Furry bits

// 7 June 2008

Why does hair growth continue to be integral to body image and self-perfection? This is a recurring theme in feminist circles, and is an issue I began thinking about again this week when the Daily Mail published close-ups of Geri Halliwell’s unshaved arm-pits, clearly basking in the revelation that supposedly demonstrated a hiccup in her beauty regime, and the possible beginning of a slide down the glamour scale straight into a pair of saggy-arsed slacks and flats: “It was a rare misstep for the usually impeccably groomed mother-of-one.” That Halliwell’s choice not to scalp her underarms prior to leaving the house is considered a “misstep” is testament to the fact that the female body in its natural state continues to be a source of fear and disgust. What exactly is wrong with a bit of armpit hair? Photos of men, arms flailing highlighting pits smuggling small poodles, are regularly published, and yet not even a hairless eyebrow is raised. While it’s not unusual for double-standards to exist in this way, why is it that a woman’s hair on anywhere but her head is considered unforgivable?

It wasn’t until I was about fourteen that I became aware of body-hair and the need to remove it, and this was owing to conversations with classmates who indirectly let me know that that’s what we, as women, were supposed to do. So, I began shaving my legs. I didn’t need to at that time, the hair grew blonde, and was not noticeable, but having spent many hours throughout my teens shaving to within an inch of my life I am now stuck in a routine whereby I have to ensure that my armpits, legs and bikini line are entirely naked most of the time. The idea that as women we must shave has become so ingrained on our collective consciousness that I suppose the vast majority of us don’t even question why we do it anymore. Why do I do it? Probably out of habit more than anything else. Plus the general consensus seems to be this: you’re feminine not if you have body hair (one of the primary physical indicators of sexual maturity and womanhood), but only if you remove it.

So why remove the hair? For many it feels more hygienic, although whether this is purely psychological or a physical reality is unknown. We have also been conditioned to think that it is aesthetically pleasing, and if a woman fails to adhere to this belief cultivating a pair of armpits so lush and vibrant that packs of chimpanzees can stow away inside to avoid extinction, then she is considered transgressive and automatically unattractive. A man with excess body hair is considered masculine, filled with testosterone and therefore attractive. A woman with excessive body hair is also considered manly, and for the same reasons unattractive. Male and female body hair is entirely natural, and yet for the latter the connotations of the word “hairy” is only used as an offensive prefix to a description if a woman is to be berated. Why is hair invested with so much importance? It’s strange, especially considering that the development of body hair is what makes us sexually mature, adults, although that’s the problem.

While with age men become “distinguished,” women are old hags. Removing hair therefore temporarily allows a woman to return to her prepubescent youth, with a soft, smooth, lithe body untarnished by the effects of time and maturation. While I’ve never had a designer pubic triangle, the idea of having our intimate hair teased into a specific style or shape (or even removed altogether), has become increasingly popular and is considered the ultimate signifier of a woman’s pride in her appearance. While I’m not anti-porn, I do understand that this is a trend emanating from the adult-entertainment industry. A woman cavorting on screen is expected to do so with nothing on her lover half, especially not hair that may hinder the complete view of her genitals and betray the fantasy that she is not simply an overgrown, sexually uninhibited nubile young thing, but rather a real woman who once a week has to hoist herself up on some beauticians trolley and talk weather-talk while some bright young thing pours hot wax onto her beef curtains in order to keep the viewers happy. A friend of mine told me she has all her pubic hair removed because she is more comfortable without it, which is perfectly acceptable: if a woman makes the choice to do this owing to personal preference, then good for her. The only time this becomes an issue is when a woman is criticised for not waxing to within an inch of her life, and by default is told that is what she has to do to be a woman.

Personally, I would find it a bit disconcerting to be told by someone that I needed to strip my vagina. Primarily because I would feel like a ten-year-old, and surely having a body that in any way resembles that of a child should not be sexualised in any way. I do wonder if the fact porn has told so many men that this is what they ‘should’ find sexy that they automatically want a hairless woman without questioning the reasoning behind it. Either way, I’m keeping my pubes.

So what she we do? Should we all take a vacation from our hair removal regimes and live our lives au naturelle to see the reaction we get to the exposure of our bikini beards? Or would this be too difficult to do, both socially and psychologically? The real issue here is the fact that whatever choice we make, hair or no hair, we are always subject to the criticism of another third party who holds an opinion, and it always seems like, as women, any individual action we take is not only always seen as representative of our entire gender, but also as having some political significance. So what if Halliwell was out with furry bits, maybe she just didn’t feel like shaving that night, is that ok with you Daily Male (Mail)?

But what do you think? Should we not all be allowed to make our own choice without having to provide an exposition of our hair removal preferences?

Comments From You

E-Visible Woman // Posted 7 June 2008 at 9:12 pm

Of course women should be free to choose whether to grow or remove their body hair. But it’s also important to look at the context of that choice. In today’s society, that choice is not a free one.

This a subject close to my heart and one I have written about many times, and I have received the most bizarre responses from feminists and non-feminists, women and men!

Lauren O // Posted 7 June 2008 at 9:27 pm

I think it is the responsibility of every feminist who shaves to examine her motivations for doing so. I went through a phase where I realized I was disgusted by my body hair, and that there was no reason to be, and I understood why many feminists choose not to shave. Of course, that does not at all make shaving necessarily bad. I still shave, I just have different reasons for it now.

I think shaving one’s legs highlights the differences in secondary sex characteristics between men and women, and I have no problem accentuating my femininity (though I admire women who purposely reject feminine appearance as well). I also tend to think that men should be more socially mandated than women to shave their armpits, so that the whole world would smell a little less like B.O.

Ain’t no one going near my pubes, though. That is not highlighting a difference between male and female secondary sex characteristics, it is highlighting a difference between adult women and little girls, and that is not something I can get behind.

Anna // Posted 7 June 2008 at 9:44 pm

Me and my ex both used to shave all our pubes (occasionally I’d leave a landing strip) on the grounds that we were both ginger. Sounds a bit strange, in retrospect..

when I’m with women, I prefer them to be shaved, and I expect men to at least severely trim, so I think my shaving is okay in that context. Besides, I think it just looks nicer.

Laura // Posted 7 June 2008 at 9:50 pm

“I think shaving one’s legs highlights the differences in secondary sex characteristics between men and women, and I have no problem accentuating my femininity (though I admire women who purposely reject feminine appearance as well).”

That’s exactly part of the reason I don’t shave – I think shaving, along with many other “beauty” practices, is part of the effort to create and accentuate difference between the sexes in order to allow and justify us being treated differently. It also causes us to see our natural female bodies as disgusting and as such can be another form of oppression (it doesn’t need to be, but the majority of defensive reactions to women who don’t shave their legs go along the lines of “well I just think it LOOKS better”. Of course you do, because you’ve grown up being told that female body hair is disgusting). I won’t go on, because I’ve blogged about this before…

Abby – I really cringed when I saw you use “beef curtains” to describe female genitals – I think it’s a hideous and derogatory term – it makes me feel slightly sick, which I think is its intention – after all, women’s genitals are pretty gross. Not saying you think that, I was just surprised to see you use it!

