Pitstache the Documentary: Questions to Ask, Missions to Accomplish

Jamie’s Team Pick:

Maybe you shave your pits. Maybe you don’t shave your pits. Probably you do one or the other, and maybe sometimes you do one and sometimes you do the other. Whatever the case, society has feelings about your armpit hair and those feelings are incredibly gendered right along with so many other body policing stereotypes and standards. Last year Ms. Magazine published a piece about #noshavenovember highlighting this double standard pulling from the trending tweets gems like this one from toiletBowlB aka Brandon Hinton:

Author Deborah Aronin explains Brandon is not alone with his aversion or disgust at the thought of lesbian, hippie, feminist women not shaving their pits:

Love it or hate it no one can deny that a lady with a pitstache gets a double-take.   Why is that? Why is it that men are not expected to shave, but women are?  Why is it that men who do shave must either be swimmers or gay (or gay swimmers)?   Why do women stop shaving and how does the world react to them?

While it may seem silly, making this film is also very important work: Society’s demands for how women “have to look” changes over time, and affects millions of women, girls, and men! Is there a connection between obsession with hair removal and self-esteem or eating disorders? Does society’s norms affect women’s health and opportunities, both for those who follow those norms and those who ignore them?

The Pitstache kickstarter project sorely needs funds to reach their $10,000 goal  with less than one day left to donate and get the country talking about their pits.

 

UPDATE FROM DEBORAH OF PITSTACHE: 

As you probably know, the Kickstarter campaign is both over, and didn’t reach its goal, though we did raise $3,000 — that we can’t keep. Ugh. So, since that pretty much sucks, we started our own fundraising site, http://PITSTARTER.com where we get to keep everything people pledge, regardless of how much we raise how fast. (Please consider becoming a sponsor, folks!) [O]ur film site is http://pitstache.com for anyone who wants to keep up on it.Thanks to everyone for their support and comments.
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Jamie lives in Boston and is currently a PhD student in Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is a freelance writer and also a team associate for the Boston chapter of Hollaback!.

Jamie has written 79 articles for us.

100 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    My girlfriend doesn’t shave or wax. It’s not out of being a feminist or anti-THE MAN, she just decided almost a year ago that she would not shave/pluck/wax a single stranc of her body hair for an entire year to see how she felt about her body and the standards laid upon it. June (the month she started) is rapidly approaching, and she wants to keep it all except the nethers.

    I met her a few months ago when she was fully hairy. It honestly never bothered me past the initial “Oh shit, where is the vagina” half second of when I first hooked up with her.

    I’m now at the point where I have let my hair grow in certain parts… but I still shave everything else. And I ask myself… why?

    That’s it. I’m going to fully support my girl and join her the body hair image.

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    I ask myself the same thing! Has there already been an Autostraddle post about shaving and the dealing with the subsequent inner conflicts? I have all kinds of feminist conflicts and feelings in my head when I shave, especially the ladybits, and I’d love to have a conversation about it, and I know Autostraddle would do a good job of it.

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    I feel that the pressure to lack hair in every possible area is bigger now than it was 10 or 15 years ago.

    Apart from the usual areas, some of my friends/relatives shave their arms, even belly hair, and they’re not particularly hairy people, at all. Some of my friends cannot conceive anything but bare on the downstairs area, they find it anti hygienic which is kinda funny since that hair is *there* to precisely protect it.

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    omg… another article on something I really couldn’t care less about. Ok, I shave and wax, up and down and all around. but who the hell cares? is this any of yours or anybody else business? Is it really a question of feminism to decide if I have to be shaved or not? do you really think not shaving is an act of civic disobedience, of feminist struggle, of radical opposition towards oppression? sorry gals, but it’s totally my business if I shave or not, if I wear a bra or not, if I go in high heels or not, if I put lipstick or not… The only thing feminism has to fight for is the right of each and every one of us to decide on our own, without anybody telling me what I have to do or not to do. normative feminism is about as oppressive as the whole patriarchal bullshit.

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      Woah there, lady love. This article is about highlighting societies interest in our hairy bits- not about policing what you do with yours. It’s my belief that Autostraddle loves all of us no matter how furry (or not) we choose to be!

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      Gee, that comment was quite passionate for someone who doesn’t care about the issue!

