What happened when I stopped shaving my armpits for 4 years

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Dating a feminist will do odd things to you. You’ll find yourself noting misogyny everywhere (literally EVERYWHERE), giving Germaine Greer the time of day (a phase which soon passed), and revising previously unthinking decisions regarding your own body hair.

I don’t like the hair on my legs and think it’s looks ugly. So, I’ll shave it- that’s cool right? Um, nope. No it isn’t, because after about three seconds of hipster feminist internet reading, I become aware that I have been deluded all these years into thinking I was choosing this for myself. Argh! I am actually a victim of a patriarchal society which has conditioned me into thinking that as a woman I need to look a certain way to be attractive. Shit! This is not good. I inspect my hairy legs in the bath and wonder whether to stop shaving them. Summer is approaching and they will soon be emerging into the world, deathly pale thus highlighting neatly the thick dark hair I have been graced with on my limbs, despite having light brown hair on my head. Go figure.

Then I read about something called Armpits4August. It is gimmicky but I LOVE gimmicky — the female underarm equivalent of Movember, Armspits4August encourages women to not shave their armpits for a month and also raise awareness of a charity that I have forgotten because I am a shallow, horrible person and also because it was almost 4 years ago. I figure hey, if I’m not prepared to back down on the whole legs thing — I just LIKE my legs shaved, dammit, even if this makes me a shitty feminist — then the armpits can take one for the team. Metaphorically.

So I stop, just like that.

At first it is prickly and uncomfortable, but quickly I marvel at the way the hair becomes softer and eventually loses the blunt-ended look as new hair grows in. I examine my armpits with pride, I sniff them, I see them from every angle in changing room mirrors. They are beautiful! They are luxurious! I love them! I am so proud of my new feminist armpits. My girlfriend coos over how nice and neat my armpit hair is compared to hers and I blush with pride, both of us completely missing the irony in this.

Here are some things about having long armpit hair that I wasn’t expecting;

It pulls. Like oww somebody has grabbed onto my pits and is shaking me around by them when I wear certain clothing, pinching and tweaking at my delicate underarm area. I think I got used to this and it didn’t happen all that often but it did surprise me. Wearing backpacks and vests is especially annoying.

Politicised vests. Ah yes — vests. When you don’t shave your pits and are a woman, going out in a vest starts to feel a little bit like shouting I’M A FEMINIST loudly in peoples faces every time you reach for a tin of beans in a supermarket.
And that’s the thing; I had stopped shaving my pits, but society was still going on in its sweet meandering way, taking it’s own blinking time getting to a point where people’s body hair choices no longer mattered. I was trying to be a trailblazer, and everyone else was lagging behind. I was never just reaching for something on a high shelf in a supermarket; I was making a political statement. Sometimes that was cool, especially when I wanted to impress my hippy friends. And there were times when it was less cool and just annoying. Times when I wanted to appear sleek and well-groomed and yet there were my armpits, shouting like that embarrassing drunken relative at a wedding, letting the side down.

I shaved my underarms a few weeks ago during the heatwave which gripped England and forced normal people out of their workplaces shirtless with Cornettos pressed against their faces, their eyes bulging with horror at how meltingly hot everything was. We English don’t cope well with the heat. Or the cold.

I shaved them because I was tired of being smellier than usual and I just suddenly had enough. I don’t really know why I snapped in the end. My armpit hair had seen me out of the end of my relationship with my girlfriend, through a year of singledom before getting back together with said girlfriend for a year before finally calling it a day for good. They had been with me through rough and smooth (okay, pun sort of intended) and I felt slightly guilty as I scraped away all that hair one morning in the shower. The result was A-BLOODY-MAZING. Pits that have no stubble rash from previous shaving and yet are smooth and gently fragrant and hairless and magical? Yes please.

I do feel like I am slightly letting feminism down by shaving off my almost 4 years worth of armpit hair — after all, why couldn’t I have just waited a few months and made it a round 4 years? That would have been neater. But people and armpits and feminism are not neat and tidy, they are just sort of messy and themselves. My dalliance with pit hair made me more confident in my body; I am now at ease with what it looks like normally without constant mowing, fretting and manicuring. I like it more, and I feel as though it likes me back.

So this winter as the nights draw in I’ll probably kick back and let the armpit hair get a little wild. I guess I can always use the extra warmth.
In the meantime, I’ll be taking the opportunity to wear a lot of vests. And backpacks.


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