About a year and a half ago, I ended a five-year relationship with a man who, despite calling himself a feminist, subtly (and then overtly) shamed me about my weight and body hair.
After years of him asking me to wax my ladyparts, I finally did it as a special one-time thing in an attempt to save our failing relationship. Then he decided I had to wax, all the time.
One day I posted an article about how more young women (i.e., Miley Cyrus) were sporting hairy armpits, and jokingly said to him, "Hey, I think I should stop shaving my armpits too." He got angry and told me it was a deal breaker for our relationship. I quit shaving everything that day, and quit putting up with his bullshit for good a few weeks later.
It has been empowering to reject the body hair status quo by rocking my luxurious pit hair in tank tops every chance I get. And in the context of my breakup, I felt like I was reclaiming my body and celebrating it in all its glory. Since then, I've dated several men, and a woman or two, and I have to say, the longer I go with my hairy armpits, the more I think it was the best decision I ever made for my personal life.
Here are a few of the things I've learned in a year of dating without shaving.
Not shaving weeds out the dude-bros
Particularly the ones whose ideas about women are too stuck in the Stone Age to enjoy a woman's body if it doesn't conform to their ideals. I mean, the second I open my mouth, most men like that run for the hills -- but you can tell a lot about someone who is flirting with you by their reaction to something that's socially unconventional.
I like to think that this filter system also weeds out those men who are bad at sex, as I assume sexist men are generally not the most giving in that department... but I may need to continue my studies to be sure of this conclusion.
Most people don't care, because sexy is sexy
Look, y'all. This last year, I've been with the most conventionally attractive roster of sexual/romantic partners of any period in my life, and guess what? Not a SINGLE DAMN ONE cared about my lack of shaving. Only one guy even said anything, and he ended up being a dud anyway. The fact is, a sexy person doesn't stop being sexy because they have visible body hair.
I feel more confident about my body than I've ever been
As a body-positive, queer feminist, I hate to admit that I've done quite a few things to my body for men. Like so many women my age, I've shaved, waxed, plucked, dieted, juice cleansed (never again), and Spanx'ed myself on a somewhat regular basis. Growing up with a mother who constantly dieted and criticized my appearance on a daily basis, I was set up perfectly for a lifetime of hating my body.
For too long I felt like no matter whom I dated, I ought to be doing everything I could to be conventionally attractive to heterosexual men. While I admittedly haven't set aside all of those feelings, I do feel at home in my hairy, curvy body for the first time in my life. It's a pretty great feeling, by the way.
This debate isn't going away anytime soon, but we really need to keep having it
A few days ago I posted a video on social media about women who quit shaving their legs and/or underarms. The point of the clip was to say that shaving and other body hair grooming is a personal choice, and everyone should feel free to do (or not do) whatever they want with their body.
Sure enough, it didn't take long for some dude-bro to offer his unsolicited opinion that "It's just not OK" for women to not shave. Well, thanks, dude-bro; I had no idea everyone's body hair was your concern. Responses like his bring up issues of feminism, bodily autonomy, and cultural beauty standards that privilege women who are thin, white, and hairless -- standards that hurt all women, and make us feel like failures when we can't attain them.
No matter your preferences when it comes to your own body hair, the important thing is to remember that they are yours alone. And straight/bi ladies, just take my advice when I tell you that if a guy thinks your body hair is gross or tries to make you change it, that might be a big, hairy red flag that he's not worth your time.
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