I shaved them …
Yes, about a week ago, I shaved my armpits once more. I have to say, I felt an ironic amount of shame. I thought of my blog, I thought of the women I might be letting down. I thought of what this means – am I not in control of my body and free to do what I like after all? …
I felt sure it wasn’t just advertising that was persuading me to shave everyday. There were so many deeper reasons why I picked up the razor, and stressed about shaving, or not. When hairy I felt both ugly and marvellously hairy, and when shaved I thought I was inauthentic, weak, sexy and fresh. So, what’s with that? Are other women as confused as I am about what’s going on with their bodies’? …
And what is it that actually makes us want to shave? What do we think about ourselves when we do (or don’t)? And why can I think that I’m marvellously hairy, as well disgusting and lazy all at the same time?
I set out on a quest to find out just exactly what is going on in our minds. So here we go: hair psychology 101.
(nb. all quotes in italics are from women, either on the internet or anonymous friends of mine)
Why women say they shave…
“I feel sexier / more feminine when I’m silky-smooth!”
“I shave because it’s ‘normal.'”
“I think it looks nicer, lighter.”
“It’s less smelly.”
“Maybe I’m brainwashed by our societal norms, but I just can’t let myself have hairy man pits!”
“I’ve totally given in to feeling shame about the fact that my body grows hair. I would be mortified if people saw my legs or armpits when they’re hairy.”
“I don’t shave for other people. I shave for myself.”
“It appeared to disturb girlfriends that I didn’t always shave — almost like I was letting down the side, rather than the reverse!?”
Why women say they don’t shave:
“I feel liberated and oddly womanly having my pits unshaven. It turns out, my armpit hair is soft, cute and barely visible.”
“Not shaving was kind of the first step toward accepting my body as it was.”
“Shaving is too much of an effort.”
“A big part of my choice in it was aesthetic – my uncle’s girlfriend was French and I remember once seeing her legs which were unshaved and thinking how lovely this looked!”
“Not shaving made me feel more mature — because I rejected an illogical but powerful double standard, in favour of what made more sense to me.”
“Recently, I did a 6 week stint in a mining camp, where I forgot to bring my razor. I … decided not to shave. And you know what? I stopped smelling.”
“After thinking about it for years, I came to the crossroads of logic and “normalcy.” I had to face the fact that the only reason I was shaving was because I thought I had to, but I don’t and neither do you.”
So that was interesting. I found I liked the reasons why women chose not to shave more, because they mostly sounded a bit happier about the decision. But the jury was still out on what this meant for my pits.
The quote about there being pressure from other women to shave led me to check up what it was they might be saying on the web.
What women think about women who don’t shave:
“I hate to admit it, but I do judge a bit. I tend to think she’s lazy and assume she’s some sort of holier-than-thou hippie.”
“I used to think the hair on my arms were kind of cute, but my friends pointed them out a couple of times and I decided it was best just to get rid of it.”
“What I have always found really fascinating, is that I have only ever been with one man who found my leg hair gross, whereas I have been with or been shot down by several women for having body hair.”
“If your man wants to go down on you it will smell more if you don’t shave.”
“I had a friend who dated a girl who didn’t shave. And she’d put her arm around him all the time in sleeveless tops. And all I could think was ARMPIT HAIR ARMPIT HAIR ARMPIT HAIR.”
“Going out with hairy legs and pits means I get a lot of unwelcome attention. It’s not just stares that make me uncomfortable; it’s cringes, dirty looks, muttering, and a very pointed repulsion.”
These reactions to girls with hair seem to happen a lot. It seems that it’s worse for younger girls, especially at school, as you can imagine. Girls with darker or thicker hair find it harder to manage, and get bullied for it, or are pressurised into shaving.
Psychologist, Breanne Fahs conducted an experiment where she discovered what teenagers thought of, when they thought of hair: “I think women who don’t shave are a little gross,” said one interviewee, a 22-year-old Caucasian lesbian. “Because sometimes, like if people don’t shave their entire lives, that’s just a little to much to handle for me. I always shave. I don’t like hair.”
The second experiment was where a group of teenage girls who grew their armpit hair, kept a diary about the experience. Participants felt or were told that they were gross, disgusting, unclean, sloppy, and “ew.” And what they thought about themselves; “I constantly thought about my gross hair,” wrote one participant. “I will never ever show anyone my pit hair,” wrote another.
So is there peer pressure? Undoubtedly. But that’s not the only thing tugging on our thought processes.
(See part two for more on adverts, what science says, and what men think)