The hairy issue of armpits: hair-free or free-range?

Image: armpitsforaugust.comIf you’ve been following me online over the past couple of weeks you will have seen me posting about a charity challenge which I will be taking part in throughout August. Armpits4August is an initiative to encourage women to grow their armpit hair during August to raise money for Verity, the PCOS support charity.

I thought I would share my story with you to explain why I’m doing this. I’ve not talked about this online anywhere before and I rarely even speak about it in person. Pity parties are not the kind of parties that I like to rock. However I thought it would be good to put this charity challenge into context and explain why it means so much to me.

In 2008 I was diagnosed with PCOS and endometriosis. Up until my laparoscopic surgery a couple of years back I was suffering from severe pain on a regular basis (e.g. intense bouts of pain on most weeks, managed with strong painkillers) and had been since 2006 when the doctors started their investigations. As a result of these conditions (which are treatable but incurable) I am unable to have children.

These circumstances lead to me exploring issues around women’s health and society in general. Although I would have always said I was a feminist, recently I’ve been challenging myself around what that means. Without becoming too political here, I would say that the modern concept of feminism is too amorphous. I prefer the term “women’s lib” as I think it clearly states what needs to happen to affect real change in this society – but then I’ve always appreciated retro things!

From feminism to fertility issues, I’ve started questioning everything. Currently I’ve been looking at attitudes towards body hair on women. I’ve always been fairly lax around my leg hair as it’s blonde so doesn’t show. I trim my bikini line but as I don’t wear anything itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny then I don’t worry more than that. But underarm hair was always something that I shaved and have done for over twenty years.

But recently I’ve started examining this. Where has the notion come from, that body hair on women is repellent? This belief is so ingrained in our society that even those who advocate another woman’s free choice to shave her armpits or otherwise often cites “cleanliness” rather than “societal pressure” as the reason for them shaving their own pits. But if hair-free = ultimate cleanliness, then wouldn’t men be shaving off all their body hair as well?

But that doesn’t mean it’s not challenging now the armpit hair is starting to grow longer than the “oh I forgot to shave this week” stage. Especially when it’s vest-top weather. So these are some of the questions and thoughts that I’ve been having. No definitive answers and no “forever” solutions, just things to think about for now. Therefore when I saw this charitable challenge and who they were raising money for I thought it was just too much serendipity to ignore.

So that’s my story. Wherever you stand on the hairy issue of female body-hair, if you would like to support me in my pledge to keep my pits a razor-free zone in August it would be much appreciated. A pound or two will go a long way to helping me reach my target and it’s quick and easy to donate to Verity using my JustGiving page.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Now go forth, make your own deodorant and reclaim your armpits, hair-free or free-range!

Lisa Margreet | Craft educator and writer | image