While I was waiting for confirmation that that’s really armpit hair, for sure, no foolin’, in the image above, I felt a strange chilly excitement around my heart. It was cold like sherbet is cold; probably a feeling similar to Marty’s, as George cuts back in to dance with Lorraine, and the McFly strummin’ hand stops fading, solidly back in existence. A potential-good, wondrous feeling. A sort of pins & needles of reality.
…I really do owe a lot to Terry Pratchett, don’t I?
Speaking of Pratchett (he taught me tangents, too), here’s a footnote from Soul Music:
Remarkable for acknowledging, in a world of shame filled shushes, that armpit hair can happen (in fact does, as a matter of course) to a lady. Unremarkable in its towing of a line one hundred years long: embarrassing. Keep that shit under wraps, or better, get rid of it entirely.
Bee’s pit hair was confirmed, and I told Kelly Sue I loved her. It was a big curved bodacious reflex, it flung itself out of my fingers, in caps lock, with truthful, sunny, joyful gratitude that she redirected towards David Lopez, as was correct, as he drew it. This just doesn’t happen much. This just doesn’t happen ever! Body hair, on a woman, in pop fiction.
In Nineteen Ninety Nine, when I was twelve and not, as yet, a person with armpit hair, Julia Roberts wore hers long to a premiere. The Independent published a “debate” about whether or not this was disgusting. You can still find it online. Got to hear both sides, eh?
In 2010, Mo’Nique wore her leg hair long to the Golden Globes. The feminist website Jezebel published an article titled Mo’Nique’s Got A Secret Under That Dress and a year later HollywoodLife published Bravo, Mo’Nique! You Shaved Your Legs For The Oscars. These articles are also searchable. They’re still out there. Getting read.
There are a number of self-sustaining conversations invoked at mention of the name “Amanda Palmer.” Yes, I aim to get in the way of none of them. I’m honour bound to say yes, I know, you are right. And she also wears her armpit hair long in public.
I’m grateful. I’m grateful to her at least for that.
Every one of us is different — except super heroines who are all smooth as silk — but I hated depilation. Every rake of the razor felt apologetic, every swipe of the waxing strip bent me into begging for something I felt required to pretend to want. But I am not sorry to be a human mammal. I am not sorry for my innate state of growth.
I didn’t enjoy the way that compulsive depilation made me look at my body, or my worth, or my place in society.
Basically, it was a bloody hassle, and I just couldn’t be arsed.
Stopping shaving, letting my body be, shouldn’t feel like a big political effort but it did and it does. Because I’m afraid to act like it’s normal. I’ve been punched for being out of place before. Exactly where is a hairy woman “in place?” A documentary about hippies living communally in SanFran in 1968? Imaginary France? Not in a small town in Midland England. I could fight people who tried to attack me, but I don’t want to do that in my home town. I don’t want to be that mad bitch. I like the clothes I wear and don’t want them spoiled. I bide my time, I pick my moments, I have a wonderful wonderful time at the beach. Nobody fucks with anybody at the beach. Don’t tell me otherwise. I don’t want to know.
And it must be said: I’m pretty on-message, for “a woman.” Thin enough, no religious visibility, white, cis, mostly femme, pretty face. I am speaking from a position of remarkable luckiness. And I am unhappy. Unreflected.
There’s… Patti Smith on the cover of Easter. A line in a Desperately Seeking Susan commentary track (how Madonna was a 19 year old Italian Catholic with unshaven pits when she started her cult of personality). In 2014, Lady Madge Instagrams a picture with short chestnut pit puffs and the Telegraph (these are respected broadsheet newspapers) runs “Why are we so repulsed by Madonna’s hairy armpits?” I’m not linking it. Go fish.
And there’s Ann Bransby-Smith, in Brite’s Lost Souls, telling Steve in a memory that artsy girls who wear berets aren’t allowed to shave their armpits. That’s– That’s me, that is! That’s me! That is me! Our protagonist notices that she perfumes them — it’s italicised. She perfumed them. The impression is that that’s hot. I fell in love. That’s mine, that’s me. The freedom of that concept! You don’t have to put resentful razor to impatient skin? You don’t have to yank your arms down in horror on the days that you forget? You can please yourself — and some people will like that?
Well fuck me. Never mind how that relationship ends. My agency was on fire (and the appointment book had been the first to go). That book gave me permission, and it’s not weak to need permission. You learn to take it and make it a part of you. Permission is a start and a gift. Bee of the Carol Corps is a gift, too. And you can SEE her. She’s pictures, not words.
This is just a sketch. The pit hair may not make it into the published book. And true, it’s easier to see radical babes with their pits dyed pink and seahorses shaved into their leg hair, probably, I hope, these days, because Tumblr and Pinterest are just a click away for a lot of girls. And women. Social media brings diffuse communities together, and we all feel stronger for knowing the rest of us are out there just letting it be, too. Balpreet Kaur and Harnaam Kaur‘s individually spectacular outreach work continues (and I hope perhaps they find joy and comfort in the Dwarven women whose popularity and bearded femme image spreads and grows). Maybe the world will keep turning and feminism will keep growing and body positivity and self-acceptance will creep, creep, slowly into the hearts and minds of all of us anyway, no matter what happens in this one random Marvel comic title. Bully and victim, and audience too! Holding hands, the world learns to sing, in perfect harmony.
But if Carol Corps does have a woman with her pit hair worn long…
I’m on fire. I’m on fire. I’m on fire. I’m real! We’re real, and we can do what we want with our bodies, and other people will still find us worth conceptualising.
We can all make our own decisions, but it matters, it matters a great deal, to know that our decisions won’t render us worthless or invisible to the people who have no right and little power over the actuality of them, but who influence us, our behaviour, all the same. It’s impressive to be strong; it’s impressive because you have to suffer to do it: “Wow, I bet I couldn’t do that!”
I don’t want to be strong, I just want to be true and safe.
That’s why I cried a tear over a Marvel book in 2015. That’s why Gillen’s and McKelvie’s books sell like hellcakes. It’s why Ms Marvel is outselling everything and why Spider-Man got so popular in the first place. Can’t you see that? Can’t you see us?
We can’t reward you for nothing.
(Four for you, Kelly Sue. I see you. Bitch Planet had pubes, too.)