23% Of Women Don’t Shave Their Pits, Thanks Feminism!?

Everything is a study these days, including what millennial women do with their armpit hair. For 23 percent of them, the answer is “not much!” according to a study from Mintel. That’s up from only 5 percent of young women who reported not shaving in 2013. And companies are feeling the hit too — sales of hair removal products dropped five percent from 2015-16.

A few things are behind the trend, posits Roshida Khanom, associate director in beauty and personal care at Mintel, as quoted in The Telegraph. One is a shift toward products perceived as natural and good for the skin and body, which don’t include Nair apparently. “There’s also some pushing back against societal expectations of what women should look like,” she said.

Nobody loves fucking up the patriarchy and gender expectations like queer women and folks, and yet because queer and trans women and non-binary folks are pretty much always underrepresented in scientific research it is a safe bet that this study primarily reflects cis straight women, or at least is interpreted that way. I read four articles about this study and none of them mention queer folks. As a genderqueer human who stopped shaving my armpits mostly because I literally could not be bothered and was deeply inspired by the generations of dykes that came before me, I feel pretty strongly about the importance of pit hair in the queer community.

This is what Riese had to say when she shared the link in Slack: “Honestly I feel like we started it! I say this as someone who would never stop shaving her armpits personally but I’ve definitely noticed that it’s become increasingly prevalent. I know it’s a stereotype but I used to be surprised when femme of center folks didn’t shave and now I’m definitely not. As it becomes more popular to not shave, I feel like it’s become detached from gender identity/presentation within the queer community.”

So I did my own research, aka I texted a bunch of my queer and trans friends to ask them about their body hair. I mostly talked to folks who do not shave, but I really want to hear from y’all in the comments! What do you do with your pit hair? How does that choice connect with your gender, your other identities, cultural or family expectations?


Gloria

Gloria, Organizer: For me the decision to grow out my armpit hair has less to do with my gender identity and more with the decolonization of my intersectional identities as a queer mestiza. Yes, my bodily hair absolutely makes me feel super feminine and super sexy, but I think that came after years of work to decolonize beauty and femme standards. It’s about rejecting the idea that capitalism and colonization will not define natural beauty for me or for my community.

Maddie, former Staff WriterI don’t shave my armpits because I have an amount of body hair that, when I did shave, was impossible to keep up with, and I felt self-conscious and itchy all the time and I felt like people would judge me for being bad at femininity or whatever. With my armpit hair growing wild and free, there’s no question that I’m making the choice to not shave and if people don’t like it, that’s 1000 percent their problem. Plus, my partner thinks it’s super sexy and that’s awesome.

Anna, Educator: I stopped shaving my armpits in college probably mostly out of laziness. I already never shaved my legs, though to be fair I didn’t have much visible hair there. My pits were another story — very thick, very visible, especially in the stubble stage. Even when I did shave I found myself keeping my arms down or specifically not wearing sleeveless clothes. I had the fortune of being in a community and social circle in college that was very queer and full of the ethos of self-love, so it was very easy to just leave behind this ritual that only brought me weird bumps and not very much more love for my body. If my pits were not really going to look pristine most of the time anyway, why bother? It’s been about five years since that time, and I truly have never looked back. I suppose I never meant the growing out of my (very dark and sometimes tangly) pits to be a statement, but I have had partners comment on how much they love it, femme friends telling me that it helped inspire acceptance of their own body hair, and a nice built-in filter on who’s down to hang with me, pits and all. I’m a queer East Asian Texan getting ready for sundress season, y’all.

Mey, Trans Editor: Trans women are treated way more harshly abt body hair than cis women. We often shave to help make sure people will see us as women rather than any other reason. So I think trans women are more likely to shave for that reason. It’s about survival not style or something the patriarchy said. I personally don’t have to shave them that often bc my hormones have made it so I barely grow any armpit hair at all.

Hilary

Hilary, Researcher and Organizer: I started shaving my armpits in middle school and stopped at the end of college — on the same timeline as first realizing I might be gay/fearing that my fellow middle schoolers would find out I was gay (must shave!! must do makeup!! must act straight!!) and finally coming publicly into my identity as an unapologetic non-binary trans person. Like wearing a bra, shaving was a compulsory gender practice that was really useful for a closeted queer/blossoming trans kid wanting to hide in plain site.