Aimee // Posted 7 June 2008 at 10:03 pm

Laura; those are exactly my feelings on the subject. The concept of female beauty in our culture is essentially to look like a post-coital pre-pubescent girl with comedy fake breasts. There is NO reason for the convention for shaving our hair off other than to add to the polarisation of the sexes. Women seems to have no other distinction that ‘the opposite of a man’, which equates to being as little like a man as possible. Men have hair therefore women shouldn’t. It makes me so angry.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 7 June 2008 at 10:06 pm

Heya Laura, re the beef curtains term, I agree, it’s not very nice, but I used it because it’s a term that I felt would probably be used by the type of men who would think that a woman should wax her genitals in order to be sexually attractive. That’s why I used it in that sentence, as I felt I gave it context, if you see what I mean. It’s not a turn of phrase I would use, as you rightly say it’s horrible, one of the phrases that in fact makes me cringe to type. Hope that explains better why I used it, I should have been clearer in the post xxx

Laura // Posted 7 June 2008 at 10:09 pm

That makes sense, Abby! I’m (still!!) rather hung over, so was probably being a little slow… To bed, I think!

Aimee // Posted 7 June 2008 at 10:16 pm

“I think shaving one’s legs highlights the differences in secondary sex characteristics between men and women, and I have no problem accentuating my femininity (though I admire women who purposely reject feminine appearance as well).”

But this is NOT femininity. It is a gross pseudo femininity which has nothing to do with actual femininity. In fact, I’m not sure that we even know what ‘real’ femininity is, given that this false ‘femininity’ is imposed on us from the moment we’re dressed in a pink bonnet at birth.

scifilaura // Posted 7 June 2008 at 10:40 pm

Pubic and underarm hair itches – it`s a simple matter of comfort for me to remove it.

Shea // Posted 7 June 2008 at 11:18 pm

beef curtains? Beef curtains? *shivers* eugh! I’m with Laura on this one. Perhaps a link up to Jess’s post on the Sexual Politics of Meat might be in order.

Marlow // Posted 8 June 2008 at 1:36 am

Since I am no longer required to take PE at school I haven’t been shaving my legs. The only reason I shaved my legs was because I didn’t have the confidence not to – girls at school just LOVE to point out who looks like a hairy man-beast.

That said, I do shave underarm if I’m wearing vest tops which is for the exact same reason – if you don’t do it and people notice then they talk in a way that makes you feel dirty and disgusting which, of course, you aren’t.

When I brought up the topic of not shaving with my mum she said stuff like it’s good personal hygiene to shave and pretty much made out that women who didn’t had ‘let themselves go’. It’s frustrating sometimes – my mum finds it amusing why I don’t wear makeup.

I find it so difficult to understand why something that is so natural is deemed so horrid yet we are expected to be hair free like a pre-pubescent child which is what is actually disgusting.

How can you tell a women she’s any less of a woman because she doesn’t strive to deny how her body is naturally?

Renee // Posted 8 June 2008 at 5:30 am

I stopped shaving regularly awhile ago. Yes I have hairy armpits legs and crotch. I see it as how my body is meant to be, and I refuse to enrich some company with my few disposable dollars following some beauty myth. Ultimately no matter how much time we invest in primping and preening society will still find a way to tell us something about our bodies is unacceptable. Well I admit defeat, I cannot compete with some computer generated image of womanhood, I can however achieve satisfaction by loving myself for who I am.

katarina // Posted 8 June 2008 at 11:31 am

I have a real problem with people who can’t let women alone and feel it their duty to tell off any woman who hasn’t removed all visible body hair.

This means I have a real problem with a lot of people.

I’ve had to dump boyfriends because they wouldn’t shut up about my pubic hair (which I trim). “It’s not that there’s too much of it,” said the last one, with his lips stretched in a pained grimace. “It’s just that it’s so black.”

“The trouble is that you’ve seen so many wank mags and so few live naked women that your perceptions are warped,” I said, trying to address the problem without hurting his feelings and failing completely.

It’s not just men. The latest case is my (Spanish) sister in law, who told me without shame that she screamed in horror when she discovered that her (German) friend was about to go to a wedding with bare, unshaven legs. She bullied her friend into “fixing herself up”, telling her it showed lack of respect to go to a wedding without at least wearing stockings.

What can you do? How do you explain such things to a 40-year-old woman who calls herself a feminist?

Rosie // Posted 8 June 2008 at 11:54 am

What I found most infuriating when I first started removing my body hair was the sheer endlessness and impossibility of it. Razor burn, ingrown hairs, dark shadows, speckly bits on my legs even when they were newly shaved, the shameful regrowth period if I chose to wax, the PAIN of waxing, the fact that it would (especially my pubes) find new and increasingly bizarre ways of growing back, the juggling act of trying to co-ordinate perfect armpits with perfect legs and perfect genitals … It drove me mad, and I became almost obsessed. By telling girls that their body hair is just something to be removed, we imply that this process is natural and therefore easy. Adverts etc create the idea that hairless perfection is possible, which of course it isn’t, at least not without complications. Complications that are frustrating precisely because we think there shouldn’t be any – I for one thought there must be something especially ugly and manly about me because I couldn’t attain perfect smoothness. I thought it was just my own bad luck to be born with such a difficult body.

Unfortunately I am now sufficiently brainwashed that I cannot stop shaving, even though it makes me sore and angry. Though I am more relaxed about it since I realised that it’s an unnatural thing to do to yourself, and we should just wear our razor bumps and regrowth (or even better, our hair, for those brave enough) with pride.

Amy // Posted 8 June 2008 at 1:10 pm

I read an article on the beauty industry in the Observer magazine the other week, which had an interview with the woman who supposedly was responsible for the ‘Brazilian’ wax. She said that it started off as one woman wanting all her pubes off because her boyfriend was a bit kinky. And now, in part thanks to her publicising it, most women feel some pressure to do it… she said that she thinks it’s more hygienic and that when there’s less hair, there’s less “odour”. What a crock! Basically, what she (and many others) is saying amounts to: hairy vaginas are dirty. Waxed ones are clean. (Nonwithstanding the fact that hair doesn’t actually grow *inside* a vagina, but anyway.) However did women manage to wash themselves before waxing was invented?? What a brilliant message, eh?

By the way, the original article is here:


Alex T // Posted 8 June 2008 at 1:35 pm

What I find really bizarre is the way the advertising world accepts that women shave their legs, and actively promotes it (Veet, Gillette etc), but I have never seen any acknowledgement that women remove their underarm hair. And yet, I would guess that more women remove underarm hair than leg hair. Underarm hair is more noticeable and is regarded as more disgusting, and I have a handful of friends who don’t shave their legs, but only one who doesn’t shave her underarms.

Being purely cynical, wouldn’t women who remove armpit hair constitute an even bigger market to exploit than those who merely shave their legs? So why do we never see any products advertised for that purpose?? The world seems to be in denial that we even grow hair there in the first place!

