BEAUTY BODY IMAGE FEMINISM SOCIETY

The armpit thing

Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Over a year ago I decided to grow out and dye my pit hair. Inspired by a picture of a girl with bright pink pubes; I ran to my local Sally’s, shocked the hell out of the cashier, and made my mother angry with my freshly bleached and colored armpits. I eventually recorded a video and published it to YouTube, explaining what I did, how I did it, and why I did it. It was cool to see a few thousand views on my own video. Cooler to see it reach a hundred thousand, then three. Even more exciting was when television shows and radio hosts and newspaper journalists reached out to me, as if what I had to say was original or worthy to talk about.

Honestly, though, this trend wasn’t new. It isn’t groundbreaking. And it certainly should not be the epitome of feminism, either. But people didn’t really care what I had to say as long as I looked cute and had freshly dyed pits. I was on Huffington Post Live as a panelist and tried to bring up my concerns; that this trend was drenched in white feminism (a feminism not inclusive or intersectional). I tried to argue that no, armpit hair did not represent feminism. I was interviewed over the phone and through email, but still people cut out what I had to say.

People of color still get shit on for having shadowed arms while these white girls with dyed armpits are considered revolutionists. Girls who’s bloodline makes their mustaches more noticeable, eye brows longer, and facial fuzz more prominent continue to be mocked and berated. A pretty girl in a French movie is celebrated, but a Middle eastern at the grocery store woman is degraded.

I was ashamed to be associated with the trend I revived because I knew these hypocritical undertones, frustrated mainstream feminism was’t picking up on them. I was angry that my whole motivation for this, to break away from beauty molds, still could not entirely break from the eurocentric standards I despise and denounce. I was upset my criticism was being ignored and shot down, while my “pro-armpit hair” rhetoric was regurgitated over and over again. We’ve seen enough photos and interviews of girls with armpit hair! Sit down, Becky. Let’s move onto the bigger picture; the true issue at hand:

A woman’s body is not a place for politics or discussion.

The issue with body hair, with weight, with makeup, with clothing, with all these this material used for judgment is that people feel entitled to comment and criticize a woman. There is a war raging against us, with people trying to restrict our reproductive freedoms, with peers policing our sexuality, with movies fetishizing our races, with the media tossing us on a platter to be dissected and sold.

And this dissection breeds patriarchal societal pressures that enforce a narrow, shallow, twisted perception of “beauty”. One of these standards being hairlessness, associating baldness with beauty and femininity.

Modern society has been molded to find hair on women unattractive.

Seeing a girl with armpit hair is already shocking, but when the bush is, say, bright blue, well…it tends to be an even more startling sight. Obviously it’s not something you see every day, and there is bound to be some negative backlash. It’s surprising then, that there is an overwhelming amount of support that completely overshadows the ignorant comments, hateful glances, and close-minded remarks. Although it’s easy to let the hostility go, it’s not the words people hurl that bother me. It’s the fact people can see this a personal choice something to condemn.

“That’s disgusting.”
“What the fuck?”
“Is this a joke…?”
“I’m going to vomit.”
“What is she thinking?”
“That is so wrong.”
“Ew!”
“How pathetic.”

It’s understandable that people will be uncomfortable and confused.  The entire stigma against body hair on women has been drilled into our heads by eurocentric media; a ridiculous standard that has been planted in our minds by “conventional” values which praise fair skinned, lightly “fuzzed” bodies at the expense of melanin rich and thicker counterparts. But…body hair grows on practically every human, in practically every place. Even on women. On our hands, feet, chest, back, toes, knees, upper lips, and so on. We’ve happy trails running up our stomachs. There’s hair on our butts. Hair on our arms. It is a natural and normal thing, the fact that it’s shamed and deemed ugly is   a product of conditioning, not an instinctual opinion.

Hairlessness is NOT perfection.

That is such a toxic idea to live with. Growing up as a Latina girl around fair skinned and fine haired friends, my body image was crappy. I use to think they were so lucky,I found them naturally beautiful; they didn’t have to hide their furry arms or beg their mothers to let them wax their faces.

I was ten.

These thoughts disregarding my own body and its processes were only solidified the older I became. When I first started growing pubic hair and mentioned it to my friends, they told me to shave. The idea of shaving down there was so scary to my thirteen year old self. When I told them I didn’t…I’ll never forget their faces. We were children and we already believed we should be repulsed by the hair we find on our own and each other’s bodies. We were kids who were taught to feel ashamed by the way we looked.

When I was fourteen my step-mother taught me how to take tweezers to my face and remove the “imperfections” spattered across my upper lip and eyebrows.

