It Makes Me Bristle

Armpit hair is not really a feminist growth issue. But it can prove to be a hairy question, particularly in the way it represents gender issues.

As a simplistic old school feminist, before “the surf” came in upon feminism from multiple directions, I used to find the answer to the removal of armpit hair quite straightforward. No.

I very recently found it more confronting. My 10 year old grandson laughingly derided his father as having no hair on his head but, very oddly, having hair in the genital area. I told him that adults universally had genital and underarm hair. He was palpably astounded and initially extremely disbelieving!  

The increasing demand for genital hair waxing I do not intend to address here. I find it just too mind boggling. But I have always been logically convinced of the stupidity of depilatory techniques for armpit hair removal in women. It is an annoying and unnecessarily onerous task and one not expected to be done by, apparently less shaving savvy, males.

Googling the topic for the first time was an eye opener with the talk of “unwanted hair growth plaguing women for centuries”. I can understand the desire for removal of some unwanted feature which makes one stand out from one’s group.  But we women all grow hair. We are pretty well all the same! Of course hair removal is now big business and the on line advertising was astounding.

I remember the last time I shaved my own armpits. It was many years ago when I was extremely pregnant with my second child. I had to attend a formal event with some of my husband’s partners and clients and this required the wearing of a long ball gown. As a young, temporarily non-working wife with not a great deal of spare money and hopeful I would never need such an item again, I decided to hire the requisite gown. I was quite pleased with what was available. I chose a delightful burnt orange creation with an all concealing full skirt and, out of deference to the parties with whom I would be mixing, swallowed my feminist principles for the sake of my husband and gave myself an underarm shave.

Impressed with my extensive efforts I paraded in my glad rags for my husband just prior to the event. Not one for choosing tact over the opportunity to make an amusing quip, he laughingly related my appearance to a celluloid “cupie doll” such as very young children had as toys. These were weighted and semicircular in their lower halves so that they never fell completely over but bounced back up when said small children attempted to push them over.

Since that day, almost 45 years ago, I have always selected formal dresses with off the shoulder sleeves. (Not much can ever be done about the semicircular effects of pregnancy.)

But I find the underarm hair issue is constantly presented to me. I now go to aqua aerobics. It is a great way to mildly exercise whilst enjoyably wallowing in a heated pool with pleasant company. But, apart from the few men who participate, I am the only aqua aerobics person who apparently still grows underarm hair. No one has ever said anything but it is clear they notice. Some of the other attendees are as old as I am or older. Some are a little infirm. Some would, perhaps, have trouble cutting their own toenails. Why are these women apparently wasting minutes of their valuable time left on this earth removing underarm hair?

Is it to distinguish ourselves from males and so emphasise our femininity? Do we think people will mistake us for men if we have underarm hair? (I, for one, think I have sufficient other distinguishing features.) It is certainly not a hygiene issue, particularly in this day and age with hot water on tap and other products on every second supermarket shelf.

No, I think it is an effort made by modern feminists to conceal the fact that there is an area in which we are never going to be the equal of men. When I look around the swimming pool I see that even in my wildest dreams and after almost 50 years of trying,  I cannot produce underarm hair growth comparable to that of any  of the men in the pool. And theirs is also accompanied by chest and often back hair.  So now I get it. Women who are desperate to be regarded as equal to any man in all ways have to conceal this minor inability of ours by turning it into a virtue.

But, women of the world, we should not worry. Let’s just accept our inadequacy in body hair production and let it grow freely because my grandson was partly right. Looking around the pool of hairy men I note that we still beat them all on the head hair front.


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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