Last month, Claire Napier discussed the taboo topic of … female body hair! Lately, some ladies are doing such scandalous things as growing out their armpit hair and even dying it bright colors. This month, we are all jumping in on the body hair discussion in the vein of our On Make-up and Femininity: WWAC Talks Make-up. We hope you will jump in too in the comments section!
Alright, hardcore lady types, let’s get to it–do you remove your body hair? Why or why not? Do you think it is liberating to not shave? Can it also be liberating to shave? What do you think about the trend in growing out in cis-ladies growing out their armpit hair?
Jamie Kingston: I don’t necessarily find it liberating to shave or not shave. To each her own. Even though I’m pretty hirsute for a cis-woman. I did, in high school. All it took was the boy I had a crush on saying I needed to. Ran home and begged. I’ve developed a spine and some self esteem since then.
I hate the pink tax, so I don’t wanna buy the pretty girly razors with their claims of silky skin and a smooth shave. I don’t mind shopping in the men’s aisle on the rare occasion I do get a bug in my ear and feel like shaving.
I hate the smell of depilatories, and my hair is so thick and coarse, it takes forever, even when I’m using Magic shave (which is for black men). The label says 5-8 minutes. For me, it’s more like 15-20 minutes if I want the hair to actually come off. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
I’ve tried wet-dry shavers, they clog up or the batteries give out, and it’s so pricey to replace the parts that I may as well just replace the whole thing. I wear very little in the way of dresses or shirts that show off the legs or armpits anyway. So I’m saving time and money by just not bothering. (Except for this DragonCon. The pits are getting shaved for one of my cosplays).
The armpits also have skin tags due to me having polycystic ovary syndrome, so shaving with a razor is all but impossible there. It’s a depilatory or nothing because nicking is very painful. I just haven’t been able to wrap my brain around threading or sugaring. My mom once sent me a sandpaper kit for hair removal. I’ll admit the skin felt great afterwards, but it took easily 5 times as long because I could only remove hair in a 2” patch of skin at a time.
My mom put me through the tweezing of eyebrows when I was a teenager. I cried and hated it. My mother seemed disappointed that this “feminine beauty ritual” wasn’t a bonding activity for us like she seemed to have hoped. I can’t remember what ever stopped it. But now, I leave my eyebrows to grow as they will. Occasionally I get wild hairs–ones that become ingrown or grow to a ridiculous length in comparison to the rest. Those get tweezed. When I am badly stressed, I tear out the eyebrow hair, which leaves me with bald patches in them from time to time that take longer to grow back than I’d like.
I have a bit of a facial hair problem, though, and for that I tweeze, because those hairs mess with my anxiety and depression if I don’t. I’ve gotten talked to at work for it, even, because once I feel the hair growing, it’s got to go! Then and there! I tried waxing, but the hair has to be at least half an inch long for the wax to even be effective! I’m a nervous wreck by the time it’s that long!
I would love to be able to afford electrolysis or laser hair removal for those for that reason. But insurance doesn’t cover it because it’s considered “cosmetic.” Mental health isn’t, but try convincing a big old corp that…and funnily enough, as I am writing this a livingsocial deal just popped into my email box for $99 hair laser hair removal….which turned out to go over my comfort threshold of negative Yelp reviews. Sigh. But at least I now have a place to start.
Rachel Stevens: I remove my leg hair every now and then, partly because I like how it looks and feels, partly because if I want to wear a skirt I have to perform every possible action to avoid being read as male. I am not going to say “so that I can pass as female,” here, nor ever again if I can help it. I am a woman, it should be up to other people to recognize it.
I used to have very noticeable terminal leg hair and used to have thick terminal arm hair until I shaved it off after a year’s worth of a hormone regimen. It’s since regrown as vellus, the other main type of body hair.
It’s pretty expensive to shave, and it’s extremely time consuming to shave my legs. I do like how it feels when it’s gone, but eh.
I don’t bother shaving my underarms, because I almost exclusively wear shirts that don’t reveal my armpits–if there’s context for you to be seeing it, you won’t mind. Besides that, it’s a waste of razors I could be using on my face or legs. Thankfully, the store I shop at has equally effective razors marketed at men and women. I usually go with the pink ones even though I’m not that big a fan of the color, because I can–and to avoid any strange looks in line at the grocery store.
In a sense, shaving my body is liberating just because I never had the ability to when I was stuck in Michigan and forced to present as male–not enough time to myself, not enough privacy.
I do appreciate a pushback against a societal force that requires cis and trans women to shave for “proper femininity” but I don’t really care too much about cis-women not shaving? It’s not the biggest issue on my mind.
Side note: there’s an electrolysis place within walking distance, I’m probably going to see if I can get my facial hair zapped off in the future after I’ve saved up more money. Fricking testosterone poisoning.
