Here is a simple question to start today’s blog.
How many of you have seen a woman with underarm hair in movies or any other media platform?
The first time I saw a woman with underarm hair, was in the movie ‘ The Dictator’. Although in the movie they explicitly said that she was someone who supports the idea, and that is the only reason she had visible underarm hair.
The bizarre thing is, it is natural for a woman to have underarm hair, but not a lot of movies support this idea. No matter what the situation is, the woman in the movie will have a perfectly waxed body. Even a woman stuck on an island for months, even nomads of ancient times, even a woman running for life in a dystopian world.
This begs for another question — So does this mean women are expected to be perfectly shaved even in an impossible situation?
For many people, it may seem trivial to question this. But dare I say all this comes from- guess!
Yes, I am not blaming everything on patriarchy- except that is exactly what I am doing. But it is not my fault that men found ways to erase the existence of something as natural as underarm hair.
Before you start yapping with myths that support shaving underarm hair, let me bust them.
No, underarm hair doesn’t specifically make anyone smelly. It doesn’t have special microbes or bacteria. All microbes and bacteria that underarm hair consists of, are the same as our regular skin. Does that mean we should all just flay ourselves?
With that said, I am wondering why doesn’t it make men smelly? Wait it does make them smelly- but men are supposed to be smelly, unlike women. At least this ensures a girl won’t be located by a police dog after she escapes the scene of the crime! Right? No!
But shaving underarm hair seems to be the solution for everything. A woman needs to be as hairless as she can be. Somehow a social stigma has developed over the years around the hairy female body, which to repeat is natural. Underarm shaving spread to Europe after the second world war, though it was prevalent in the US and Canada before that, from the beginning of the 20th century.
Let’s go further into the past! To make a woman fall in line with expectations, as always a woman’s culture and class are used. In ancient Greece women with underarm hair were seen as barbaric, uncultured, and low class. There it is! Whenever you do something that doesn’t meet the stupid patriarchal society’s standards, they call you out by saying-
‘that is not how a woman should be’
‘ that is how low-class woman will be’,
‘ that makes you less of a woman’,
‘that makes you a problem’.
With the growth of media, it was obvious that this social stigma is going to be followed. But taking it to the next level of absurdity has done serious damage in the minds of many women out there. The dislike woman feel towards their own body is not normal!
Here are some examples of absurdity seen in media, when it comes to women’s underarm hair:
· As said earlier, the depiction of women in extreme scenarios with clean shaved underarms in movies.
· Advertisements for razors and other hair removal products showing completely hairless skin to depict hair removal- now that is some level of absurdity.
· If a female celebrity is seen with underarm hair, it is made into big news or at the least mentioned specifically, instead of normalizing it.
· Tons of videos on social media platforms with thumbnails showing that underarm hair is disgusting when it is not.
Given my assumption that you have come across at least one of the above, let’s discuss further why this absurdity exists in the first place.
What is the goal of hiding the existence of women’s body hair? Why is it gross for women to have body hair?
Nobody can give a logical answer to that question.
The simplest answer could be that’s just how it has always been or that’s feminine.
But who defines what is feminine or what is not feminine? Because if 1000 years old hacks for hair removal exist, I am pretty sure that it was not easy to be hairless back then just like now. Even now most hair removal comes with added pain. So why would women go through the difficult procedure time again and make themselves suffer from pain? Nobody can really answer this question, without addressing patriarchy and men’s desire for women with unnatural beauty standards.
Also, there is another angle to address men’s attraction toward the hairless body of women. Female children are pretty much hairless prepubescent.
Although this article isn’t about that, the following YouTube video discusses Infantilization and body hair:
So now that we have established patriarchy and society playing a role in the non-existence of women’s underarm hair, let’s talk about women’s experience with hair removal.
Are women happy to be hairless?
The response is mixed. No two women are the same.
Some women want to leave their underarm hair alone and not bother.
Some want a bald underarm. But even those who want hair removed are categorized as those who don’t mind the procedure and those who hate the procedure.
Those who don’t mind the procedure of hair removal, just want a bald underarm and are okay with the painful procedure. Good for you! But even these women who want it are spending lots of time and money which they could use for other purposes. Don’t even get me started about pink taxes!
Then there are women who hate the procedure but still want to have a bald underarm. These are the women we should all consider with more scrutiny. They want something but they hate the means to achieve it. They end up doing it regardless of their hate. Why do women who hate undergoing a painful procedure and spend time and money still want hair-free underarm?
Have you ever thought about it?
The answer is pretty simple- the social conditioning they have gone through for years makes them desire something so much that they are ready to do things they are not comfortable with!
How cruel is that?
There are a lot of men who shave their underarms or other body hair for an aesthetic reason( swimmers or boxers) or any other reason. They do exist and they do spend time and money.
But there are a few differences:
· It is a personal choice to shave. It is not because of social conditioning!
· It is okay if they don’t shave. No one is going to find it weird or say ‘ew’
· Their hair removal products don’t have a pink-tax.
The only thing to say out loud is- women should have choices! Even in 2021 women don’t have a choice in a lot of things. It is the same in developed, developing, and underdeveloped countries. The issue may differ but the underlying truth is women don’t have a choice.
This article doesn’t dictate anyone to shave or not shave. The choice is yours and your only.
A society that doesn’t mind men with underarm hair shouldn’t mind women with underarm hair- because it is just as natural.
And if you shave your underarm because of any religious norms, that is fine as well.
Remember! Shaving or not is your choice and yours only.
The following is an interesting paper on women’s underarm hair. Check it out!
Perilous Patches and Pitstaches: Imagined Versus Lived Experiences of Women’s Body Hair Growth by Breanne Fahs
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