My Weird Relationship with Shaving

Originally published 28/01/2015

Coming out again: I haven’t regularly shaved my armpits or vagina in almost 10 months.

The boycott started in response to this ad gag:

I got a really bad feeling in my stomach from this ad. And I wasn’t the only one. Thousands of comments flooded veet’s social media networks complaining that these ads were body-shaming and insulting. I was glad to not be alone. I couldn’t imagine how I’d feel if these commercials were written off as “wacky, tongue-in-cheek humor” as Veet said in an apology after the backlash.

Again, it goes back to feminism is the fight for gender equality. I believe gender equality begins by becoming aware of the gender binary, its narrative in society, and the behavioral confines it establishes for people of conventional and non-conventional identities. I believe that my greatest responsibility as a feminist is to challenge these structures and de-sexualize behaviors and attitudes that limit and/or judge people outside of status-quo. It’s why I always try to get the little girls and boys I teach to use other colors than just blue, green, pink, and purple during arts and crafts time. (I must say, it’s amazing the way a 4 year old has already internalized this outlook of pink=girl, blue=boy). It’s why I’m open to men wearing make up. And it’s also why I’ve stopped shaving.

After Veet infamously highlighted the severity of this social expectation, I began researching hair removal for aesthetic purposes and came across some interesting, and disturbing, revelations.

1) The idea to remove hair for beauty did not begin with men suddenly desiring a completely hairless woman and it did not begin with a paradigm shift among women to put hot wax all over them and then rip it off in strips, taking hair right from the roots with it. No, the idea to remove female body hair began with an ad campaign in 1915 for Gillette. The razor company. That’s right. Like engagement rings, Valentine’s Day, and make up, companies have once again been able to convince us women that in order to be the most beautiful and loved, we need to have A, B, and C (A Bare Coochie).

2) Beyond its shoddy origins, regularly removing body hair also isn’t good for human skin for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, shaving and waxing cause microscopic cuts in the skin that irritate it, causing bumps (staph boils) or ingrown hairs later. (We all know those). Perhaps more importantly, let’s focus exclusively on the mons pubis (the top of your vagina where the hair grows) and think about how microscopic cuts make it easier to pass STDs….. uhh what?! Ew! Well, correlation does not always mean causation, however, there have been studies which have associated the two.

3) The worst thing I came across was this question:

What people have no hair on their vaginas?

Take a breath and think about it. Yeah, you’re right: ONLY little girls.

There’s something inherently disturbing about a post-pubescent woman trying to emulate a young girl’s vagina in order to be “attractive” for her man. Like really… what?? I talked to my grandma about this once, and she told me she was shocked to learn that girls these days shave their pubes. She told me back in the day (60s/70s) no girls shaved like that! And while there is plenty of evidence to show that removing pubic hair is a result of porn’s influence in society, let’s think about the basic porn narrative: Some beautiful girl has the shit fucked out of her hairless, labia majora liposuctioned/labia minora clipped vagina (appearing almost like a little girl’s) by some ridiculous guy and his artificially giant dick. Add more or less details, but porn creates a lot of misconceptions about true sex and genital beauty that’s I’m not sure I want to aesthetically mirror for my bedroom experiences.

So yeah. There’s a lot more that goes into this than just shave or no-shave decision you have to make each time you shower.

Can’t really blame the companies. We live in a capitalistic society. It’s not personal, it’s profits. But when they’re sending us messages in order to produce anxiety in us that we need to buy stuff in order to ease,  and we turn around and internalize that and absorb these beliefs into our culture and allow porn to intensify these insecurities, I’ve got a problem. 1915 is long enough that we’re having a bit of cultural amnesia, but let’s snap out of it.  It’s the social limitations we’ve constructed in our minds toward and against each other that make something as absolutely meaningless as body hair suddenly a subject of insecurity. Shave or don’t shave, but it doesn’t make you any more or less attractive. And as much as they talk, I can guarantee you, 99.999% of guys won’t turn you down because of your natural hair.

BUT……

I have to admit, sometimes I do feel self conscious with hairy armpits. At the end of the day, we’re social creatures and when the society rejects you, it can hurt pretty damn bad.

As J Whitehead explains,

If feminism is about choice, then women who make the decision to embrace the Brazilian, in isolation, should be respected (although as we don’t live in a vacuum, such a choice is no mean feat). Those who succumb to peer or partner pressure, body issues or unrealistic images of femininity, should also be respected, at the same time as being treated with compassion and empathy. The politics of disgust are hugely complex and it’s not easy to stand tall and furry while people crinkle their noses in disgust at you.

It’s not easy at all. Sometimes I’d conform and feel like shit after shaving. Then I’d swear to never do it again, then a few months later, I’d feel pressured and shave and the whole cycle would start over again. So I’ve had to really confront myself with this issue and I’m still figuring out where I stand.

But for all of the reasons above, I’ll never put a razor down there again. It doesn’t mean I don’t groom at all, I just do it based on my own comfort level, not on some ideal society has handed me to swallow without remark. I shave my armpits ONLY when I want to. A few weeks ago, I went to the club hairy arm-pitted in a tank top and danced shamelessly. I got to dance with my girlfriends and let them see a girl completely confident in her own skin. Two weeks later, I shaved, and now I’m letting these bad boys grow back out. I think I might even dye them. Because come on, dyed armpits are fucking cool.

So no more of this:

And a lot more of this:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2853351/Bizarre-new-beauty-trend-sees-women-coloring-ARMPIT-hair-sharing-results-Instagram.html 

(And no, Daily Mail, it’s not bizarre, it’s beautiful!)

So why do or don’t you shave? Has boycotting shaving ever crossed your mind?

(P.S. This article did not discuss legs because I haven’t touched those since the 8th grade)

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