      But I totally get how feminism asking women (everyone, really) to consider how/why dominant body ideologies are formed, is THE SAME THING as the systematic oppression, stigmatisation and violence that patriarchal society throws at women’s bodies every day. Yep.

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      I think it takes a certain kind of courage and tenacity to be an unshaven woman. Anytime a woman breaks the cultural standards she is expected to adhere to, she’s met with a wall of resistance, anger, disgust, disappointment, et cetera. I do think the topic of shaving versus not shaving is a feminist struggle and that this topic is completely relevant to this community. For many women, myself included, whether or not to remove body hair is something to really contemplate, and when we do consider it, we’re reacting to one more facet of the ‘your body isn’t okay the way it is’ message that’s used in an attempt to defeat us.

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        sorry gals, I really try to understand you, but find it hard to follow. where is the borderline then and who is drawing it? Am I allowed to have a shower and even wash my hair without complying to the patriarchal standards? or should I stink just to be a good feminist? who else then each one of us can and shall decide about our own body, about our own outfit? sure there are conditioning factors, an imposed oppression of your freedom of choice, as long as you follow them against your will. but do you really want to tell me that every bit of lipstick or soap that I use is already expressing my subordination under patriarchal rules? I am confident that women today are grown up and strong enough to take decisions on their own – without complying just to imposed standards, be it patriarchal or “feminist”.

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          Well although i think you’re being a bit silly trying to equate performing femininity with hygiene i will say this; we ALL play the game to some extent. The point is not to be chastised for being a bad feminist for wearing lipstick or shaving your legs etc, the point is to understand that our “choices” do not occur in a vacuum and to question when possible why we make them. If I can be a bit pretentious I have always loved the Goethe quote to explain why it’s important to always question ourselves. “None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free”. We will never make strides against patriarchy if we can’t criticise those parts of it that we have internalised.

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            “performing femininity”… “play the game”… omg… girl, wake up, get adult. I’m well aware that we don’t live in a vacuum, but on this very planet earth, in given social, political, economic, etc. conditions and circumstances. and still the most radical (feminist) idea is the one of human freedom and liberty. quoting Goethe does not really help there, or do you want to suggest that we would be less enslaved if we do not strive for our freedom but subject to somebody telling us how and what to do – in the name of feminism or any other -ism? striving for individual freedom and a society that allows diversity is still a more radical approach then just subjecting to the given conditions. And believe it or not, some women will then still decide to give birth, to wear high heels, or to wax… as ever they like. or you truly believe all that is nothing but parts of partriarchy that we have internalised?

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            I feel like you’re being hostile so I don’t really care to argue with you. I do however find it amusing that you tell me to “get adult”.

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            sorry if you felt offended, that was not my intention.
            however, I guess you are right. let’s stop arguing and do it each our own way. sorry again.

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          Of course, Belle, there’s quite a difference between defining one’s management (or lack thereof) of body hair as ‘feminist’ and defining the management (of lack thereof) more broadly as a feminist issue. Surely it’s possible to understand the importance of talking about a cultural moment in which the hairless female body is idolized and the hairy female body is viewed as monstrous or disgusting, while also acknowledging one’s right to participate/refuse hair-related actions? Acknowledging the political nature of an act does not mean feminism requires one to refuse participation; indeed, such a response would be reductive and just as silly as you’re suggesting.

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    Where does it all end? Women also pluck the hell out of their eyebrows. Soon the only hair society will allow us to have is eyelashes and the hair on our heads. I can see it now, “her eyelashes are so thick, she looks like a cave woman!” makes me sick. personally, hair follicles don’t bother me.

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    When I read the first few sentences of this article, I thought you meant that probably we shave one or the other armpit.

    I think for the next few weeks I will shave only my left armpit and see what happens.

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    Women must be hairless because their purpose in life is to attract men, and men have decided that they like their women-folk bald. Men do not have to be hairless because society is ruled and made up of only men, and they wouldn’t go to such lengths to please women because their purpose in life is to control their women-folk and the world, not waste time trying to attract women because women (luckily) will have whatever they’re given and they don’t have a libido anyway. They are robots made by and for men. *end of rant*

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    I don’t really shave much of anything anymore, except my pits (although that’s getting to be a lot less frequent). This is mostly because I am lazy, and I always end up with millions of cuts on my legs, and I just find it generally annoying to do. And why should I have to? It’s my body, and I’ll do whatever the hell I want to with it!