I stopped shaving my armpits somewhat on a whim, out of curiosity to see what my adult hair was like. It’s a bizarre and common experience among folks who were socialized female that we start shaving before our body hair has even fully grown in, so we don’t EVER see or touch or smell or live in our bodies with their hair unless we make the adult choice to grow it back out. The hair was scratchy and short at first — like it always is when it’s been shaved — but quickly became soft and comfortable. And then it became really, really important to me! I realized that my level of gender comfort skyrocketed up when I found the space to be gender noncomforming and femme at the same time.

Reclaiming my body hair by choosing to grow it ALL out was the first totally embodied choice I made around my trans-ness. As a non-binary femme person, completely uninterested in (/dysphoric within) masculinity, I felt really alienated by (mostly cis) narratives of transition and trans-ness because they assumed that my “destination” in transition was transmasculinity. Growing out my body hair as a reclamation of my body and my gender felt like a totally different kind of transition. It was a transition from unhappiness and alienation with my body to comfort and refuge (a much more expansive and hopefully accurate description of the billions of ways that trans folks transition in the world). And it allowed me to engage with my body in a new way — to ask my trans body what it wanted, how it wanted to function, how it wanted to move through the world, and to actually listen to the response.

Anyway, I fucking love my body hair — every last piece of it.

Wynn, Strategy Nerd: I quit shaving my armpits in late high school because I realized that I wasn’t trying to impress any men and shaving was a patriarchal construction. As it grew out and I began to question my gender, I found that having dark, longer hair gave me a masculine flair that I enjoyed and felt positive about.

Alaina, Staff Writer: For the most part I like [my hair] a lot! I think it’s cool watching my underarm hair grow. It’s been really cool realizing that the way I smell has a lot less to do with what deodorant I choose and more to do with how clean the hair is. I have always grown more body hair all over, and in the past it has made me feel self conscious and like I was in this body I didn’t ask for that was doing things I didn’t want it to do. But letting my underarm hair grow was a way to try out letting my hair go natural in a way that didn’t feel super public, and the confidence I gained from my hairy pits helped me be more confident with other hair and helped me stop trying to control what my body naturally does so often. Sometimes I might trim or tame it if it feels completely out of pocket, but for the most part, I love it. I love being wild and free and not connecting my aesthetic choices to how much body hair I’ve got.

Ok, community sound-off time! What do you do with your pits? Is that connected to your gender presentation, sexuality, or other identities? Let’s talk about it!

Writer’s note: My favorite thing about this roundtable is that Alaina and Maddie both used the phrase “wild and free,” so don’t hesitate to work that into your response.

Adrian is a writer, a Texan and a sometimes-heretical Presbyterian. They write about bisexuality, gender, religion, politics, music and a whole lot of feelings at Autostraddle and wherever fine words are sold. They have a dog named after Alison Bechdel. Follow Adrian on Twitter @audreywhitetx.

Adrian has written 140 articles for us.

124 Comments

  1. I shave my arm pits. I started when I was 15, after someone spilled something on me and I had to take my shirt off and walk around in a tank top for the rest of the day, and I was shamed loudly and repeatedly for having (minimal, blond) hair. These days, I continue because I like the way my body looks hairless, but I’m also lazy about it and won’t stress if my armpits are a bit stubbly (after all, so are probably my legs, which I’m even lazier about).

    I’ve never thought about it in terms of my identity, but I guess I care less these days because I feel less bound by the male gaze and my femininity feels less performative (and less like something I can get wrong by not being like everyone else) than it did while starting to embrace cisgenderness in my teens after a gender nonconforming childhood. I’ve also worked through some serious internalised misogyny since then, so there’s that.

    • Reading this I started to feel strange for even shaving my armpits as a gay girl. I come from a very matriarchal feminist family, so there never was any pressure from home to look feminine. My mom rarely shaves.

      I do prefer to shave my armpits and legs – in the summertime. I’m a femme and wear a lot of dresses and just think it looks prettier. But I’m lazy and a natural blonde so maybe once or twice a week? In the winter I usually go 3 months without shaving easily. My bikini area is really sensitive for rashes so I shave that as little as I feel comfortable with – so definitely *only* when I wear a bathing suit.

