Guest post by Nadia Ramoul
Due to my mix of genetics I’ve always been a relatively fluffy gal, and since my classmates helpfully drew attention to my fuzzy legs at the tender age of ten I’ve waged an ugly war on my fluffiness, desperately attempting to remove every scrap of hair that I sprout, lest a small, sneering boy will appear from the ether, point and announce, “you hairy.”
Unfortunately for me my fur is virile and strong, within days it returns, bigger and badder than ever like barbed wire through the razor burned wasteland my legs so often become. Ever since my dear mother passed me a battered Ladyshave as a child my war against hairiness had been unwavering. If there is even the remotest chance of my legs being seen I, like countless others, dutifully hop into the shower and with steely determination get rid of every last offending tuft – God forbid anyone see them in their natural woolly state. And my armpits? Jeez. I scrape at the poor bastards until they are smooth as a baby’s bum.
As a teenager I like many would envy my blonde haired friends who could boldly venture out in shorts and vests in the summer, their light hair nigh-on invisible in the sunshine while I sweated it out in jeans and a vague feeling of rage. To be a more hirsute girl was (and arguably still is) something deemed to be shameful and disgusting, an easy button to push for bullies and elders alike.
I’ve always questioned my personal disgust at female body hair, in that when I really think about it, I don’t find it disgusting in the slightest. What’s disgusting about hair? Children aren’t born with preconceived notions of what is acceptable or unacceptable, they learn through their surroundings – and the resignation on my mother’s face as she handed me aforementioned Ladyshave said it all. She knew that to not be teased mercilessly if I dared wear anything that revealed the offending fluff, it should be removed. She’s since said she wished she hadn’t, and not assisted in perpetuating the idea of female body hair as unpleasant.
Armpits for August is a month long growth of armpit fluff to raise awareness of PCOS and the double standard between male and female body hair, a Movember for the ladies, if you will. Alas, however, unlike the good humoured glee that Movember elicits, the thought of women who – gasp – aren’t shaving their armpits has been met with sneering disdain. While the game lads participating in Movember get to high five each other and celebrate their body’s great achievement of doing exactly what it does naturally, Armpits 4 August has been met with much derision in comparison. Despite the fact that it too is for an excellent charitable cause, the idea of women not slavishly shaving their underarms is, for many, repellent.
I thought I’d give it a go, as years of denying my true fuzzy self meant that I didn’t know just how long and thick I could grow my pit fluff and was fascinated to see if I could actually do it for the full month. Fluffy legs in winter, sure, who’s going to see them but my (thankfully nonplussed) boyfriend? But full on armpit hair in August? Woah there. Luckily for me I don’t associate with the kind of people who are shallow enough to think less of a person due to their body hair – and if I do I shall soon find out. It’s so far been an easy enough ride, at day 13 I’ve sprouted quite the respectable pit garden. It feels pretty good watching it grow and thus far have had no negativity whatsoever. I am, however, very aware that I exist in a little liberal bubble of lovely friends, and the outside world is not as kind.
For example I have noticed the looks I have occasionally gotten this past week when on public transport and clinging on to the bars for dear life, pits to the wind. Those glimpses of intrigue and slight disgust have not been lost on me, brief although they are. Noone has said anything to me yet however, and if looks are all I’m going to get it honestly isn’t too bad.
However from what is going about online, I’ve found the venom directed at what is essentially an innocuous and non-offensive act pretty revolting. For example check out these rational responses to an Independent Voices article on that bastion of reasoned dialogue, Twitter;
The idea that you lose a part of your feminity by not removing bodily hair is obviously bullshit but the vehemence with which it is believed is sad and downright frightening. Girls are made to feel like they are dirty, slovenly and worth less than women who bother to remove their body hair, and it’s not on. My clean, fragrant pit fur is about as offensive and unnatural as a comedy moustache. Although Armpits 4 August hasn’t had even a fraction of the uptake of Movember it’s still a worthy start, and I truly hope it continues to take off.
For more on Armpits for August go to http://armpits4august.org/