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    “Pitstache” is only one letter off “pistache” which is the French word for “pistachio”, and this is causing me to have mental pictures of women walking around with pistachios tucked into their armpits.

    Anyway, not a big issue for me as I have approximately three fine blond hairs per pit, so nobody notices if I don’t shave ‘em. I’ve never personally been a big fan of body hair on either sex, but I certainly don’t think it’s anyone’s place to judge women who opt to keep their natural fur accessories intact.

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      I can imagine walking around with a pistache being much more uncomfortable than with a pitstache but you’d have snacks ready all the time…but people would look at you weird seeing you munch on the bounty of your pits. Either way, I’m glad I don’t grow pistachios in my pits.

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      You were not the only one who thought of pistachio and I’m not even French, however it stopped there, I didn’t even get the mental image you did and that’s just hilarious to me. Now I have a mental image of a woman hoarding pistachio’s under her pits like a squirrel to nuts. I can see her acting all paranoid like someone is about to take them from her and her having this violent reaction to people trying to get her pistachio’s from underneath her pits. My mind is a very amusing place, let me tell ya, it keeps me entertained that’s for sure, lol.

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    I haven’t shaved a thing in almost a year, and I don’t get much attention for it. This is probably because I’m blond and the hair on my legs just looks kind of sparkly as opposed to really furry (and also because I live in Minnesota, where everybody is covered in layers of clothing for nine months of the year.) But I heard one of my coworkers talking about one of our kids (I work with kids ages 6-18) who was about 12 who has dark hairy pits, and he was being really rude. She was TWELVE! So I told him to go fuck himself.
    I don’t let the hair grow because of some feminist thing (even though everything is a feminist thing), it’s mostly because when I did shave I always ended up cutting myself and one days I just decided I didn’t care anymore.

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    People talk all the time about the hygienic risks of hair removal, but let me tell you: Not ten minutes before reading this article, I attempted to shave with an electric trimmer for the first time, and the sound of the motor was so loud it prevented me from noticing the enormous angry hornet that was buzzing around the bathroom with me. I WAS NOT PREPARED. Nothing makes you rethink body hair like a mid-shave hornet ambush.

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    Personally, I’m not a fan of body hair on my own body. I shave and/or wax everything but the hair on my head obviously, and have no inner conflicts about it because it’s what I prefer to do. But I don’t judge what other women choose to do with *their* bodies. If some women want to rock the body hair, then they should be able to without being called out for it.

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    Gross. In my opinion, all hair should just be waxed except for the head and eyebrows. Not just women, but men too. Armpit hair is just disgusting in general. Unless you live in a sub-zero environment and lack any form of clothing, fur is unnecessary.

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    I was on the fence about the sexiness of armpit hair, then I discovered the amazingness of Amanda Fucking Palmer. I am now convinced that armpit hair can be sexy, as well as whatever else someone wants to do with their hair. You do you and whatnot.

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    I knew I was keeping this picture for a special reason, http://i46.tinypic.com/2mmst4p.jpg. I swear, the things advertising does to the psyche of the populace.

    On a personal note, I’m not a fan of body hair regardless of gender. I’m probably in the minority here, but I would not mind at all if men shaved their pits/legs too, as well as women. Of course, it’s a personal preference of mine, as far as what I find attractive. People have different standards of beauty, so whatever floats their boat. As for the double standards, it’s fine to have your own personal preference, but it’s another thing to shove your personal beauty standards down other people’s throat and deem them not worthy enough of someone else’s attraction, affection, attention, etc. People are so worried about other people’s existence, when they need to fuck off and worry about their own shit.

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    I have so many feelings about body hair I could probably write several memoirs, like one for each hair grouping.