Catie Coleman: This post came at just the perfect moment, as I just shaved my legs for the first time in…a really long time! Usually I get to it least semi-regularly, but my shower runs out of hot water SO FAST, and it so wasn’t worth it to try to shave in a cold shower or run a bath just for that. Besides, it was winter so I’d need to be wearing tights with skirts at work anyway, therefore beyond anyone’s notice.
Looking professional at work is my only real concern, and since I refuse to wear panty hose I need to keep things at least semi-managed. I’m pretty lucky because my hair tends to be blonde on my legs, so it takes a while for anyone else but me to notice it.
I will say that shaving my legs is part of my “getting my shit together” routine if I have a big job routine or work event and need to be at my sort of ideal adult self. Even if I’m wearing pants, shaving gets thrown into the mix along with straightening my hair, doing make-up, etc. I think of it kind of like putting on my armor before going to battle. Like this little confidence-building routine to convince myself I can do a good job at whatever the task is.
But while I’m pretty chill about my legs, I haaaate having underarm hair. Not because I think anyone can even see it or it’s some sort of hygiene issue…just that I don’t like seeing it there when I turn to look at it. Other people should TOTALLY do what they want, but for me, I just like it gone.
And I’m totally the person they get with the pink razors and crap, because I KNOW they’re more expensive and the men’s version are just the same. But I’m always remembering to buy new razors at the last possible minute while at the grocery store, and by then I’ve exhausted myself trying to make smart choices and so just grab another of whatever I’ve already got at home. I am woefully indecisive so actually choosing a new one would take forever, and I buy them so rarely that I’m just willing to eat the extra cost.
But ever since I realized you could use conditioner instead of shaving cream, I am NEVER going back.
Al Rosenberg: I stopped shaving regularly a few years ago when I was still dating men, out of sheer laziness. I hate shaving. My hair is thick and curly, all over my body, and it takes a LOT to remove it. I tried all the hair removal creams and razors, the exfoliant things, everything just took way too much time.
I don’t think I’m ever going to shave my legs again, but when I was a teenager I never thought I wouldn’t shave, so who knows!
I don’t feel liberated by not shaving generally, but my time is sure liberated.
If I wear a dress or skirt to work, which is rare, I throw tights on. Leg hair seems to be unprofessional for all genders, for some reason, so I make this small acquiescence for the office.
The more pressing issue recently is actually my new body hair. About two years ago, I started growing hair in a lot of new places. My neck, sideburns, and chest have all become very hairy. My hair is blonde, but it’s getting thick enough that people now notice my neck beard and facial hair. The doctors don’t know why this started, though they’ve guessed it’s because of my form of period control, and it just seems to be getting hairier over time. I’ve thought about getting it lasered off, but I’m too cheap. And I have shaved it on occasion.
Now I think I’m just going to leave it. I’m a lady with a neck beard and chest hair. It took a while for me to be comfortable with my armpit hair, I’m excited for enough time to pass for me to feel comfortable with this new development.
Lindsey David: Yes, yes, and yes. I shave armpits and legs every time I shower, and even routinely take care of the bikini area. I HATE having body hair. It’s nothing to do really with “girls should shave it” (though I’m sure it started that way). I just don’t enjoy the feeling of being hairy in those areas. I start to feel gross, my self-esteem plummets…No, I’d rather just be away with it. If I had the money, I’d probably go get it all waxed off and never think about it. It’s just not me.
I use feminine products over male, and it all comes down to the smell. The male products my husband have and I’ve had to buy in the past in a pinch (some stores hide the ladies section, for some reason) just don’t smell very nice on me. I don’t want to smell like roses or anything, but a light scent of raspberry or peach? Yeah, that makes me feel nice.
The only thing I’ve never tried is waxing my bikini area myself. I’ve shaved it, to…varying degrees of success. And I’ve been to a salon a few times back when I lived in the States to have it done professionally (which I was really pleased with). But I’m just too scared to try it out myself.
Lela Gwenn: HISTORY LESSON: In America shaving for women was considered a masculine habit and was shunned…until WWII when sales of razors plummeted (cuz all the men were busy fighting) so the razor companies started marketing shaving to women–specifically white women.
I have personal history with shaving. As a small child (three+) my legs were regularly shaved for me because I was “a monkey.” Teenage/20’s Lela shaved EVERYTHING. Even my arms.
I also developed a habit of pulling my leg hair out when stressed.
Now I shave mostly in the spring/summer because I love dresses and am still embarrassed by my hairiness. I stopped shaving all of my pubic hair off a while back, though I do “maintain” it. I still stare at my arm hair and contemplate shaving it off occasionally, but the itchiness when it grows back is considerable.
