I was quite late to develop during puberty. This left me with many nights longing for things that I now consider a pain; periods, breasts, pubic hair. I remember in my early teens shaving my naked armpits to encourage growth, not because I wanted hair but because I wanted to remove it. Removing my body hair was a signifier of my impending womanhood.
Now, years later like many other women, shaving my armpits is mostly a bother, as are periods, breasts and pubic hair. I do celebrate these things in my über feminist way but they can still be bothersome. I know that the societal expectation surrounding this naturally occurring phenomenon — the expectation that I should bleed silently, show my breasts modestly (or not) and remove my body hair — is what really bothers me, not the tedium of shaving or waxing.
I first decided to grow my armpit hair about six months ago. It wasn't anything I had ever seriously considered in the past; I didn't even really think about it as an option, I just went along with business as usual. It started because I wanted to wax it for the first time and save some of the hassle for future removal. As it grew on me, physically and metaphorically, I started to enjoy the strength I found in my minor rebellion. This developed further into the thought, 'Every woman should do this once in their lives, right?'
I have only been asked to remove it, surprisingly, only once working as a model. As a model there are certain standards that you must hold your body to and no body hair is one of these. I didn't really think much of it at that point, I wasn't really fussed whether it was there or not. I'd had my fun. But if I'm truly honest I actually felt slightly embarrassed, I was worried the woman who asked me to shave it thought I was dirty.
Now it is again in full bloom and I have no intention of looking back anytime soon. The longer it has grown the deeper my thoughts have become on why it feels good, why I sometimes feel shame and why it is important to overcome this, for myself and for others.
I want to fight against the binary gender standards that constrain us; the idea that men should be men and women should be women. This is widely discussed amongst the LGBTIQ community of which I am a part, but seldom beyond. Binary gender standards affect us all in negative ways. This is why men can't cry and why women are being dramatic when they do. These standards are placed unfairly on us all with little room for leniency.
I want to tell others that it's okay to live outside the norm. The more we can express our individual selves without shame, the louder the message is that we send to others that they can do so too. There is nothing more awful than feeling alone in your mind. The more we show our differences to each other the more we see that they are not so different, we are all actually not the norm.
I also grow my hair for myself; to combat the ideals I have in my mind of how I am supposed to be as a woman and to experiment with different ways that I can feel beautiful.
These are the reasons I grow my armpit hair. I am not speaking on behalf of every woman, just myself.
This is my silent protest; this is my personal empowerment. This is me telling the world that it's way more fun to live in the margins if you do not fit into the norm.
Published in Oyster Magazine