With summer coming, or rather, with summer here, I’ve been thinking more and more about my armpits. Yes, you read that right.
One of the first things I tried to fully embrace over the years is that I am inevitably very hairy. Besides the curls (which apparently also constituted a subject prone to bullying), the presence of extensive body hair has been commented on and made fun of extensively. Personally, I never had a problem with it, but since childhood I’ve been subject to various procedures – be it razors, laser, waxing, you name it – to get rid of said hair. Since infancy, I heard the proverbial “such nice hands, too bad there’s hair until the knuckles”, or comments on my mustache.
Being socialized as a girl in Western society, and a member of a minority, meant devoting an exorbitant amount of time to conform to certain expectations. Clearly, it’s more than the policing of female bodies which is the issue here: it’s also a white supremacist idea that white womanhood = hairlessness, only less civilized peoples not plucking their body hair. I don’t know enough about the subject to speak about body hair in traditional (= pre Meiji Restoration) Japan, where the issue is conspicuously different, and in addition I mostly want to speak to a Western audience and about my personal experience and thoughts. However, I feel it’s important to point this out as, and I know this may sound shocking to you, the West and especially the English speaking part of it is not the center of the universe.
Coming back to hair, I struggled with this for decades, and I still am, both for the obvious reason of not being a woman, and, philosophically, for the imperialistic implications of hair removal. Every time I think of wearing a dress (which, you know, may happen twice a year) I agonize over whether to wax or not to wax. I stopped removing my arm hair a couple of years ago, and spent the majority of that first summer in long sleeved linen shirts to hide the hair. Now that I’ve stopped waxing the armpits as well, I’m finding excuses not to show my arms above the elbow, a decision which is also enabled by my new massive sleeve tattoo.
It’s not like I care what people think. However, I do care about how my actions and choices make me feel, even when the action has a deliberate motivation I, in principle, agree with. I don’t want to feel bad about making a choice just because this choice aligns with my political agenda. Conversely, I don’t want to take the easy way out which confirms whatever power I am against.
I’m not looking for advice here. I’m merely stating how this has been a struggle for me because I think that even if you are a woman, this may resonate with you. Any person should be free to remove their hair, or not, if they wish to, without any expectations from society to do it one way or the other.
Please enjoy these pictures of a Zadie Jumpsuit I made two years ago, in Tercel twill, which I hacked to sleeveless, and my new Kannon Bosatsu tattoo (still unfinished) by the super talented Ichibay. Ah, please also enjoy my rendition of Blue Steel, haha!
5 thoughts on “Zadie Jumpsuits, tattoos, and armpit hair”
I know how you feel. I also am a rather hairly women. In my youth, I was very much ashamed about my hairy body. I wax reguraly, not because I want to, but because I hate all this haar.
Thought provoking post, thank you
My mother never removed any body hair, and discovering that it was not only idealized but EXPECTED was a very harsh awakening for me when I hit high school. I feel every word you say. I don’t care if you do or don’t, I just don’t want to be forced to conform. 😢
Thank you so much for writing this. I, myself, have more hair than my husband. I was also bullied when I was a child for my very dark hair and have also been subjected to wax, laser hair removal, electrolysis, epillation, you name it.
I initially stopped shaving to see if it would clear up a skin condition and, when it did, I refused to start shaving again except for the odd occasion — I even found a swimsuit that makes me feel comfortable when I’ve not shaved (oh legsuit, my hero) so I didn’t have to shave for our regular trips to the local swimming pool.
Though I’m also struggling with the to-shave-or-not-to-shave debate occasionally when I’m dressing up. Part of me wants to go full femme and be told my everyone how pretty I look — but part of me wants to scream in the face of the ridiculous social norms that say that one needs to be hairless to be pretty in the first place. Consequently, I’ve all but stopped dressing up in traditionally feminine clothes — and that’s disappointing, too.
It’s wonderful for me to know I’m not alone — this’ll be the summer than I’ll rock my “manly” legs with a sundress.
Thank you for sharing this 😭