What does shaving my armpits, or not, say about me?

words by: Laura Robbins

I’ve got my notebook open, a fresh page ready to go, and my new year’s resolutions on my mind. And so, do I grow out my armpit hair?

This might sound like a trivial question, but there are a lot of societal messages tied up into if I have hair on my armpits or not. As a cis-identifying woman, I experience daily expectations and pressures to be a certain way, and that way is groomed from head to toe. Having cleanly shaven armpits tells the world I care about how others see me. It says I’m put together woman, ready for a day at the office or a classy drink with girlfriends. Unshaved pits mean I am rebellious. I am a wild one with strong political views. 

But does it?

Or does having shaved armpits just mean I like the feeling, and unshaven I appreciate the look? Why is it that my armpit hair, or lack thereof, has such a strong impact on those around me who might, oh my, witness the state of my underarms?

I can’t answer those questions, but I can tell you that yes, I do find myself making assumptions about one’s character if their armpits are unshaven. I think a lot of that has to do with the current buzz certain female celebrities are creating over their choice to keep their armpits au-naturel. 

Emily Ratajkowski was famously photographed for Harper’s Bazaar in a black lace bra with her arms stretched behind her head, showing off her unshaven armpits. She wrote an essay for the magazine, about “the importance of women’s right to choose (how she dresses, what she posts, if she decides to shave or not) no matter what influences have shaped the way she presents herself.”  She wants women to skip shaving if that’s what makes them feel sexy. I think that’s the key thing here. In her eyes, it’s not about making some sort of statement, it’s about feeling comfortable in your body in whatever way you choose. She’s not here to please others, but to feel powerful in her own skin. 

Gigi Hadid, Paris Jackson, and Madonna's daughter Lourdes Leon are just a few other celebrities who have recently caused an uproar over unshaven armpits. That’s right, people are still shocked to learn that, gasp, women have hair. 

So what should I do? 

I think the important thing is to think about why we’re doing whatever we’re doing, and not just blindly execute what’s been set out as an expectation of us. Think about what makes you feel beautiful, and not what others tell you is beautiful. The topic about growing out armpit hair or keeping it clean shaven is just a small portion about being mindful and intentional with how we live our lives, expressing yourself in ways you desire for you and you only. 

Happy New Years, and may 2020 bring you confidence in your own skin. Hairy or not. 

image by: Billie on Unsplash