      PS: I applaud that everybody is making choices for themselves, not the patriarchy! Do what makes you feel good 🙂

  2. For the last few years I’ve let my armpit hair grow out during the winter when no one would be seeing it but me, but I’ve always been afraid to go for it during the summer when they’d be on show. Now that I read this though, I’m thinking this summer might be the time to just do it! I’m gender non-conforming but still feel a lot of societal pressure when it comes to body hair in general, but it feels like the next decision I need to make to have more freedom from the goddamn patriarchy. Also I used to have this queer femme coworker who flaunted her hairy pits and I thought it was AMAZING, so I will try to channel her.

  3. Personally, I’ve always shaved them, as I don’t like having body hair on me. It’s never really felt connected to my gender presentation or sexuality. If it ever gets to the point where I change my mind, I guess I’ll just stop and publish novels under the pen name Wyle Danfrie or something. =)

  4. I l o v e my armpit hair! I moisturise it with coconut oil and it is lush and cute. Also, I find it honestly odd now when I see a naked pit because off the top of my head I cannot think of a single queer I know who shaves their hair. When I first grew mine out, I genuinely thought it was disgusting, but I persevered because I hated and resented shaving. After a couple of months, I had adjusted and fell in love. It was my most clear and startling reminder of the way in which beauty standards are constructed, not inevitable or logical. Once upon a time I thought hair was gross, now I’m weirded out by a lack of hair. It’s just conditioning.

    • This is exactly my experience too! I had to force myself the first time, but I wanted to know how the hair would grow in if I ever let it, so I persevered. Now I might shave for a Fancy Thing (stupid patriarchy) but I might even have gotten to a point of not shaving for Fancy, even. Gonna wear all them fluffy femme sundresses all summer, hair or no!

  5. Bless this post.

    I stopped shaving about 6 years and present extremely femme in workspace. My fav thing is warm weather bc I have very noticeable leg/arm that get curious glances from students (1/2 my time is with K-12 kids) in the sleeveless dresses I favor.

    It’s 1/3 ‘fuck capitalist body shaming’, 1/3 ‘it’s super hot all rhe time and not worth it/lazy’ and 1/3 ‘I’ve grown to love the various hair textures I have as a black, natural, queer femme’.

  6. I do not shave my arm pits but my hair grows very long, so every few months i hack it back with my clippers with a 3 guard. I had to shave recently for surgery and I forgot how much sweatier I am with shaved arm pits.

  7. Probably an unpopular opinion, but I just cannot get down with arm pit hair, 70’s porno bush, or Sasquatch leg fur. I don’t have a lot of hang ups appearance wise, but facial tattoos and body hair are a huge turn offs for me.
    I have nothing against ladies growing it out if they so choose. You do you, but for this gal, smooth is sexy.

    • That opinion is probably unpopular because “Sasquatch legs” is pretty gosh darn derogatory.

      *strokes lovely fuzz sticks and quietly purrs to self*

    • I mean it all works out cause body-shamey jerks who refer to my legs as ‘sasquatch’ are a huge turn-off for me. Like, you do you but I’m pretty glad I never have to see you naked.

    • I cannot even remember the last time I shaved. I wish that as a child when I first went to my mum and asked her how, she had asked me why. I wish that I could have thought super critically from the beginning about the choices I made about my body even if that choice ended up being to shave for a few years.

      Bodies are super fun and I love that we can do all sorts of things with them and make them look different ways change them and change them back.

      I’m dating someone with bodyhair for the first time though and I tell you what – the sex is so much better. I never feel ashamed of my body in front of her, and I feel like I can talk more openly about what my body does and what I want it to do. Also she has a small beard and it is sexy as fuck.

  8. I’ve always shaved my armpits (and legs). I feel like I would have a hard time getting past that itchy stubbly stage to make it to the long soft hair stage, but maybe I would like it once I made it there, who knows?! I wonder how much everyone’s armpit hair preferences are related to the climate they live in? I live in a hot, humid area and I barely can stand to have fabric covering my armpits in the summer, let alone hair. I also feel like it’s one of those things where if I was told I had to shave my pits, I would hate doing it, but being ~free~ from any expectation to appeal to men makes me feel like, hey, I’m gonna shave my pits because I like it, and I don’t care what anyone thinks about it!

