Earlier today I realized that I’d been seriously entertaining the notion of shaving my armpits. This is pretty significant for me. It’s rare that I even have the impulse, and I haven’t gone through with it since my senior year of college. With that one exception, I haven’t shaved them since I was 16 or so.
Naturally, my first step was to tweet.
One of my friends, bless her heart, responded thusly:
Well, isn’t the bottom line of feminism doing whatever the hell you want? Shave em, baby. Trust me, it’ll grow back if you dislike.
Could it really be that simple? Is shaving, which I know is linked with standards of fashion and propriety, just another choice? All too often I see women recoiling in horror from the spectre of the feminist as hairy lesbian and I want to say you’re not doing me any favors! There’s actually nothing wrong with being a hairy lesbian, either!
And let’s not forget–my hairy feminist self got me into college.
My senior year of high school, when thousands of kids across the country were writing college essays about the World Trade Center (and, if Gilmore Girls is to be believed, Hillary Clinton), I wrote about the moment I realized I didn’t have to shave my legs.
Laugh all you want, but I’m betting that essay made me stand out a little. And really it’s a metaphor for choice in a broader sense, which is, of course, at the heart of feminism. Embracing my own beauty standards has always made me feel awesome. I like knowing that what I wear and how I present my body are about what I think is beautiful, or strong, or fun–not what I think will snag me a man. (Of course, I do occasionally think about attracting other queers, usually lesbians, but that’s sort of another story.)
So what’s behind the sudden urge to be shorn?
It’s hot. Boston is rapidly approaching what will soon feel like an endless stream of sticky days and nights. In between job interviews I’m going to be trying to stay as cool as possible. And sometimes I might even feel like wearing something without sleeves.
That time when I shaved back in high school? I did that because one of my “dressy” outfits included a tank top, and I wanted to wear it to a semi-formal dinner involving my mother. And my mother doesn’t think seeing anyone’s hairy armpits at dinner is awesome. (At the time I remember actually being a little disappointed that I didn’t get a cookie or anything for Being The Good Daughter, but I was also a cranky teenager, so what can you do.)
And, dog help me, suddenly I agree with her.
It’s not that I suddenly think anyone’s pit hair is gross–I’m still quite fond of mine, and it’s entirely possible I’ll miss it so much I’ll grow it right back again. And I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone else what they could or couldn’t wear to the dinner table. (I do reserve the right to tell everyone about it via Twitter, though.)
But I want to be able to wear what I want in public and feel comfortable. For now that means shaving my armpits. It also means having hairy legs, and sometimes leaving my tattoo showing, and sometimes showing up to an interview looking like I walked out of an Eddie Bauer catalog, and sometimes wearing board shorts with a bikini top, and sometimes taking my baseball cap off when I’m indoors.
So here’s to us and our feminist bodies, whatever they may look like.