hayley hoover

It kind of doesn’t matter what I say in this post, because there are going to be people who form unshakeable opinions about it just from the headline. Some people think armpit hair on women is gross, unhygienic, disgusting, unacceptable. Some people think shaved armpits are a sad symptom of being held captivity by the patriarchy. Others fall somewhere down the middle, with a “do whatever’s right for you” mentality. I’m a member of the latter group… or, at least, I want to be. My relationship with my body hair is a complicated one.

On the one hand, I can agree that women probably wouldn’t be shaving their armpits smooth every day of their lives if we hadn’t been told time and again that that’s what attractive, reasonable women do. I can understand the argument that by not taking a stance against certain beauty standards, you’re letting the bad guy win. On the other hand, I like participating in some of the standards, because I like performing femininity. I want to live in a world where nobody feels compelled (or forced) to follow strict and sometimes oppressive gender guidelines, and I also want to follow the ones that work for my personality and style. At least at this point in my life, a lot of aspects of traditional femininity resonate with me, and I enjoy the girly rituals of painting my face, spraying stuff on my hair, and shoving my feet into strange objects to make my hairless legs look hot. I started to enjoy these things even more once I got a better understanding of how gender identity worked, and when I realized that I get to pick and choose which feminine qualities I want to exhibit. I present my girliness consciously, on purpose. That’s why it’s really frustrating that I can’t decide what to do with my pits.

Removing armpit hair is one of my least favorite parts of the beauty routine, but I’d never really considered skipping it until very recently. Would I feel self-conscious in a tank top if I knew black hair could come peeking out? Would I feel more relaxed and in tune with my natural body if I didn’t have to worry about razor burn or dull blades under my arms every morning? I’m not sure, because I’ve never tried. I’ve shaved that hair away since I was eleven years old. I don’t even know what it looks like, what it feels like. Maybe I would completely hate going without a shave, or maybe it would feel so right that I’d never look back. Maybe I… should try it.

armpit stubble

I still haven’t decided that I’m going to really do it– grow out my underarm hair, I mean– but I’m going to give it a little bit of a shot. I’m going to go four days without touching it, and I’ll reevaluate how I’m feeling after that. If anyone else is interested in embarking on this odd experiment with me (or if you have experience with letting your body hair roam free and you have some advice for me!), don’t hesitate to let me know. This is going to be weird, but I hope I’ll learn enough about myself to make it worthwhile.

Photos: Ariana Rachael Photography, Shutterstock