My doctor is talking about putting me on a medication that has an androgenizing effect. If I start growing a beard you can bet I will be removing that shizzz.
I have one of those embarrassing “it happened to me” stories involving my one and only “Brazilian Wax,” but I’ll spare you unless you really want me to share.
Jamie: I knew about the shaving history, Lela! And now it’s blown up into “eww, women are gross if they don’t shave” and “eww, women are unhygienic if they don’t shave” and “eww, women who participate in No Shave November should also be prepared to participate in No Sex November.” *rolling eyes SO hard*
Wendy: Thanks for that history lesson! Is there any way marketing departments haven’t ruined us all??
Romona: I am a smelly woman. I sweat a lot. I have a whole strategy for tackling the smelliness, and part of it is making sure my armpits are shaved. There are even historical theories that ancient Egyptians shaved their armpits to reduce body odor, and they built the pyramids, so I trust their judgement. My leg hair is dark and pointy, so I shave that, too. I can’t stand it when I let my leg hair grow out and my ankle hairs are flat from wearing socks and the rest of my hairs are standing straight up. It’s distracting and the neurotic part of me always leads to a mad rush to the shower to shave it off. On a related note, I buy men’s razors because it’s the same thing and it’s cheaper.
When it comes to face hair, I pluck my eyebrows because I like the look of a high arch. I’ve never had them waxed because I don’t like making small talk with people, and I’d feel obligated to make said small talk if someone were inches from my face with hot wax. Also, I am cheap.
The only spot on my body that I’ve given consideration to having lasered is the hairs that grow out of the mole on my chin. Oh, how I hate those mole hairs.
Amanda: Lela, those bastards! Are you telling me I’ve endured numerous moments of social agony because of marketing? Wait, okay, I knew that already. That’s common. *sigh*
Here’s my story of body hair. When I was, let’s see, eleven, my body decided it was time to grow hair in my armpits. I noticed, of course, but didn’t know what to do about it, and either my family didn’t notice or declined to say anything until we were out fishing with friends. It was a hot summer day, and I was wearing a tank top. Somewhere toward the end of the day, a family member pulled me aside, and said that I should probably start shaving because one of the family friends had commented on my long underarm hair. I was mortified. I still remember the feeling of that blush, as it must have traveled from my scalp all the way to my pits. I learned to shave the very next morning using a bar of soap and a disposable Bic razor.
Later, I learned the agonies of shaving my legs. I have really thick body hair (if I were to take testosterone, I’d become a bear pretty quickly) and sensitive skin. Shaving hurts. I get ingrown hairs and scratches and dry skin and all itchy and, well, it’s not fun. But I’ve never been brave enough to show hairy legs or pits to the world.
I don’t shave, currently. Several years back, I met a girl who defiantly did not shave. She said she actually smelled worse when she shaved, so she didn’t use deodorant and didn’t shave her pits (nor her legs). I was inspired. And encouraged. I stopped shaving. I stopped using deodorant. And, by golly, I do smell better. My body feels healthier. Sweat is wicked away from my skin and doesn’t sit there with the bacteria. Well, that’s my completely unscientific opinion. But I do feel better, and that’s what really counts.
I do not, however, wear tank tops. Or super short-sleeved shirts. Or shorts. Or skirts. I hate it with a passion, but I’m still too self-conscious. I wish I were brave enough to say “eff it, y’all, stare at my hairy self all you want,” but I just can’t. When I cosplay or wear a dress or a skirt or (heavens forbid) a bathing suit, I shave. And I feel ashamed, because I’m not brave. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Damn body image issues. I sincerely hope that more people grow their body hair out, though! Strength in numbers.
Wendy: I am really not sure when I started shaving or how I knew I “should.” My family didn’t communicate much with me on things like this, but somehow I guess I learned through osmosis that shaving was the thing to do, presumably because I saw my mom and sister doing it. Still, I’ve never been big on putting a whole lot of effort into my beauty routine. I’m more of a wash and go kind of girl. I’ve always thought about things like waxing, but could never be bothered with that much effort or cost. I still keep everything trimmed, but in my maturity, I don’t put that much priority on it unless I’m getting all dolled up for a special event or am just in the mood to do so. Pink razors? LOL. They all shave the same, but I have been reprimanded for using my husband’s razors without letting him know. Apparently my bikini line dulls the blades faster than his goatee. He will sometimes comment on my negligent armpit care, but the jest will usually be followed by tickles. He’s learning to be more open-minded, but there is still a lot of society and culture feeding into his perceptions (and mine). He does “manscape” from time to time, so I can’t complain and don’t mind offering the same courtesy. I recently heard about the full bush Brazilian and have made this my new adventure in shaving.