I have a lot of it. Like most humans I'm covered in the stuff. Mine happens to be dark, prominent and grows pretty much everywhere. Last August saw the Armpits4August campaign make it's debut and it inspired me and many others to hang up the razor.
It also gave me a chance for reflection. I have been shaving my entire body since I was 11 years old. I was still in Primary School. I was still a child. I remember being in year 5 and Tajinder from the year above calling me a gorilla after seeing my hairy legs. I also remember being the only girl in The Brownies with her own pubic hair.. and later proudly showing it to everyone on a residential.
I remember shaving my legs for the first time in secret in my room with a dry razor and making my legs unbearably itchy for the following week.
As I got older I learnt how to shave my legs without leaving my ankles bleeding and how to most efficiently reach behind my thigh. I progressed through the years to hair removal cream, waxing and even once spent £50 an medieval torture device called an Eplilator. The Epilator has three removal settings to choose from, depending on your masochistic tendencies. It requires a spare two hours, numerous packs of frozen peas and no matter how much pink packaging you wrap it up in it still looks like this:
You can also spend more money on Laser Hair Removal, Intense Pulse Light Therapy or Electrolysis. All of which can cost between £50-£500. Is it any wonder women seem to have come to a halt in the pursuit of equality when we are spending all our time and money having our hair stripped, ripped and torn from our bodies?
So last August I decided enough was enough. I said goodbye to my hair removal paraphernalia and embraced an 'au natural' approach to my body hair. It was a lot scarier than I realised. As an avid vest wearer I was most conscious about my armpit hair. People notice it. I can see the moment when they clock it. Some people are very cool and ask me when I stopped shaving. One of my friends has even been inspired to take action herself and is giving up the razor on her pits for a few weeks. Other people realise I know they are looking and make excuses or just dont mention it. But we should be talking about it. We should all be talking about it!
I have got used to my hair. I have wobbles. If I'm going to see a potential love interest my instinct is to remove all traces of hair and transform my body into a playground of smoothness. But that instinct reminds me of all the reasons I stopped shaving in the first place. The pressure to live up to an unrealistic image of what a woman should look like is just wrong. Any man who judges me for my body hair is quite clearly not the man for me.
I do not judge any woman who feels the need to remove their hair. I understand the fear that comes with letting it grow free. I try not to hold it against men or women who have an issue with it. They are just not used to seeing women appearing like this. I think I'm lucky to have been raised in a family where my mum always has hair growing from her legs, armpits, upper lip and everywhere else and my dad still loves her unconditionally. There was no feminist agenda on my mums part. She just couldn't be bothered. And it never made her any less beautiful.
Armpits4August is an amazing starting point for anyone thinking about letting their hair run rampant. Start with your armpits. See how you feel. The challenge is only for a month and is also raising money for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It will be scary, but stick to your guns and one day the question of shaving will be the same as choosing what top to wear or what shade of eyeshadow you want. If anyone slags you off put some Ultra Nate on, remember how awesome you are and tell them to jog on.
The wonderful Emer O'Toole wrote this amazing piece for the even more glorious Vagenda on female body hair and her 18 month hair experiment.