was preferable. Women who didn’t shave their armpits were butch women or women who belonged to a bygone feminist era of bra-burning. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with these women, but as a femme, modern, feminist woman I’d chosen this aesthetic, and I liked it… right? At some point, I realised that I had never actually seen my armpit hair, bar those few little wisps in the mirror. I’d not made a choice at all, because I didn’t even know what the other option was. So I decided to take the plunge and stop shaving all together, certain that once I’d seen the unsightly tangle take shape, I’d instantly clamour to go back to the obviously preferable sleekness.
But I didn’t. In fact, over time, I found it more and more difficult to remember why I’d been so desperate to get rid of the hair in the first place. I sweated less, smelled less and my armpits felt cushiony and comfortable. Even more importantly, I found myself quite proud of them. Armpit hair should not be an active choice, but a passive one that requires no input. Instead in our society the pressure to shave is so intense that choosing not to shave is a way of reclaiming my body and making a choice to opt out of society deciding what I do. I do still shave sometimes for important occasions (my husband jokes I have “hatches, matches, and dispatches pits”), but it’s when I choose, not when society decides for me, and that makes me feel very free.”
“Around three and a half years ago I had what I refer to as my ‘feminist coming out’ – that is to say, many of my thoughts and attitudes culminated in me reaching a place where I felt comfortable and proud to self-identify as a feminist. My attitudes towards the outer world and myself were radically changing. Not to sound dramatic, but I guess you could call it a grand re-arranging of the furniture of my very being. My soul was reshuffling. Rather beautifully, much of the fear one experiences with such massive change fell away layer by layer. On my journey to reaching this place, I was in a visceral place of self-awareness.
I began to question what previously seemed to be benign routines. My applying makeup each and every day, my meticulous styling of my (then) very long voluminous hair, my painstaking removal of every hair on my body. Scratching away the surface of these seemingly harmless practices lead me down a path of experimentation. I decided I was going to break the cycle of each of these routines I had gotten into over my teenage years.
Putting down the razor was, to my surprise, the easiest habit to break. It took a couple of months for a sizeable growth of hair to appear on my legs and under my arms because I’m naturally not the most hairy of people. In my experimentation I came to figure that I actually preferred to have hair under my arms. One of the most significant things I experienced was that I wasn’t nearly as aware of my perspiration. I also found myself needing to bathe less. This came as somewhat of a shock, as young girls and women are conditioned to equate “excess body hair” with odour. My experiment was going awesomely. I was having fun letting my body be. Generally I found myself feeling more comfortable having a bit of fuzz there – physically as well as psychologically.
These days my pit kittens are still roaming free. I shaved them a few months back as an experiment (I’m a biomedical scientist, I love any sort of experiment however large or small don’cha know) and I regretted it immediately. My kittens are a formal “f**k you” to patriarchal beauty standards. I display them with utter pride and dignity. They’re a symbol of my willingness to overcome, even in some small way, the constraints that my society places on me as a person.
We live in a society where our ideas of “beauty” and “normality” are dictated by a series of hierarchical structures. We are inundated with harmful messages from an early age and thus none of us escape its conditioning. But we can unlearn harmful ideas we’ve cultivated within ourselves. Every human being has marvellous capacity for growth and learning. I encourage all of you, regardless of your gender, to question everything, to question the routines you’ve become accustomed to that seem innocuous – you may just find that they’re not so innocuous after all.”
Many young feminists are increasingly growing their armpit hair. This potential movement (can we call it a movement? It’s pretty big, after all) represents something of a sea-change. It’ll be interesting to see if it becomes as normalised as the recent yet apparently lasting trend for men to grow their beards – a high-impact change in grooming which has resulted in shaving products no longer dominating the men’s beauty market for, like, the first time ever.
It’s not like armpit hair is a new thing. Culturally, it’s been more widely accepted in adorably stylish France for ages. Actresses like Beatrice Dalle have recognised that their pittens are perfectly normal, and have never shied away from displaying them in publicity shots. It’s just a shame when startled fans make online comments like “I thought Beatrice Dalle was so beautiful until I realised she had hairy pits…”
NO. BEATRICE DALLE IS BEAUTIFUL. THAT IS ALL.
Some people might think your pittens are a bit unhygienic, but that’s more a case of personal and/or social perception than anything. Very few people look at a man’s armpit hair and think “wow, unhygienic. They look really nice, that man-person, apart from those underam tufts. They should do something about that. I wonder if I should say something.”
AND IT’S GREAT THAT NO-ONE THINKS OR SAYS THAT. Saying – and thinking – nothing on the matter, regardless of the gender of someone who’s chosen to go tufty, is an ideal response.
So now we kind of need to translate that to public perception of women’s pit kittens. Aw. Pit kittens. If you don’t consider it unhygienic on a man, there is no reason to consider it unhygienic on a woman. It’s just some hair. And it’s rather pretty and endearing, if you’re of a mind to see it that way.
It’s utterly your choice. The more women make it, the more society will be able to perform that seismic shift and accept it like the “aint no thing” it really is.
It’s thrilling to see so many women choosing to share pics of their underarm hair on Tumblr and in Evening Standard articles and everywhere else. It’s great to see it taken up by models like Arvida Byström. Increased visibility normalises it, makes it less scary to anyone who might initially find it a bit scary.
It’s OK. The same as shaving your pits is OK.
Hair. On your body. It’s all just… OK.