I haven't shaved my armpits in two months. I'd like to say that I stopped worshipping at the Gillette altar as a feminist statement but really it happened out of laziness. It wasn't just the time that it took, I was tired of the razor burn, ingrown hairs, and prickly quills that poked my skin only hours after I shaved (let's be real razors were not made for the weird shape of an armpit).
But keeping my lady fringe hasn't been easy either. Just think about Julia Roberts at that infamous 1999 "Notting Hill" premiere when she waved to fans and revealed her hairy pits to a shocked world. Julia said afterwards: "You'd think it was like I had a chinchilla under there the way the world responded" (she also revealed that her man Benjamin Bratt was totally into it). But for the most part nothing seems to inspire such a guttural feeling of anger and revulsion as a bit of underarm fuzz on a lady.
This is on my mind every time I'm wearing a tank top while in my "warrior" pose at yoga or a concert (yes, even an indie rock one) throwing my hands up. Even in the grossly bohemian wonderland of Brooklyn where I live, it's pretty out of the norm to see ladies unshaved. Because you know those guys who sell artisanal pickles and have a beard that reaches their waist don't want a girl to have some stubble that will ruin her vintage dress. So when I choose to go sans shirt sleeves, it's my small form of protest to artificial gender roles. It makes no sense to me why a man can have a five o'clock shadow on his face but I can't have one on my pits.
Me and my pit hair doing the model underarm pose
The practice of underarm shaving really only gained popularity around 1914. Why? The creation of a sleeveless dress for women. Before then the fashions did not even require ladies to bare their arms. Soon it became possible for companies to create another female insecurity to profit from. Gilette introduced the first razor for women in 1915, and advertisements for hair removal products for women started popping up everywhere. As dresses in the '20s exposed more skin and the beauty ideal became fixated on youth, hairlessness came to mean sexiness and it's still that way today.
But here are some reasons why I think it's totally weird that people hate on lady underarm hair:
- It indicates fertility since it means that we've gone through puberty.
- Armpit hair helps to send out pheromones into the world, so it should attract people that you'll have chemistry with.
- Despite what people might think about underarm hair being particularly smelly or uncleanly, if anything, it pushes away odor-causing bacteria, according to the "Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology."
- Many artists like Van Gogh, Egon Schiele, Modigliani, and Pierr August Renoir have depicted (and glorified) women with underarm hair. So, if you stop shaving ladies you might become an artist's muse.
If I haven't convinced you that armpit shaving is totally bogus here are some celebs rocking out with their pit hairs out: