Illustration: Sophie Brampton
Armpit hair is all the rage—seriously. In the last year, alone, almost 25% of millennial women have decided to stop shaving their pits. Of course, the au naturale look has always been in for feminists. But is that why chicks are no longer shaving? I’ve written a lot about the commodification of feminism, particularly in the fashion industry. But we’ve also seen an authentic streak of female empowerment surge through high fashion with photographers like Petra Collins and Harley Weir booking top dollar gigs, photographing body positive models from Barbie Nox to Alexandra Marzella. It’s no doubt that seeing underarm hair in fashion magazines and on Instagram has encouraged other girls to stop using Nair (or whatever). There’s also the fact that Donald Trump is our President, and being a woman becomes scarier and scarier everyday. So, if not shaving your armpits feels like a way to reclaim your space, body or voice in a misogynistic regime, then, why the fuck not? Both of those ideas are powerful, and show the sudden growth (get it?) of armpit hair on twenty-something women as dissident and rebellious. And though I love to think of my fellow sisters as subversive anti-patriarchy soldiers, I can’t help but be a little hesitant. I mean, I don’t want to be a perpetual pessimist, but what if girls have just finally gotten sick of razor burn?
I know I’ve always hated shaving everything, especially my pits. I avoid it at all costs, even during the summer, and one of the only long-term benefits of being in a long-term relationship, is the ability to completely ignore what I thought were previously vital hygiene routines, but were really just forced notions of what I thought would make me attractive to the opposite sex (i.e. shaving your legs and armpits). I don’t even think I own a razor right now. And sure, I definitely hate Trump and consider myself a serious feminist. But you know what I hate more? Brands using feminism to try to sell me shit. Razor companies have always been the worst, but especially in the last few years—since Beyoncé embraced feminism and giant retail companies realized they could capitalize on women’s desperation to 1. fight back, and 2. fit in. Bottom line: feminism isn’t feminism if it reinforces the capitalist agenda. And it’s definitely not feminism if it does so while reinforcing pointless and archaic beauty standards like, you’re only pretty if you have hairless pits. Still, I’m not sure having hairy ones is.
Don’t get me wrong—I love the fact that women are no longer acquiescing to these stupid standards. But is it really some sort of feminist statement? Or is it because we hate shaving, and never wanted to do it to begin with? Now that feminism is trending (even more than armpit hair), it feels like the easy excuse. Especially when, in reality, women never would’ve started shaving had we not been overtly or inadvertently forced. When I got my first hot pink razor at the ripe old age of 13, I had long accepted shaving as a part of what would become my foray into womanhood. But I never really understood it. And even more than that, I never really cared. I just always had a deep understanding that everyone else did. So, when my cousin told me she shaved, I started—even though I only had two blonde hairs. And as quickly as I leapt into what I thought was womanhood, I was over it—and went back to just stuffing my bra.
But that’s the thing—I wasn’t doing it as some sort of bold political act. I did it, because I didn’t want to shave. And I can’t logically think of one woman who really, truly does. I mean, who would? It sucks, it’s annoying, and then it can hurt. Though, that’s beside the point. The only reason women do it, is because we’ve been trained to think we should, and even then, most only do it when they’re going to be naked or in a tank top.
So, what does it mean that a bunch of us have stopped? That there are more feminists now than there were three years ago? Probably, but I don’t think that’s the answer. I’m sure Trump helps, as does the fact that hairy pits have been showcased in Vogue. More than anything, though, I think women are finally brave enough to do what they want. And maybe that’s more feminist than hairy arms.