Wednesday, May 23, 2012

hairy girls have feelings too.

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.


  1. I also haven't been shaving my underarm hair, and it is nerve-wracking as beach season comes up, isn't it? I actually get more anxious about my leg hair though. I don't think underarm hair looks gross at all, people are just weird about it.

    I think you're spot-on that you can identify with/enjoy femininity without subscribing to all the bullshit that comes with gender roles, though. Good luck, keep posting about how the whole Challenging Gender Roles project goes!

    1. Thanks so much, Katie. I'm getting more and more nervous about the under-arm hair but I want to be brave. The leg hair is another thing. I don't think I'm there yet either!

      Hope you're having a lovely summer, doll. Thanks for commenting.


    2. It's so refreshing to hear someone else who feels the same wat as me. My family are a family who never ever made me beleive that to be beautiful you have to look like the girls in the mags. The truth is, I'm still at school and NO ONE at my school grows their hair. They are obsessed with looking like little girls but when I began growing it never occured to me to shave it off. One day someone noticed and it started going round school... now, three years in, I'm about to go on a school trip to Italy... I'm feeling nervous but reading what you have writted has made me so much more confident thank you xx

    3. Hi Anon,

      I'm so glad that you grew up in a family that never tried to box you into a specific category. I love that!

      I think it's great that you don't shave your underarms, and that you didn't cave even when people started talking about it at school. Your underarm hair doesn't define you and it doesn't reflect you as a person.

      I'm coming up against a lot of negativity from my friends about letting my underarm hair grow. I don't want to cave though. I'm trying to be brave!

      I hope you have a lovely time in Italy - let me know about your adventures when you get back! :)


  2. For everyone getting nervous: I know how it feels, as I was in the same position last year! And eventually I ended up not shaving during my entire Erasmus semester, so if you didn't think I was super gross, clearly it's manageable. I still feel a little bit self-conscious sometimes when I know I'm going to have to lift my arms all the time and I know all the other ladies will be hairless (in dance class, for example), but you do get used to the feeling, I think.
    At some point it even started feeling weird to see models with no hair (although that may have been since tumblr is full of hairy bodies, which is great).

  3. HI, I'm back. I didn't cave and I want to thank you for your support. There was gossip and name calling but luckily my friends talked me out of letting go.
    I know it doesn't define who I am, I'm a normal person with normal opinions. I like fashion, I'm shit at football and I like to look good. Everything about me says 'female' and all my mates love me for that.
    Keep it up and I hope all goes well. Please keep updating I'd love to know how it's all going :) xxx

  4. Keep it growing!

  5. I notice that there are no male comments here so I'll make one. I was going to make several but I could write an essay about this! Hairless women is a completely modern idea which both sexes have been conditioned to from an early age. Yes it seems strange to be your natural self but it shouldn't be. If you think that to be as nature intended disadvantages you, then you are choosing to be a victim. Give me a natural woman any day and why? Because she's saying "I'm me. Take it or leave it." By the simple act of doing nothing to conform to a stereotype a woman is expressing not just her natural right but the fact that she is a strong minded individual with her own sense of self worth. Smooth women, (and smooth men for that matter), are just empty vanity. I hope a male opinion helps a bit.

  6. I thought I HAD commented! Oh never mind!


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