I don’t shave my bikini line, but I shave my underarms and wax my legs. I’d love to let the whole lot grow, as I’m not happy carrying out these stupid routines, but I wouldn’t be happy growing it either as I’d feel like a freak(I did for a while last year and didn’t like it). It’s really hard to be a trailblazer in situations like this. What I’d really love is if every woman, on one day, said no to shaving. If we all stopped at the same time, and the patriarchy would just have to put up with it.

tefelome // Posted 8 June 2008 at 1:40 pm

i shave sometimes, i am not a very hairy person, with light hair. so sometimes i just forget to shave my pits because it doesn’t grow thick ,and rarely my legs as you cant really see the hair. but i do sometimes, if im working whilst wearing vests or shorts for instance. bikini line occasional as well, just so it doesn’t stick out if i’m wearing a bathing suit, which i think looks a bit odd on women and men alike, men even worse! i have a dark haired friend that shaves everything, all the time, as she feels the hair shows so much because it is black. personally i would never judge anyones attractiveness on hair growth, although i dont think id go out with a guy with long hair coming out of his ears!

ledh // Posted 8 June 2008 at 1:56 pm

“I’ve had to dump boyfriends because they wouldn’t shut up about my pubic hair (which I trim). “It’s not that there’s too much of it,” said the last one, with his lips stretched in a pained grimace. “It’s just that it’s so black.””

I’d have ditched him the second he dared to say such a stupid, anti-womanly thing. I’m in luck: my boyfriend couldn’t care less if I shaved or not.

I now only do my armpits because otherwise people stare and think you’re ‘filthy and disgusting’ which is quite untrue.

Anne Onne // Posted 8 June 2008 at 2:06 pm

I second all the comments that it’s about increasing the difference between ‘male’ and ‘female’, and a rejection of all things ‘masculine’.

I think it’s worth noting that not all of us start with the same base, so to speak. Each body is different, and although there is pressure for all people to start shaving, some have more than others. I’ve met women with the finest, downiest hair, practically invisible, but I know it’s hard to not do something society tells you is a must. No. Matter. How. Little. Hair. You. Have.

On the other hand, some people are hirsute. Hairy. Like, noticeable-hair-on places-other-than-head-and-armpits-and-shins-and-vulva hairy. In order to achieve the hairlessness that some people only need to worry about armpits and legs and maybe down there, some people would practically need to shave all over. The patriarchy puts people like this in an even more difficult position, because their not suitably following adequate depilation is even more noticeable. I do think it’s a certain small privilege to not have to worry about truly being hairy when you’re younger. I mean, I know that just like all girls are taught to feel fat, all girls are taugth to feel hairy, but just like that, there is a small amount of privilege in never having felt the need to shave or wax off large portions of your body more than everyone else because you’re noticeably hairier.

Of course, being suitably lazy (which is a big help fighting the patriarchy in my case, because a lot of the make-yourself-a-real-woman stuff is time-consuming), I just find ways around things. Like tights. I loved very opaque black tights when I was at school, because it meant you didn’t need to shave for ages, and it wouldn’t show. But I can’t say I liked being hairier than average. It never seemed to bother me enough to shave constantly, but maybe it’s because the ideal felt so out of reach there was no point bothering? I don’t know. Heh, I’m more over all that, now, and only really shave when I feel like it (in some ways it’s like having a haircut, I get bored, cut it, then grow it out again…repeat cycle).

I do believe it’s up to us to examine our motivations and be honest with ourselves, and part of our reasons, however small, will be the patriarchy. That’s OK, sometimes it’s easier to cave now, and fight a different fight. :)

Alex Corwin // Posted 8 June 2008 at 2:22 pm

Have any of you seen the current Veet advert, with the tag line “What beauty feels like”.

Hang on, if we are women even have a millimeter of body hair, we are not beautiful? Jesus!

SM // Posted 8 June 2008 at 6:58 pm

I’m with you on the laziness thing, Anne Onne. In school, where there’s so much pressure to be caked in makeup an inch thick, and straighten the hair on your head, on top of completely removing the hair everywhere else, not doing the above means you get to make a feminist stand AND stay in bed an extra half hour in the morning. Win-win as far as I’m concerned.

Aimee // Posted 8 June 2008 at 9:17 pm

Oh yes! I was actually in the middle of writing a letter to the ASA about that particular advert. Not only does it imply that we’re not beautiful unless we’re smooth and hairless, but it also says that we will be ‘more feminine’ if we remove our hair. How dare someone tell me that I am somehow less of a woman in my natural state; that I have to be moulded and shaped and shaved a fixed up before i’m ready to go. Like we’re born automatically imperfect. Grrr. I’m angry.

figleaf // Posted 9 June 2008 at 8:42 am

When I took a combined women’s studies / sex-education / interpersonal communications course last Winter we all had to do a 10-minute presentation and I did mine on the history of body hair removal. Turns out that about 2/5ths of the world population have done it for hygienic reasons (primarily to control lice and other critters) rather than sexual ones.

Islamic law, for instance, requires both men and women to remove all hair below the neck at least once every 40 days. It also forbids men or women from removing any hair at all above the neck, including eyebrows and beards.

And the beard business is overlooked a lot. At least in the States all the women’s shaving products have names like “Lady Gillette” and “Lady Shick* or otherwise given feminized names of… *male* shaving products. So the question I always ask is whether men who shave look pre-pubescent?

And the answer outside of various kinds of fundamentalist enclaves, of course, is no. Shaving one’s beard does not make a man look pre-pubescent because even without hair a man’s face is pretty different from a child’s. And the same is true of men, or women, who shave below the neck.

I happen to think it’s really, *really*not necessary to shave. But I also think anyone who imagines a man or woman who shaves to look pre-pubescent *below* the neck just… needs to change a diaper some time… or go through puberty… or undress with an adult partner. Because even without hair adult bodies are really, *really* different from children’s bodies.

Thank goodness.

Anyway, shave if you must, definitely end relationships with anyone who says you *must* grow or must remove hair anywhere including legs, armpits, groin or chin, and reflect on the fact that the old macho icon John Wayne’s oddly straddling swagger was modeled on a bow-legged cowboy walk that was… very likely the result of prickles from trying to treat lice! :-)


Sabre // Posted 9 June 2008 at 10:54 am

Moving slightly off the main topic, my 18 year old brother won’t wear shorts because he thinks his legs are too hairy. Unlike his sisters, he doesn’t feel he is allowed to remove his hair, yet he is unhappy with it. So what I’m trying to say is that men are starting to experience the same pressures as us. Hairiness on men is becoming less acceptable – hairy back anyone? So in a way we are becoming more equal, but by moving in the wrong direction towards intolerance rather than acceptance of our bodies!

Also I think it’s easier to take a stand against hair removal if your hair is fine, or light coloured. I have black black hair that grows very thickly, so I prefer not to have it. I do find pube-removal weird though.

I read an article that said your sex pheromones are stronger when you have pubic hair, and these are what make you sexually attractive. So by removing your pubes (which trap the pheromones), you are actually making yourself less chemically attractive to others. I think that our society is way too hygiene-obssessed. It’s staggering that women are led to believe they become MORE sexually attractive the less pubic hair they have, when in fact the opposite is true.

Lindsey // Posted 9 June 2008 at 12:40 pm

Alex Corwin:

When I first saw that ad I said “I must be what ugly feels like!”

