I mentioned the other day that I was thinking about letting my underarm hair grow. I also said it to a couple of friends to gauge their opinion on it. The general consensus was that, no, I shouldn’t let my underarm hair grow. Girls shouldn’t have underarm hair. Girls are supposed to be smooth and soft and shiny. It’s so arbitrary though and I don’t want to buy into it. In fact, since people have expressed their disdain for my new adventure in Challenging Gender Roles, I’m all the more enthusiastic about it. It bothers me so much that we are trained from an early age to believe that women look and behave a certain way and that if you don’t subscribe to that, you’re not really a woman – your femininity is in question.
The difference between sex and gender is that sex is a biological thing, and gender is more psychological – it’s who you identify as. And because no two people are the same, and everyone has different values and beliefs, to break life down into simply “men” and “women” is very restrictive. In the opening scenes of 500 Days of Summer, the narrator tells us, “There are only two kinds of people in the world: men and women.” I disagree. Holy androgyny, Batman! Some people identify as a little bit of both, or maybe neither. I have a vagina and I am a woman, but I have a lot of qualities that aren’t particularly feminine: I fart a lot, I have more arm hair than the average girl and no desire to remove it, I eat a lot, I often sit and stand with my legs apart, I talk about racy things, I shout in public and I’m not very ladylike. I identify as a woman though. I don’t think I can be boxed into behaving a certain way in order to qualify as a woman. If I don’t behave the way society expects women to behave, does that mean I’m a man?
I love my femininity. I love being curvy and I love that I have the capacity to have babies and I love the way my brain works. I love make-up and I love my biology and I love my sexuality. I can relate to other women I know and I can relate to the collective woman, but I resent being told that I need to fit certain criteria to be seen as a woman. So growing my underarm hair is an experiment in Challenging Gender Roles and an experiment in bravery. I’m scared: I’m nervous about going to the beach or wearing sleeveless tops and I’m concerned about getting dirty looks from strangers but that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s important to be scared and it’s important to challenge things that we think are inherent and things that we’re taught to accept. Accept nothing.