    My Psuedo-Mustache and Me
    When I Started Plucking My Eyebrows and Everyone Suddenly Realized I Was a Girl
    “I Don’t Smell Bad, I Just Smell Like a Person”: Pits and the Hair They Grow
    Why Does My Sister Shave Her Arms?
    The FIrst Time I Had Sex With a Girl Who Was Real Hairy and Other Enlightening Moments
    “But Your Hair Was So Pretty”: Why I Used to Cry Every Time I Cut My Hair
    What’s With Those Few Hairs by My Nipples? Idk
    Every Guy I’ve Slept With Has Commented on My Vag Hair: Why I Usually Hear About it Through Someone Else
    “I Want a Beard When I Grow Up” and Other Confusing Thoughts I Had as a Child
    Wind In My Leg Hair: A Poetry Collection

  17. Thumb up 0

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    I can see how it’s a body image problem for some if not most, but for me I shave because I don’t like hair on my armpits.
    It gets in the way of the deodorant I use, and it itches. I’ve gone a while without shaving a few times in the winter, but come summer it’s really uncomfortable.
    (It would be nice to go out with my prickly dark leg hair without feeling paranoid though – thankfully my sweet roommate is one of the few who love prickly legs, and I know the people who actually care about my hair don’t matter).

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    I once saw my mother’s armpit hair. They were like dying twigs of hay trickling down a dry patch of desert – pit. And a few months before that, I’ve had the opportunity to feast and later gouge my eyes from the sight of my dad’s and my brother’s armpit hair which I can only imagine were stolen hairpieces of werewolves.

    I’ve since been a acquainted with quite a few armpit hairs, among other hairs, and I realize that my hair discrimination is only reserved for family, some friends and strangers. But if they’re people whom I’m sleeping with, then it’s oddly not an issue, at all.

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      Sorry, I know it sounds like I’m a douchebag, which I pretty much am most of the time. But I don’t do well with body hair, it’s like showing up in the wrong dress code, or doing something that’s against etiquette.

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    I only shave my underams & legs because if I’m wearing a tank top or dress I don’t want to get stared at. I’m very self-conscious. In a perfect world I wouldn’t care what people think but I don’t like being stared at to begin with.
    I don’t really care if a woman shaves her legs/other parts besides the underarms. I personally don’t like the look of armpit hair on any human being. My brain goes “THATS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THERE” because I know better than mother nature apparently.

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    I used to shave them, thinking that people really cared. Now I shave when I want to look “cleaned up,” but I let it grow to its full quarter-inch glory when I don’t have to. I realized that I never cared about a girl’s pitstache when I liked her, and I could anticipate a rocky relationship if she was particularly invested in what I do with mine.

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    I do shave and you know, and I’m going to out and out admit that it is rooted in all of the shameful years of body policing that began at the age of 13.

    See at thirteen, I was awkward, newly immigrated, and going to co-ed school for the first time in my life. Everyone seemed to be a ticking time bomb at ALL times. I never knew what thing I would say next, with my fledgling new English that would piss someone off enough to have their hands around my throat (totally happened).

    It was the beginning of summer and my 8 grade class planned a trip on a boat on one of the surrounding body of water in Philadelphia. I’ve managed to get my mom to chemically straighten my natural hair (after a year much teasing and bullying) and take me shopping for a new pair of shorts.

    The morning of the trip arrives, and I’m feeling on cloud 9. I’m feeling cute, which was a feeling that was hard to come by in those days. I remember arriving to the meet up site and being met by a couple of the other new immigrant girls and being told that I looked pretty. It was validating. It was sweet. I was smiling from ear to thirteen-year-old ear.

    As the day wore on, I was eventually stopped by this beautiful Queen-bee of our class. I’ll never forget Jackie for that panic-attack-inducing conversation.

    She, Jackie, glanced down at my bare-legs in my new shorts and asked if I’d ever shaved before. I said no, timidly. She proceeded to explain how it was important to do so, in her worldly thirteen year old wisdom. She also taught me ways of convincing my mother that it was a necessary step in a young girl’s life.

    I was baffled and beaten for the rest of the trip. And you know, this girl, she really thought that she was helping me; imparting much needed wisdom to a strange girl from a strange place.

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      Wow. I didn’t have such an intense experience, but I definitely remember the sudden onslaught of body policing when I entered middle school – headed by my own mother, who insisted I start shaving my legs and wearing a bra, despite my resistance to both.

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    My older sister taught me to shave my legs when I was in fifth grade — she was so excited and it was a great moment of sisterly bonding. I was completely unenthusiastic, and I’ve been the world’s laziest shaver ever since. I generally don’t shave at all in the winter and as for pitstaches… I usually do shave them, because it’s relatively easy and habitual, but sometimes I go two or three weeks without.
    But I completely feel societal pressure to shave, and I spent an inordinate amount of time in my teenage years trying to figure out what was “normal” for pubic hair maintenance. I hate feeling shame about my own body hair, but it’s so deeply ingrained.