Sarah // Posted 9 June 2008 at 2:25 pm

Reading these comments make me feel really sad. There seem to be so many women responding who have thought about shaving and see it as irrational YET continue to do so because of what people think or because they don’t like how their body looks in their natural state. I think it’s really sad that so many women have such low opinions of their body and such low self esteem that they continue something they don’t like because of what others think. I haven’t shaved for years now and whilst it was a battle at first (it took me a long time to love as oppose to just tolerate my hairy legs) the thought of shaving now makes me cringe. When I see women with shaved arms and legs and I just think it looks so strange and false. Also, for info, I have really dark hair and am actually hairier that some of my ex (male) partners. Via the hairy revolution!

Chloe // Posted 9 June 2008 at 3:06 pm

@ Lauren O:

I agree with you but if men (or women!) smell of B.O., it’s probably not because they have body/pit hair. I have underarm hair and I don’t smell of B.O. :D

Sarah // Posted 9 June 2008 at 3:33 pm

I don’t agree that body hair causes bad odour, not as long as you have reasonable personal hygiene. I am ‘furry’ for much of the year and I don’t smell bad. Most men don’t remove their underarm/public hair, and they don’t all have body odour, only the ones who don’t bother to shower and use anti-perspirant!

I do shave legs/armpits in the summer when wearing shorts/skirt or a sleeveless top – not because I have any problem personally with my body hair, but because it’s so socially unacceptable that I would feel very uncomfortable and self-conscious if people in general were to see it. I also have thick dark hair so it is very noticable – perhaps if my hair was lighter or more sparse I wouldn’t bother. I don’t shave for my partner, and he doesn’t expect me to. I wouldn’t want to be with anyone who did, or who was made uncomfortable or disgusted by such a simple thing as me having some hair in the ‘normal’ places!

Aimee // Posted 9 June 2008 at 4:04 pm

I’m not saying it looks like a child… i’m simply saying it’s part of the culture of removing any kind of evidence that a women is actually a woman, not a child. It is AKIN to a child because we are denying that we are more like men than we’re lead to believe.

Cockney Hitcher // Posted 9 June 2008 at 4:14 pm

Rosie, I love your comment – it certainly reflects my experiences! When I was growing up I also thought that there must be something wrong with my body because my leg and armpit hair regrew so bloody quickly and thickly!

Sarah – I admire you for not shaving at all and wish I had the courage to do the same. I’m afraid that at the moment my fear of being sniggered/pointed at in public outweighs my desire to take a feminist stance in this area.

I totally agree with Lauren O that it is ‘the responsibility of every feminist who shaves to examine her motivations for doing so.’

Aimee // Posted 9 June 2008 at 4:24 pm

I tried to have this argument with a woman at work. She asked me something or other about waxing my bikini line, and I told her i’d never do it, because it’s just hair and I don’t feel it’s something I should be made to feel ashamed of. She responded ‘yes but you don’t want it sticking out of your bikini bottoms’… This made me think… why not? What is so wrong with other people knowing that we have pubic hair? Because it shows we’ve been through puberty? I can’t understand the mentality or the origins of such an absurd, superstitious convention. For all those women who make weak excuses about why they shave, it’s really something to think about? Are we so taken in by convention and what other people think about bits of our bodies that we have to cover for our desperation to conform? There is nothing wrong with our bodies. This is how they are. I agree that we should be examining our motivations for shaving our body hair, because as long as we continue, we are subconsciously admitting that we are flawed and inferior and must be fixed.

Anna // Posted 9 June 2008 at 4:57 pm

I don’t think people should shave if they don’t want to – props to them for defying convention and doing so – but I don’t think I’m a bad feminist for shaving.

Hazel // Posted 9 June 2008 at 7:58 pm

I have never noticed a woman with shaved (or waxed) arms, in fact, I was going to comment that hairy arms seem to be the last bastion of hairiness on a woman these days.

I once noted on my blog that Sarah Michelle Gellar has hairy arms and it is quite interesting how often I get hits on that post!

Personally, I’m with Suzanne Reisman of the blog called CUSS: “Feline pussies with fur are nice to stroke. Hairless cats are freaky. The same goes for human pussies and beavers, my friends.” (http://www.cussandotherrants.com/2005/10/why-world-needs-pubic-hair.html)

Lena // Posted 9 June 2008 at 8:27 pm

I used to shave, but not regularly. Eventually it was just too much hassle. I’d like to think I’m taking a feminist stance on this but perhaps I’m just being lazy.

I do shave my armpits, however (about once every couple months). So long as the boyfriend does too!

figleaf // Posted 10 June 2008 at 8:42 am

Aimee said “I’m not saying it looks like a child… i’m simply saying it’s part of the culture of removing any kind of evidence that a women is actually a woman, not a child.

I suddenly totally get that, Aimee. It’s like saying “well, since men have hair women can’t.” Not that “women can’t have hair because they’d look adult.”

Which I think is probably what most people mean when they use the “pre-pubescent” line, but the way you put it describes the actual problem. (And it is a problem, by the way — the whole yin/yang, mars/venus, if men are hairy women can’t be / if women are caring men can’t be can’t be gender business is totally out of control.)


Sabre // Posted 10 June 2008 at 9:41 am

I once removed all my pubic hair out of curiosity and was suddenly freaked out to see myself as I looked at 7 years old. So I would have to agree that it did make me look like a child.

karrigan // Posted 10 June 2008 at 9:56 am

I’ve also felt the frustration of fighting a losing battle with my v. dark body hair. In my teens I used to despair of what I would do when I found someone willing to sleep with me; would I be constantly shaving? I thought it was totally unacceptable that even one dark hair be visible if you had an audience to see it there, and that it was probably something the answer would become clear to once I became an adult.

Now, I totally refuse to shave above the knee (although I occasionally shave my armpits). My pubic hair grows prodigiously, and waxing is ridiculously painful for me though I used to endure it for an ex partner. I really fail to see why I should spent time, money and pain every time I’d like to swim. So I wear knee length swimming trunks which solve my problem nicely. They are pretty cheap from Tesco, too.

Laura // Posted 10 June 2008 at 10:20 am

I agree Sabre – it freaks me out too. I do think it looks childlike, going on outside appearance. Obviously it’s different for men because you can clearly see that their genitals are mature…

Aimee // Posted 10 June 2008 at 4:41 pm

I totally agree with you on the whole ‘yin and yang’ thing. It makes me so mad, because I have female friends and I have male friends, and I no more identify with the female ones because we both have ovaries than I do with the males. I don’t see this ‘male/female’ distinction that the rest of the world seems to. Why does our genitalia have to dictate our entire personalities and subsequently, everything we do? I have no idea whether people might consider this ‘radical’ thinking or what, but I, personally would like to see the eradication of any kind of static ‘gender’ distinction. I don’t want to have to state what my gender is on forms, because I don’t think it matters. At all. I think the fact that we all display so called ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ traits invalidates their distinction anyway. I simply want to be an individual; a person and not just ‘not a man’.