  9. I’m Iranian and like most Middle Eastern people we are know for just straight up having body hair all over. I grew up as a kid watching these hairless white guys and gals on MTV spring and summer break without any armpit hair, or really any body hair at all. So, I would try to shave and my mother would always tell me it would come back thicker and darker. Not sure how true it is, but I was for a while fully shaving it. Now I just trim it down a little and also have plans to get shoulder hair lasered(dysphoria related) away and my leg hair made less visible(my arm hair is less visible for whatever reason). At least at first it never was about gender ID for me, but trying to fit this white cis-normative standards that media showed. I am still affected by this as you don’t see many, if at all middle eastern agender/nb trans woman on media.

    Also, for some reason I’m reminded of the Bob’s Burger episode where Linda could not shave due to a rash and then had to wear a hair net for armpit hair.

  10. I only sorta shaved sometimes a very long time ago and then quit because I didn’t want to. Like, there *are* reasons; I have very dark hair and very pale skin, everything else about me is masculine-of-maybe-out-of-sight-of-the-center-but-I’m-pretty-sure-it’s-still-over-there so no one thinks I have to, I don’t like my shoulders enough to wear sleeveless anything ever. But I really just didn’t want to, it just sucked to do.

  11. i wore a coat for my entire eighth grade year because i wasn’t sure how to shave it and i was too embarrassed to ask my mom or my sister. a friend in uni was really comfortable not shaving her armpit hair so i started associating it with brash confidence, and i wanted to have that. at some point i started calling it my samson hair, and refusing to shave it even for formal family occasions. i was drawn to women who didn’t shave their armpits because i considered it a sign of confidence and non-conformity. later i calmed down about that and realized that everyone has their own form of rebellion and their own aesthetic. i trim mine now because i like the way it looks, but i would still never shave it. i’ll be sad to lose it with menopause.

    i used to associate it with being androgynous, but it’s normal now to see a femme with armpit hair or a butch who shaves. i love that it seems to have drifted away from being considered a gendered thing even in our community, because hopefully more and more people will start feeling emboldened to do whatever the hell they want with their hair, if they haven’t already.

  12. I identify so strongly with what Hilary said about how many of us start shaving before we even really have armpit hair. This was me, so deciding to stop a few months ago totally was out of curiosity…like what actually does it look and feel like up in there? And I decided it looks super cute/sexy so I kept it. And connecting back to what Hilary said-it’s great to live in the hair that my adult body naturally has that I started to get rid of before I knew enough about anything to make a conscious choice one way or the other.

    It’s definitely a queer coding thing for me as well. I often do that with clothing but what’s rad about not shaving is it is this queer flag for me representing that I’m queer even (especially) when I’m totally naked. Especially because my partner is a man.

    I’ve shaved a few times since but only because I thought that looked better with a certain outfit. I shave my legs, bc unlike my pits I think they look/feel better that way. I love the control I have of the aesthetics of my own body!

    • What you just said about armpit hair flagging to you and your male partners made my heart go squee. That is my story 100%.

      Also he LOVES it and thinks it’s hot, and that makes me feel like my queerness is also hot (not commodified — like accepted), and that it’s not something I put down to date him but is instead integral to what makes me so great and lovable.

      • YES! Cheers to this. Too often I hear the narrative that people praise their partners for “accepting” their queerness/not being weird about it. I mean…low bar! It’s part of what makes you awesome and loveable! Sounds like your partner rocks.

        My partner is not straight either but our relationship is cis man + cis woman…mutually lifting up and celebrating each other’s queerness is one of the things I love the most about my relationship.

    • i definitely do that, but with my legs. i shave them for some dresses, but other ones look good/better with the hair! glad there’s other hairy people out there who mix and match 😉

    • I was going to say the same thing about shaving before even fully growing in hair … this article and comment (“I started to get rid of [it] before I knew enough about anything to make a conscious choice one way or the other.”) made me realize that its fucked up not to know something like that about my own body because of societal norms. I was thinking about leaving my underarm hair for a bit to see how it is and now I think I’ll definitely do it, at least for a while, so I can actually decide if I want it or not now that im an adult.

