This question originally appeared on Quora: What's it like to be a woman who does not shave armpits who is living in a country where almost all women do shave their armpits?
Answer by Katie Hoban, Woman
It's pretty awesome! I stopped shaving in November of 2013, barring occasional maintenance trims, and I think it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Text reads: Well behaved women seldom make history.
My decision to stop shaving was, at first, kind of a joke -- I wanted to take part in No-Shave November. So, I did. And then December passed. And January. And February. And then, I realized that I took no personal pleasure in shaving and decided that I would do away with it altogether.
In the following months, I discovered that my hairy legs and armpits had granted me two superpowers: 1) the ability to magically repel anyone who believed that their idea of "what a woman should look like" was more important than every single one one of my other qualities combined, and 2) the ability to easily and effectively open conversations about the way people view women's bodies.
See, until 1915, nobody even knew that female armpit hair was objectionable! That's because this "discovery" was actually an advertising ploy run in Harper's Bazaar, a popular fashion magazine. So, the practice of women shaving their armpits is under 100 years old. Throughout the 1920's, various fashion writers tried to press the issue of "objectionable hair" being a curse of the legs as well, but it didn't really catch on until the 1940's. So, the practice of women shaving their legs is about 70 years old -- younger than my grandma!
Women shaving was effectively the result of razor companies trying to expand their market -- and we bought it. Today, now that companies have convinced us that this hair is so objectionable, they're trying to further specialize products in order to increase profit through gendered marketing:
So, I personally don't want to spend $20 or $30 on a handle and a couple of blades so I can spend 5 minutes a day (81 days of my life, if I live to be 86-years-old) removing body hair that I am perfectly comfortable with. That being said, I know there are women who do enjoy the feeling of smooth legs, and I support their choice to pursue that wholeheartedly -- it's just not something I personally want to invest my time or money in.
There are always a couple of men who get their knickers in a twist over what I decide to do with my body (as there always are when women have autonomy over their bodies), but the fact of the matter is that it makes about as much sense for someone to freak out over me not having shaved armpits as it would make sense for them to freak out over me not having a shaved head.
It's hair, people. I mean, really? The amount of importance we attach to where these strands of keratin emerge from our bodies is, frankly, rather silly. By not shaving, I a) save time, b) save money, c) avoid communicating with people who aren't worth talking to, and d) facilitate important conversations about body image and the commodification of the female body.
- Feminism: Is new age feminism at least somewhat to blame for increasing divorce rates?
- Body Hair: What do you think about women who don't shave, wax or otherwise remove hair from their armpits, legs and/or pubic regions?
- Body Image: Why is Disney still making female characters with such cartoon-ish bodies?