NorthernJess // Posted 10 June 2008 at 4:59 pm

Let’s do it! Let’s all just stop shaving! Everyone who has written on this blog just stop, safe in the knowledge that others are also stopping! Public ridicule be damned, we have feminist arguements on our side! The only reasons I see for trimming body hair are a) lice- fair enough b) to gain easier access to genital areas during oral sex. If we all just did it and stopped and never shaved again then our point would have been proved! That the promotion of hairless women as the only acceptable forms of woman is an incentive for keeping women down through fear and worry over body image. And tell all your friends! Only by uniting together can we defeat the evil advertising executives (who are only using tag lines like the veet one which is ridiculous in order to put the fear of not getting sex into women to make them spend their money).

Alex T // Posted 10 June 2008 at 5:45 pm

I’m with you NorthernJess!!

Aimee // Posted 11 June 2008 at 5:55 pm

Hooray! My armpits are hairy right now. AND i’m wearing a sleeveless top. HAH!

Jo // Posted 12 June 2008 at 10:45 pm

Interesting comments, all… I’m sure women are just indoctrinated to believe that body-hair is repulsive, which is such bullshit. I can distinctly remember ‘getting down to business’ with a guy that I was hung-up on for AGES and, after getting my kit off (something I found quite nerve-wracking to begin with), he pulled my pubic hair, screwed up his face and said, “This needs to go…”!! At the time, I squirmed with embarassment, but now – 4 yrs older and wiser – I WANT TO DECK HIM!! Tosser!

Despite being very aware of the social conditioning and misogyny regarding hair-removal, I ALSO remember being on the beach with my dearest pal 2 yrs ago, and noticing her pubic, leg and armpit hair busting out of her bikini… and how surprisingly shocked I felt! I was aware that it wasn’t very cool to feel that way, but couldn’t control the visceral feelings I had at seeing it… wow. Ironically, she was the one who was responsible for getting me into feminism… and women! I don’t ‘date’ guys anymore, now, and couldn’t be happier!!

Re the ‘shaved pussies’ on porn stars… I feel really weird about this, because it’s easier – NOT necessarily PREFERABLE – to give my girlyfriend head when she’s ‘trimmed’ (this does NOT mean shaved), but I generally couldn’t give two fucks whether she shaves her legs, armpits or bikini-line – I still fancy her like mad… I occasionally look at porn and shaved pussies turn me on, too… I’m confused! I only used to like 70s style ‘bushes’, but now find shaved pussies ‘a bit dirty’ (in a good way), but I also feel like a bit of paedophile: why am I attracted to shaved pussies?! Many questions… PEACE OUT, ALL! x

Aimee // Posted 18 June 2008 at 5:30 pm

Perhaps you are simply enlightened enough to enjoy a vagina whatever state of hairyness, or non hairyness it’s in!?

Jack Leland // Posted 18 June 2008 at 8:00 pm

I love hairy pussies. And I love women with armpit hair and unshaven legs. I think the “defiance” itself is sexy. I’m not sure why a woman having a hairy body isn’t seen as a sexy act of self-assertion. Assertiveness is sexy. Or am I just wrong on that?

Hippy Chick // Posted 18 June 2008 at 11:20 pm

I love to shave my legs. It’s a sensory thing with me- I love to reach a hand up my trousers and stroke a soft, hairless leg whilst I’m watching TV or reading. Its kind of comforting to me.

I loathe to shave my armpits. For some reason, although my legs seem to like being shaved, my armpits hate it. I get ingrowing hairs; red, sore skin and they get so itchy and sore. I shave my armpits only when I know they may be seen and so, consequently, I usually tend to wear long-sleeved tops. For this reason, I hate the summertime!

I have thought to myself that I would love to stop shaving my armpits. A few weeks ago, knowing I would be in the company of some feminist friends, I even considered wearing a vest top with hairy armpits on show, but at the last minute I just couldn’t do it!

I have no problem with hair. Its your hair- do as you like with it (on the pubic hair front, I’m with those who feel like a little girl without hair on my vagina and so I let it grow…), but I think some very interesting questions have been raised here about each person’s hair and what they do with it.

Do, do, do think about your own feelings about your (and I stress YOUR) hair. Why should we go through all of that stress and strain because other people have a problem with our hair. Stuff them… You wouldn’t dare tell them what to do with their hair… Would you?!

Just to go slightly off on a tangent… I also apply fake tan to my legs. This is not because I don’t like the colourof my skin, but because if I don’t shave my legs they get very itchy. My incessant scratching and consequent broken skin and bleeding has caused scars which I am ashamed of and so I cover them up with fake tan. I guess I’m lucky that they’re so easy to cover up?

Hippy Chick // Posted 18 June 2008 at 11:25 pm

Oh and if you don’t know it, check out India Arie’s song Video. A beautiful song which should remind us to be who we are.



kristy // Posted 19 June 2008 at 12:32 am


Doesn’t that bring up another issue of everything a woman does needing to be ‘sexy’?

Personally i wouldn’t want my feminist defiances to be ‘sexy’ (and therefore needing male approval) but rather taken seriously as an issue.

Or did i take your comment totally out of context?

Sarah // Posted 19 June 2008 at 10:25 am

kristy, I agree – I think what Jack personally does or does not consider ‘sexy’ is entirely irrelevant to this discussion.

Jack Leland // Posted 20 June 2008 at 4:31 pm


No, it does not. The point is not that I like it, but that there is no reason to suppose it is unlikeable or for its unlikeability to be assumed, because there are plenty of people out there like me. I would note that a lesbian up thread noted that she liked hairy pussies, too. And, there is nothing wrong with feminism itself being sexy, or feminists, for that matter. If I am to take you seriously, then if hairy pussies became the sexiest thing ever, feminists should immediately start shaving themselves bald just to be contrary. That’s ridiculous.

Holly Combe // Posted 20 June 2008 at 5:14 pm

Re: If I am to take you seriously, then if hairy pussies became the sexiest thing ever, feminists should immediately start shaving themselves bald just to be contrary.

I don’t think that’s true, Jack. I simply took Kirsty to be saying that what men like or find sexy isn’t really the point and we ought to be able to make choices regardless of what they might think. It isn’t about doing the opposite of what we think men might want any more than it is about shaving or not shaving to please them.

Sure, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with finding hairiness sexy (if anything, I’d say it’s quite refreshing) but surely an awareness of the traditional gender roles we are challenging (i.e of women being framed as the ones looked at/desired and men as the ones doing the looking/choosing) plays a role in how we might approach the issue?

And, no, of course there isn’t anything wrong with feminism itself being sexy or viewing it that way. It all depends on how the person who finds it sexy chooses to express that appreciation.

Jack Leland // Posted 20 June 2008 at 6:25 pm


Of course I agree with you, as you know, that “feminist male porn stars,” as you put it, are a good thing, and men should be objectified more often, even if they don’t like it. Perhaps, especially if they don’t like it. And of course I agree that even if men don’t like hairy pussies, if all women decide to go natural, then they’re just going to have to learn to love hairy pussy, and that’s that.

I agree in theory that “pussies shouldn’t be hairy for men’s pleasure, they should be hairy only because women like having hairy pussies” but the fact is that pussies naturally are that way. The choice women have is to conform to societal expectations that they will shave or to leave their pussies the way they are. My point is only that there may be no trade-offs to leaving one’s pussy the way it is, because there are plenty of people who love hairy pussies. In fact, there may be nothing but upside to having a hairy pussy. And, if so, it doesn’t take a female brain to recognize that not shaving is an easy choice to make.