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    I used to shave pretty much everything, and certainly part of that is probably societal, but mostly, I’ve always loved the feel of smoothness and I’ve always had an extreme aversion to hair on anyone. When I was younger, I actively told people that I thought everyone should shave, guys and girls and everyone. I still have an aversion to hair, but my current girlfriend is helping me to be at least somewhat more okay with that. I am still shave my underarms almost religiously. I do it every single morning because I can’t stand even the slightest bit of stubble there. I shave my legs roughly once a week, less in the winter, and I remove everything in the pubic region because I like how it feels and I think it makes sex better. I used to wax my stomach once a month because I used to be incredibly embarrassed by it. That was the only thing I was ever actually embarrassed about because of society’s standards, but I don’t do it anymore because my gf has it too and she looks amazing, so we’ve both become more comfortable with our happy trails because we both like it on each other. :)

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    I really don’t like the term pitstache, I think I’ll stick with armpit hair. I stopped shaving my second year of college – for the first time I was in an environment where I wasn’t expected to have shaved legs and armpits, so I thought about why I do and didn’t find the reasons compelling. But you do you, I also have friends who really prefer to shave. I’m really attached to my armpit hair now though, and I find it really hot on other ladies.

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    When it comes to body hair, who am I gonna listen to:
    -that kid in my tenth grade art class who said I had hairy arms for a girl
    -my gorgeous girlfriend who can’t keep her hands off me if I decide to shave or I decide not to

    …yeah no contest ;)

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    I don’t shave my legs, but I do shave my pits. I do think that I wanted to stop shaving entirely, but every time I start growing my hair out, it feels so incredibly itchy and prickly that I have to shave them again argggg.

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    I stood still for like 3 minutes entertaining the thought that there are sexy women with underarm hair. I was not in pain or felt some repulsion, in fact, I became quite aroused. This was a nice surprise.

    Then I thought of Julia Roberts waving with underarm hair, I think it happened in the late 90s or early 2000s and people made a big deal out of it, I liked the movie “Sleeping with the Enemy.”

    Then I thought of how underarm air is random like wtf? Pubic hair makes sense to me but underarm hair? Then I thought of sexy women with underarm hair was aroused again, full circle.

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    I haven’t shaved my underarms for a few weeks and I really, really, really like it? It’s kind of fluffy? My hair isn’t particularly dense, so heat doesn’t seem to be an issue. That being said, I always decide to do things like this in the summertime. Ha.

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    Not shaving my underarm hair has honestly never crossed my mind because body hair has always been a battle for me. I’m extremely pale with dark brown hair which made my visible arm hair a target for elementary school bullies. Because of this, I spent many years wearing long sleeves in school, regardless of the temperature. I’ve overcome this anxiety most days, but my underarm hair feels like a battle of its own. I think if my body hair were a lighter color I’d feel more comfortable not shaving.

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    I learned awhile ago that women shaving their pits and legs was a thing invented to sell razors to women. I wish I could remember the article, it was about the effect of advertising on societal standards, particularly on minorities and it was in a scholarly journal so I trusted it. Apparently, the company decided selling razors to men wasn’t making them enough money so they started an ad campaign saying men hated women’s hair to get women to use their razors. That fact made me sad.

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    With me its simply better hygiene, although Andrea insists that I stay clean shaven and bodyhair free sans the ubiquitous bikini triangle. Andrea had her body, including pits, lasered and I have to admit I prefer a smooth Andrea over a stubbly haired Andrea, and she prefers me smooth. Yes it is a pain and time consuming. (sigh)

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    Hi Jamie,

    Thanks so much for the post! As you probably know, the Kickstarter campaign is both over, and didn’t reach its goal, though we did raise $3,000 — that we can’t keep. Ugh. So, since that pretty much sucks, we started our own fundraising site, http://PITSTARTER.com where we get to keep everything people pledge, regardless of how much we raise how fast. (Please consider becoming a sponsor, folks!)

    We’d love it if you’d update the link on the posting to have that one instead. Also, our film site is http://pistache.com for anyone who wants to keep up on it.

    Thanks to everyone for their support and comments.

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