  13. One of my fave topics — thank you for bringing it to Autostraddle <3.

    I don't shave anymore — armpits about 7 years ago and other body hair like 2 and a half? The former was a post-breakup with my first girlfriend femme invisibility cry for help (slash remind myself I was still queer), so armpit hair was always HEAVILY tied into queer identify for me.

    Leg hair and whatnot I stopped more recently in a quest to make myself feel 1) more gay and 2) less heteronormatively pretty. I was having really bad struggles with body image and self love at the time, and letting my body be natural in a way that felt kind of ugly and just sitting with it and learning to love it — and learning that my partner wouldn't be disgusted, that I can still have random sex and all this stuff — has been really helpful for me unlearning perfection. Body experiments <3.

    But yeah, the family hates it. HATES IT. Used to shave for like Bar Mitzvahs, now I might wear a sweater if I don't wanna deal but mostly I just get a lot of passive aggressive comments. La de dah.

  14. That number is higher than expected, but I can’t help but wonder whether that 23% disproportionately consists of women who can “pull off” not shaving by most societal standards (i.e. women with light/thin hair). Outside those standards are a lot of South Asian and Middle Eastern woman as well as trans women, who will probably receive a lot more commentary on their body hair.

    Like I respect everyone’s decision to shave or not for personal/pollitical/practical reasons, but I can’t pretend like wispy blond unshaved hairs are seen as equally transgressive as my dark, thick, densely-populated hairs when I choose not to shave. (No matter who had more wild and radical intentions.)

  15. First, A+ journalism Audrey.

    I’m gonna go against the grain (pun all the way intended): as a masculine presenting human, I love having shaved armpits. I just like how it feels and how it looks and for me it feels kind of transgressive somehow? like femininity never felt right on me, or like others have said when I started doing it that I wasn’t really making a choice, just trying to fit in, but now that I am actually choosing to do it because it feels right on my body, and because fuck the binary and expectations of what masculine people do vs feminine, it makes me happy.

  16. I’ve always shaved my armpits to some degree, at first because I understood I was “supposed to”, especially as a dancer and swimmer. Now I just find it less itchy. When I’ve grown it longer, I can feel my clothing rub differently and uncomfortably. My leg hair is pretty much always long though, it’s very soft! My current partner has a strong preference for grown out body hair, and I find it delightful tof know that without any pressure from someone who matters to remove hair, what choices are comfortable and right for me.

  17. I don’t shave anything because my rule of thumb for beauty care is I’m not going to do anything society says women have to do but men don’t. Fuck the patriarchy. Plus, I think the combination of half shaved teal hair, resting bitch face and body hair makes me a queer 10, straight 0.

    Also, this reminds me when I came out to my sister and one of the first conversations after was her telling me about the house full of lesbians she lived with in the 90s and how they all waxed their pubic hair and whether I should also do that so I can get the ladies. Surreal convo, to be sure.

  18. For science: I would describe myself as a genderqueer butch. While I prefer to be shaved, I am pretty ambivalent about my own underarm hair. But, the length of my underarm hair is pretty closely linked to my current mental health state. Sometimes shaving feels too daunting when I’m really depressed, so it grows and I’m okay with that. But, I feel my best/hottest/most confident self when my underarms are shaved.

    My leg hair gets shaved whenever I feel like it. Sometimes I go 9 months without shaving, sometimes I go 3 days.

    • Oooo yes! Before i quit shaving for good i found that not shaving regularly (which for me was like once a week, max) was a sign that I wasnt coping as well. And I’d tell myself that I just wanted to see how long i could go without shaving, just to see what it was like, but I think it was more an ambivalence to my own body. When I actually stopped shaving properly, it was a choice. More active than before. I was choosing to have body hair, rather than having it and not doing anything about. It was different, but at the time I was worried it would lead to low mood and self esteem.

  19. i thought about shaving my armpits for the first time in like a year the other day, but then i realized i dont even own a razor right now, and probably i will never remember to buy one ever again, so there you have it.