I also don’t think my male privilege leaves me with a blind spot. I shave my pubes for aesthetic reasons if a female partner requests it, and I don’t expect reciprocation. But it is nice to know my perspective is considered refreshing!

Anne Onne // Posted 20 June 2008 at 7:02 pm

The context here is that women have been contidioned, from birth, that they must care about whether men consider something attractive, as the most important reason to do something. We get told on the street by random strangers, whether they find us sexy or not. It’s rare to get a description of a woman in the media without some reference to whether she fits the beauty ideal.

Even the backlash against size zero, supposedly about giving women confidence to be happy whatever size they are (though railing against thin women does NOT achieve this!), often centres around men saying they like curvier women. We’re brought up in a society that tells women that we must care about what men think, and in that context, many women might view a male commenter’s views on what they find sexy, especially on a post about women’s reasons for shaving or not shaving, to be irrelevant, or at least, to be indicative of the societal fixation, even on feminist sites of having to compliment women on their sexiness. Sexiness should be irrelevant, but we can’t seem to get away from it.

The context is, that since just about any thread elsewhere on the net quickly degenerates to one where women’s appearances are judged, there is no place for this on feminist spaces, especially since one of feminism’s aims are that women should be allowed to not care about whether something is sexually appealing or not.

The point here also isn’t that absolutely nobody finds unshaven women attractive, but that there are still many people who pressure women to shave. And that nobody has the right to demand someone else shave, or not shave for that matter. That personal preferences do not trump someone else’s bodily integrity.

Aimee // Posted 20 June 2008 at 8:27 pm

Whilst I understand the above commenter’s disdain at their personal choices being described as ‘sexy’, I must commend Jack for being able to see female sexuality for something other the pre-fabricated, plastic bullshit we’re told it is in the media. We ARE sexual being, all of us, we ARE attractive to other human being and if someone can view a woman as sexy for her strength of ideals and of character instead of for her pneumatic tits or her perfect blow dry, then hooray!

Jack Leland // Posted 20 June 2008 at 8:46 pm


Whether no one has a “right to demand” shaving pubic hair, I have no problem with a woman who requests it of me. Do you think that I am therefore denigrating myself and should be ashamed for accomodating a polite request? Can’t I make that decision for myself without being judged for it?

Maia // Posted 20 June 2008 at 10:55 pm

Why oh why are you femmies taking this Jack Leland so seriously and addressing his spurious concerns? “Assertiveness is sexy”. Yeah, right. Men love assertiveness, then they proceed to demolish it brick by hairy pussy brick.

Jack Leland // Posted 21 June 2008 at 1:40 am


I can honestly swear I have never demolished a wall of hairy pussy bricks. I can’t imagine I would if there were such a wall, either. It would probably be in an art gallery, and destroying other people’s property is a crime.

Anne Onne // Posted 21 June 2008 at 11:28 am

Jack, nobody was talking about your decision. That’s clearly up to you, regardless of what you choose. If you get a real choice, with your partner not giving you ultimatums or telling you you are hideous if you don’t comply, then it’s all fair, if they’re just stating preferences, and the other partner doesn’t mind accomodating them.

On the other hand, I shouldn’t have to point out there is a big difference between a polite request, which can be declined or accepted freely, and pressure to do something.

There are people who will go on and on how ugly a shaved/hairy body is, insist they won’t sleep with their partner because of it, or generally grind their partner down by telling them they’re not attractive enough, that they need to change, that they’re letting themselves go, regardless of what state they are in. What we are complaining about is this kind of behaviour, the entitlement of feeling like you have the right to demand something of a partner, and that if they do not comply,that you were owed something.

Your freely made arrangements have nothing to do with this. Nobody here was stating women (or men, though the post was not about them) shouldn’t shave if they want to, but that we should all evaluate why we do it, and not get pressured into it if we don’t want it.

Jack, privilege of any sort always leaves a blind spot. In all of us. You may choose to shave as much as you want, but since you still don’t face the same pressure to shave as women do, both from partners, the mainstream media, and other men, it’s not quite the same thing. That’s not to say you don’t have a valid opinion, it merely means your experiences aren’t quite the same, and that the pressure to shave may affect women more than you realise. Your assertions that it’s an easy choice to make, and that there’s only an upside are testament to this. Your personal experiences with shaving won’t reflect all men’s experiences and they certainly won’t be a reflection of what different women experience.

Aimee, not all people are sexual. Some completely have no interest in sex, which you probably knew, but I don’t want to leave asexual people out of this, because the assumption that all people are sexual and must enjoy sex marginalises those who frankly wish the rest of us would stop flooding the media with so much sex.

Aimee // Posted 21 June 2008 at 11:21 pm

Anne, you’re quite right, not all people are sexual. However, we can be sexual without wanting to see boobs everywhere and I don’t think that we cannot appreciate a woman’s attractiveness, as long as it’s appropriate.

Jack Leland // Posted 21 June 2008 at 11:21 pm


I never said that shaving was an easy decision to make. I said that it MAY be an easy decision to make. That is modal language, not categorical language. It seems your blind spot is in assuming that everyone states far more categorical and rigid positions than they actually hold, and that the world is out to get asexual people. I do not believe that asexuality is an invalid choice, but I also do not believe that feminism is about asexuality or that all feminists must be asexual in order to be good feminists. I would have the same view if I were female.

Anne Onne // Posted 22 June 2008 at 12:06 pm

With all respect, you didn’t say that it ‘may’ be an easy decision to make. You said ‘it doesn’t take a female brain to recognize that not shaving is an easy choice to make.’. Word for word. You did also state that ‘there may be no trade-offs to leaving one’s pussy the way it is, because there are plenty of people who love hairy pussies. In fact, there may be nothing but upside to having a hairy pussy. ‘. You can go on about what your original intention is, but you can’t change what was written.

Unfortunately, this is the internet. If you can’t take people by their written words, what can you take them by? Just assume that they must be absolutely right, no matter what their written words may be implying?

It may be a ‘blind spot’ of mine that I don’t immediately believe that every commenter is always right. But you know what, it’s born from experience. It’s not like feminists haven’t been getting a lot of inane comments from (mostly) men for years. What guarantee have feminists got that any random commenter won’t turn out to be a troll?

Respect and trust are earned, here as anywhere else. And it’s important to a space that anybody can be called on their words. That’s how people learn to better express themselves or contribute meaningfully to discussion.

The mention of asexual people was really in reply to Aimee, and nothing to do with your comments, therefore I’m surprised you seem to think I’m accusing you of being out to get asexual people. You didn’t even mention asexual people, or that all people are sexual. If we’re stating blind spots, might I suggest yours is not reading comments, and assuming the conversation is always about you?

The world is definitely NOT out to get asexual people, any more than it is out to get women or POC or LGBTQ people or peopel with disabilities, or fat people or any other marginalised group. But that does not mean they are not marginalised in many ways.