When I went to the pool in a bikini, I didn’t care about the risk of burning or having a fun time with my friends. I was paranoid that the boys swimming would see the dark line crawling from my belly towards my chest or see the hairs peeking out of my bottoms.

When I forgot to shave my legs and wore a dress on my first day of sophomore year, I changed into smelly gym sweats because stubble was way worse than stale perspiration.

This concept that we should shame body hair, that it’s something that affects our beauty or value in any way, is one that we all need to unlearn. Which is easier said than done of course, but it’s still neccessary.

Last summer I decided to stop shaving my armpits. I stopped because, for me, having body hair is empowering; it’s a statement; it is desensitizing people in my life;it’s a giant “fuck you” towards society and it’s stigmas.
Since baldness is seen as an epitome of modern beauty, us girls live our entire lives under the enforcement of this ideal….but when you go against the grain it’s beyond liberating. I know this is real tacky to say (even I cringed while writing this part), but once you choose not to conform to society’s standards, nearly everything in your is susceptible to drastic change. My confidence has soared in both my physical sense and in the security I feel defending my beliefs. I no longer hide my insecurities or doubt my strength. I’ve put myself out there far more than I ever did before and I have met many amazing people whom only solidify my importance which I now see.

So, to those who still are iffy about it or still find yourself wanting to say ugly things, ask yourself what is so wrong about armpit hair. What’s wrong with it being blue? What is the difference between my friends red highlights and someone’s dyed pits? Can you explain why armpit hair on a girl is so wrong? Why is it acceptable for guys to let their body hair go wild, while girls have to preen themselves to fit these standards? How can someone’s personal grooming choices possibly be anything for you to shame? What makes you entitled to comment on someone else’s body? Why do you think it’s gross? Are these your thoughts? Your views? Is it possible to be honest with yourself and admit these thoughts are close minded ones? Really, truly question your judgments.


HOW TO DYE YOUR PITS

By now there’s a shitload of posts and tutorials on how to dye your armpit hair. Low key I’m salty so many other people are getting credit for something I initiated but…whatever.
Anyways, keep in mind the dye will bleed. Letting lotion soak on your skin for a bit then wiping away with a towel or wipe works really well. Wear gel deodroant. Also, it doesn’t hurt. I had a few friends tell me that cause the area is so sensitive, bleaching and dyeing my armpits is too harsh and will cause pain. At least for me and the people who have told me they followed my steps, there was no pain at all, albeit a slight tingle/burn when bleaching may occur. There are no known side effects to dying your armpit hair, so do so at your own risk.

MATERIALS:

  • A mixing bowl (or any plastic container)
  • Hair dye brush
  • Clear gloves
  • Sensitive scalp, 20 volume bleach developer
  • Bleach powder (I used L’Oreal Quick Blue)
  • Vaseline or lotion
  • Hair dye (strongly recommend using a vegetable based dye as to avoid harming chemicals. I used Manic Panic)
  1. In your mixing container add in equal parts powder and developer, the amount depends on how much hair you have. Mix until it’s a thick liquid that doesn’t drip and apply to your hair with the dye brush.
  2. Leave the bleach on for 25 minutes and if still dark, check every 10 minutes. I have thick, coarse, and very dark hair, so I left mine on for about 40 minutes. You can see it turning blonder, so once you see it reach the lightest it can get, remove it using the dye brush. Scrape the shit off and use your hand to rinse out the remaining bleach.
  3. Using your fingers, apply Vaseline/lotion generously around your armpits to create a thick layer. This prevents the dye from staining the area around your armpits.
  4. Open your dye and put on your gloves. Dip a finger into the container and take your armpit hair between your thumb and forefinger in order to liberally rub the dye in. Make sure to get the baby hairs!
  5. You’re gonna have to keep your arms raised or lay on your belly propped up by your elbows until you’re done.
  6. Since it’s a vegetable dye, aka no chemicals, you can leave it on for as long as you want. Manic Panic recommends at least an hour. But thirty minutes or less works, too.
  7. Once you’re done (or just tired lol) simply go in the shower and rinse well with water first. Then, rub soap between your hands until it gets all foamy and clean your armpits. I usually repeat this 2-3 times. The more you wash, the less it will bleed. However, I try not to wash too often the first night as the color seems to fade.
  8. All done! As I said before, it will bleed around your skin for a few days so just make sure you wash the area around your armpits every morning! Or you can put on Vaseline/coconut oil before you sleep so when you wake up you can just wipe it off. Try to avoid light colored tops until the dye stops bleeding. Perhaps using another brand will prevent bleeding, but I don’t know! It’s all trial and error.

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