  20. This conversation is so fascinating! I’ve gone back and forth about shaving my armpits, and found that I actually like it best when it’s grown out but not too long. Unfortunately that requires trimming it which for me is super annoying and time consuming and for some reason gives me this weird icky feeling that I also get when I’m trying to put in an earring and can’t find the other end of the piercing hole. (Does that make sense at all to anyone else??) My ex-girlfriend actually used to trim it for me. Haha that’s probably one of the gayest things I’ve ever said. Anyway so now I just shave cause it’s easier. When it was longer I definitely had random strangers say really rude and weird things to me. Damn patriarchy.

    • so totally a minor point in a thread about shaving but just wanted to validate the icky feeling you described getting from putting an earring in and can’t find the end hole! 100% get the same icky feeling from that and I HATE it. I have never tried trimming my armpit hair so don’t know if I’d get it from that. But there are other things that give it to me and I hate them all.

  21. Personally not a fan of the term socialized as female as I have afab non-binary experience and my gf a proud trans woman wasn’t socialized as male, but more like told she was male and experienced life as so. For her she has no body hair cause her genes are Nordic and people in her family their body hair isn’t visible as such. Since I started a low dose of T my armpit hair has become fuller and thicker by noticeably small amount. I too like to trim it cause it gets to hot in the summer for me and then starts to itch. In the winter it’s nice and warm.

  22. Personally, I remove most of, but not all of, my pubic hair in the summer. As someone said upthread, it’s HOT/humid and I feel physically cooler without it. I also dig the feel of my soft skin in the summer, as I’m pretty regular about exfoliating and beauty masks and body butters and all those other things, and so I get into this thing where I want “All The Touchable Skin Possible!”

    That said, the upkeep is burdensome and I don’t know if I’d have the energy to do so more than 3-4 months out of the year. Come September, I let it grow free. The itchy stubble/ingrown hair phase is annoying but it passes. And I like the thick curls that eventually come later, they make me feel warm and cozy in the cold.

    So I guess I’m sort of in between? For me it’s seasonal comfort that primarily dictates my choices, rather than my gender identity (btw I identify as high femme and of color, for science)

  23. The more I explore queerness, the more I find myself comfortable presenting slightly masculine of center. Part of that exploration has been questioning whether to have, or not to have, grown out body hair. At first, I was more comfortable having secret long body hair (gasp!) But a year later, I’m pretty confident not shaving my legs and pits, and now I can be seen doing very scandelous things, like wearing burmuda shorts in public. The actual hair removal ritual was an annoying, unfair bummer anyway. To be clear, I really do like the end result of freshly shaved silky legs, but who am I kidding, I hardly ever had freshly shaved legs. They were always stubbly because I was a lazy indifferent lump who couldn’t be bothered to keep up with it.

    So hooray for leg and pit hair that makes me feel more like my authentic self and maximizes on my tendency to be a lazy turd. 😀

  24. As someone who lives in Louisiana, where it is not only wildly hot but unbearably humid, I shave my armpits in the summer. It makes me personally feel less miserably sweaty if there is one less barrier between me and any possible breeze.

    I don’t shave my legs pretty much ever. I love the way it looks and the way the air feels when it blows the hair. I was legit bummed not to be able to cruise around in the spring sunshine at camp (because there wasn’t any) with my leg hair wafting in the breeze.

  25. I think it was about two years into college when I picked a month during the summer and didn’t shave any of my body hair during that month to really work out how I felt about it. I ended up coming down on “okay, never shaving my armpits again” I do still shave my legs every couple of weeks, but that’s more because when it gets longer I really hate the way it feels against skinny jeans and less that I won’t wear shorts or a dress if my legs aren’t smooth.

    For me I think it has something to with liking traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine things to blend in my style, because I will some times find myself admiring my armpit hair when I’m wearing a really flouncy dress.

    Also, I think it’s interesting to note that the people who usually have the most to say about it are usually older women? Like, I’ve never had anyone around my age of any gender comment on it, but women my mom’s age definitely will.

  26. I stopped shaving my underarms a few years ago when I realized I only did it because of shitty societal pressure. I still feel a little self-conscious about it sometimes, but I find it so much more comfortable. It’s also much better looking than the uncomfortable stubble I always had before.