Nobody was stating that anyone has to be asexual to be a good anything. Bringing up the valid point that asexual people are forgotten when sexuality is discussed (kind of like LGBTQ people are forgotten in heterocentric definitions of sex) is not making the whole of feminism about them. It is merely an acknowledgement that these people exist, that they should be considered, too, that they are not an impossibility.

Being male doesn’t necessarily give you more privilege with respect to asexual people, but I never claimed it did. However, it can leave you completely ignorant of a host of other things, kind of like being white means you never have to deal with racial slurs, or being heterosexual means you don’t realise how much secrecy homosexual people have to live with.

Aimee, I agree that being sexual does not mean we want it thrust in our face constantly. But I want to ask the question, why is it we’re focusing on women’s attractivness, here? I think the very fact that even heterosexual women find it easier to focus in women’s bodies and ‘appreciating’ their attractivness, whether it’s relevant to the topic or not, says a lot about how the patriarchy affects us all. It’s probably not the best place to have this discussion on this post (too off-topic).

I think part of fighting the patriarchy is the idea that we don’t have to appraise women’s bodies constantly. The very fact that we can’t seem to have a topic about beauty standards without the compulsion to ‘appreciate’ women’s bodies proves that men and women are conditioned to focus so much on women’s looks and bodies, rather than the other factors.

I mean, we don’t see men and women flocking to defend their appreciation of men’s sexuality and bodies whenever men are mentioned.

Aimee // Posted 22 June 2008 at 8:41 pm

No, I agree, and I realise that this was the main gripe of the post in reply to Jack; that he was focusing on HIS feelings regarding the attractiveness of women, and it seems as though this is the main thing that we focus on in regards to women. All I was saying is that we can appreciate women’s attractiveness, but obviously that shouldn’t be the primary focus. It’s an interesting thing to think about because I think we get quite defensive about comments about women’s attractiveness, purely because it’s the only thing that seems to matter to the world about a woman. I would love to live in a world where a woman’s intelligence, integrity and achievements were the things that were considered important about a woman, not what size her boobs are, or what designer dress she’s wearing, and if this were the case, then comments about a woman’s attractiveness wouldn’t be so sore a point for people who are concerned with the portrayal of women. Until that day, I personally choose to act as though this IS the case, I want to consider this a norm. I try to act as though my gender is not relevant to my every day activities and therefore would like to think that appreciating a woman’s perceived attractiveness is no different to appreciating her intelligence or her leadership qualities or anything else. But you’re right, this is off topic.

Jack Leland // Posted 22 June 2008 at 9:00 pm


You are deliberately twisting my words around. The relevant portion, which you have twisted out of order is:

“In fact, there *MAY* be nothing but upside to having a hairy pussy. And, *IF SO,* it doesn’t take a female brain to recognize that is a easy choice to make.”

Notice what’s there that you clip out? IF SO. IF SO. IF SO. IF SO. That is an explicitly conditional and modal statement. That is not a stand-alone categorical statement that “It is an easy choice to make.” It just isn’t.

IF SO and MAY are not categorical terms, and they are explicitly there and they were explicitly put there. That is not a matter of my intention — it’s what is right there in the text that you selectively omitted, after you saw it.

You have twisted almost each and every post I have written on this site, and you are the ONLY person who does that.

And each and every time you do it, I call you on it, and you magically change what you were arguing and present yourself as the Defender of True Feminism For All Feminists In The World Against Evil Male Commenters On Feminist Sites, and badger other people into discussing off-topic aspects of the original post, such as the merits of asexuality.

I enjoy this website, and I will not be intimidated away by you just because you dislike my biological sex, so I simply will not respond to your intentional misquotations of my words any longer.

Katarina // Posted 23 June 2008 at 7:47 am

Northern Jess, I would refine your suggestion that we all stop shaving our body hair.

Men with long underarm hair and that strange, soap-resistant orange fungus that grows on it should trim it. Well, anyone should, but I’ve never met a woman with long underarm hair with orange fungus on it, only men.

I suggested trimming to a couple of them and they felt very strongly that untrimmed underarm hair was an invaluable part of their masculine identity. I don’t know if they felt that the smell and the fungus were also part of their masculinity, but whenever I see and hear people bitching about women’s appearance I think: “All these high standards for women’s grooming while men can’t even manage to keep their underarms fungus free!”

Anne Onne // Posted 23 June 2008 at 10:37 am

But in the context of your statement, it read to me with ‘may’ in the ‘permission’ sense, implying more certainty.

‘The choice women have is to conform

to societal expectations that they will shave or to leave their pussies the way they are. My point is only that there may be no trade-offs to leaving one’s pussy the way it is, because there are plenty of people who love hairy pussies. In fact, there may be nothing but upside to having a hairy pussy. And, if so, it doesn’t take a female brain to recognize that not shaving is an easy choice to make.’

I interpreted the ‘may be no tradeoffs’ in the other definition of ‘may’, ie the ‘must’/permission sense, which looked like the only understandable definition given the context. Since using ‘may’ in the possibility sense would render the whole paragraph wishy washy (ie there may be no tradeoffs, or there may not be, there may be nothing but upside, or there may not be, etc) and took the resultant ‘may be nothing but upside’ as a continuation of that certainly, because of the ‘nothing but upside’ part. Granted, this is the internet, and the differing nuances of words can render communication confusing, and it’s clear from your reply that your second ‘may’ was not meant to be continuation of the tone of the first, but of the possibility sense. In turn, whatever gender you presented as, I would have replied to the implications of that wording, and the resultant clarification has been useful.

I also didn’t omit the word ‘may’. It’s right there, but the omission of the words ‘if so’ were due to my understanding the words ‘may be nothing but upside’ as above. Under that definition, ie ‘there [must/could] be nothing but upside’, the ‘if so’ serves only as a confirmation. In the context of everyday speech, you normally encounter ‘there may be nothing but X’ as meaning ‘there is nothing but X’, in the more ‘official’ sounding sense of the word ‘may’.

Yes, I’M badgering other people, by actually mentioning minorites. On a site all about inclusiveness and intersecionality. Clearly your preferences for how you like your ‘pussies’ is far more relevant to the difficulties women face.

And once again, it’s not personal. I truly have nothing against you. After all, I know nothing about you apart from your comments. Interpreting wording in a different way does not mean someone is out to twist your words, it’s an unfortunate inevitability when discussing complex and nuanced matters.

You’re just one of hundreds of male commenters I and other feminists come accross, and I couldn’t care less whether you keep commenting, or whether you ignore my posts. You’re not the only person I disagree with, nor am I the only person who disagrees with you.

The only place gender comes in is when I or another woman might remind someone who presents as male that they do not experience ‘women’s problems’ in the same way as women, hence may not know all the issues and context. Notice that other male commenters don’t feel persecuted when I or other commenters disagree with them or point out that they as men might not have experienced everything first hand, so.

I have no intention of turning this post or future posts into Team Leland vs. Team Onne slanging matches. In reply to Maia’s comment, the only reason I reply is so that lurkers or other readers don’t interpret no reply to a comment as being tacit agreement.

Denise // Posted 23 June 2008 at 12:40 pm

I agree with Maia. What’s happening here is a menz offering moronic comments and childlishly demanding attention which some posters then unbelievably, sincerely and time-wastingly give! Someone else pointed that out on another post.

I thought the F-Word had rules against sad trollies hijacking posts with rubbish? Don’t let them waste our time. Fine for them to waste their own.

Alicia // Posted 23 June 2008 at 2:44 pm

Alex T said:

[i]What I find really bizarre is the way the advertising world accepts that women shave their legs, and actively promotes it (Veet, Gillette etc), but I have never seen any acknowledgement that women remove their underarm hair. And yet, I would guess that more women remove underarm hair than leg hair. Underarm hair is more noticeable and is regarded as more disgusting, and I have a handful of friends who don’t shave their legs, but only one who doesn’t shave her underarms.[/i]

But have you seen the recent Tube ads for an extra-caring deodorant “is shaving damaging your delicate underarm skin”? Apparently now – in addition to being hairless and smelling of meadow flowers – our underarms are supposed to be silky smooth and strokeable.

Sabre // Posted 23 June 2008 at 4:07 pm

Katarina, I’m rather shocked to hear of this orange fungus thing. I’ve never encountered it before! Maybe the men I’ve encountered have good hygiene.

Anyway, since this post first came up I’ve been bravely experimenting with growing some (not all) of my body hair. It’s been weird but I’m getting used to it and feel quite liberated! I’ve had to become less scared of what other people think about my body, which has had a positive effect on other parts of my life and confidence too. As I said, I haven’t gone for the whole (hairy) hog, as after having a good think I’ve realised which bits of my body I want hair-free (reasons of comfort included) and which bits I just want to let be free! I thought others might want to know and maybe feel inspired to experiment with their hair boundaries. Hooray for furry bits!

On a minor note, my boyfriend has had a harder time adjusting to these changes, but as I so often have to remind myself, men aren’t encouraged to question gender issues much. He’ll come around but sadly it’s a bit of a struggle.

Anne Onne // Posted 23 June 2008 at 4:15 pm

Alicia, exactly! Suddenly we get the added pressure of our patriarchy-approved shaved and deodorised underarms needing to be moisturised, because even though they’re hairless and smelling of roses, they’re not as soft and silky as a baby’s bottom. It never seems to have occurred to them that not all skin on your body is ‘meant’ to be soft and moisturised in the first place, and that skin can carry out it’s function perfectly well as long as it’s in decent nick, which for most people means being left alone most of the time…

Ironically, if we weren’t expected to mistreat our underarms so much to be less ‘disgusting’, we wouldn’t have sore underarms.

Holly Combe // Posted 23 June 2008 at 5:41 pm

Yes, I recently noticed how craggy my armpits were getting from over-shaving and, sadly, it was actually this that prompted me to leave them alone for longer. That said, I have looked on the possibility of someone commenting (on a hairier day) as a potential opportunity for discussion (i.e to challenge someone’s views and possibly change them) rather than a reason to be mortified with shame so it’s not like feminism hasn’t figured at all in my approach!

Re: getting into debates with men on here. While I agree that we shouldn’t fall into the trap of giving male commenters a disproportionate amount of attention, I also think it’s important that women allow each other the opportunity to debate, without being too ready to stereotype such behaviour as automatically generous or giving. We already have to put up with that kind of thing from non-feminist sources and, when it comes to deciding what to respond to, it often seems that we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. (As Anne says, no reply to a comment can easily be read as tacit agreement but, as we can see here, arguing with men could equally easily be viewed as somehow “letting them win” too.)

We all have our own parameters when it comes to what debates are worth having and which ones would be a waste of time. I accept that, sometimes, those decisions will be questioned but, generally, I think we need to give each other the space to engage with whatever happens to stimulate us at the time.

Aimee // Posted 23 June 2008 at 8:07 pm

Am I missing something…? Orange fungus!!??

Shea // Posted 24 June 2008 at 7:57 am

Wax don’t shave. Shaving is the devil. I make my own wax, from water, sugar and lemon juice and remove it using cotton strips from the Body Shop, after a Turkish friend showed me. Its clearly not just a western pressure either. She said women in the middle east regulalrly get together to remove their hair through waxing (coffee morning style!) and have been doing so for generations. Apparently there is a belief that only “genies” have hairy bits— we had a good laugh about that!

Seconding the horror—-orange fungus?!?!

Aimee // Posted 24 June 2008 at 4:19 pm

Shea, firstly i’m glad someone else is mystified by this enigmatic orange fungus… I have no idea what that’s about!

Secondly… with the upmost respect, because I don’t wish to offend anyone or undermine their personal beliefs, but isn’t waxing technically the same as shaving? Obviously it’s a different process, but the outcome is the same. This belief that only genies are hairy is essentially the same as the western precedent to deny existance and convey revulsion at female body hair. Why are these women denying that women have bodily hair? It just seems to me as though it’s another admission that women are innately imperfect and have to change and conform before they can be considered acceptable.

Shea // Posted 24 June 2008 at 7:50 pm

Aimee- you’re totally right. Its just another way of say women with body hair are unnatural. I’m just disappointed it’s a worldwide phenomenon.

I personally think this denial that women have body hair is a way of separating us from our simian past and with it the sexual behaviours and actions of “animals” (i.e. the freedom to indulge sexual encounters without having to submit to guilt over it). There is this standard that women are supposed to be pure, clean and virtuous, rather than sweaty, dirty and hairy and the Freudian in me really wonders at the sexual origins of this.

(The waxing is just the lesser of two evils.)

Shea // Posted 24 June 2008 at 8:20 pm

Aimee- you’re totally right. Its just another way of say women with body hair are unnatural. I’m just disappointed it’s a worldwide phenomenon.

I personally think this denial that women have body hair is a way of separating us from our simian past and with it the sexual behaviours and actions of “animals” (i.e. the freedom to indulge sexual encounters without having to submit to guilt over it). There is this standard that women are supposed to be pure, clean and virtuous, rather than sweaty, dirty and hairy and the Freudian in me really wonders at the sexual origins of this.

(The waxing is just the lesser of two evils.)

Charls // Posted 17 March 2009 at 3:47 pm

I’d have ditched him the second he dared to say such a stupid, anti-womanly thing. I’m in luck: my boyfriend couldn’t care less if I shaved or not.

^^ My boyfriend is the same, as are, I suspect, 99% of men… I was thinking in the shower the other morning ‘gee, I go so far to rid myself of body hair, but would freak out if my boyfriend got rid of his’…

I’m stupid enough to have started shaving it *all* off, more through curiosity than anything else. Until now, I’ve steadfastly refused to baldify just to satisfy the porno-mag ‘ideal’. I wish I’d kept it that way. I itch, and the plucked chicken look is far less attractive than the nice, neat ‘v’ that was the norm until recently.

I agree that pubes can make you feel a bit dirty if you haven’t showered that day, but trimming and showering daily solves that issue. I’m naturally fair, but shaving over and over again has turned me into a stubbley monster, which is far from ‘natural’ or ‘womanly’. You start shaving at an age where you’re very suggestible and impressionable, usually early high school, and end up in a hair-attacking habit throughout your life, right into your less impressionable years.

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