    My approach to body hair is that same as my approach to make up: Only when I feel like it. I like to think if I had a beard, I would treat it the same way.

  27. While I sometimes let it go due to laziness, Like what Mey said, as a trans woman I feel more scrutiny about things like body hair so a) it’s causes dysphoria to a certain extent and b) I worry not shaving may call by womanhood into question. It plays into cis/heteronormativite expectations, but I will add I do personally like the feeling of having shaved, just the work is tedious. If I had the cash I’d probably just laser it off.

  28. What a great topic! I think about body hair all the time but never get a chance to talk about it.

    My relationship to body hair is directly related to me coming out.

    I haven’t shaved for about a year. I’ve been out to myself for years, but only out publicly for 15 months. I was dating a guy who was my best friend and co-worker when I realized I was gay. I spent months in denial about it, and continued to be physically intimate with him even though it was getting more and more uncomfortable for me. I’ve never been a super regular shaver, but shaving my legs in particular used to be a thing I’d would do whenever I thought I’d be having sex. Even though shaving could be pain, that ascosiation used to make shaving an exciting part of self care. But during this long and painful period of denial, my ascosiation with shaving started to be not about excitement but of dread – preparing for the sex I didn’t want to have so I could hide the parts of me I wasn’t ready for the world to see.

    In February of 2016 I broke up with the boy, came out, and stopped shaving. When people ask, I only give them a partial answer. I have dark thick body hair and pale white skin and I never look hair-less for more than a few hours, so my response is usually something like “given the choice between trying to meet someone else’s standards of beauty and failing or succeeding in meeting my own standards that don’t match the worlds, I’ll take the later.” Which is definitely true, but not all of it. Even after over a year of not shaving, I’m still not super partial to the look of my hair and get surprised by the way it looks in the mirror occasionally. But it’s a damn great reminder of how far I’ve come.

  29. I’ve shaved anything at all which was hair twice in my life (I was an idiot as a kid & cut myself w a razor when I was practicing shaving like a grown man…) one was my armpits, other legs. Both in order to look femme for grad. Neither cos it fit me.
    In my extended family there’s me (nb fluctuating between guy & tomboy & camp guy), my mum (sorta tomboy sorta mumsy) and my cousins/aunt (femme or basically would be femme if lgbt) who’re afab. Everyone else is a cis het guy. None of us shaves even though my cousins are really into makeup & dresses & perfumes so it feels alien to me as a concept. Something other families do.
    And, honestly, Im really short and flat-chested. So everything that puts my age older, I keep. Body hair to me means ‘post puberty or at least pubescent’. When I get real signs of ageing like grey hair & wrinkles, I’ll keep them & not mask them. Same w my hair. It just shows I’ve been through puberty.
    (no offence to anyone without natural body hair)

  30. I’m not partial to any torso hair (even when I’ve dated men it has bothered me, so it’s not a gendered thing) but I wish I could have my smooth and natural leg hair back. I’ve shaved it for so long that it grows back in wiry and tangled and feels uncomfortable under clothing. I’m trying to shave now in the direction it grows instead of against to see if that makes a difference.

    • I’m not sure what your hair type is, but it may be a matter of just waiting it out. I stopped shaving over a year ago and the first few months were hell because my hair felt itchy and prickly. It eventually naturally tapered off and softened after a few months.

  31. I used to only shave (everything) if I thought I would be having sex. It had been a while since I’d had sex and it happened unexpectedly one night with a friend and she loved my leg/armpit hair, so I was like, fuck it, who have I been shaving for this whole time then?? That was a few years ago.

    I honestly think body hair is so hot on girls. I’m super femme but my girlfriend is pretty androgynous and she finds that it helps her feel more queer/masc/butch when she decides to wear a dress 🙂

  32. I have never shaved any part of my body. It is too much work. I don’t wear make up for the same reason. On the other hand, it was easy for me to take this non-shaving road as I have light colored hair that doesn’t really show on my legs and I have almost no hair on my arm pits. I have never gotten any comments about my lack of shaving because I assume most people just don’t notice that I don’t shave.

    … a queer baby boomer 🙂

  33. I do shave my armpits because it’s not much effort, and armpit sweat definitely lingers and smells worse for me if I’m not clean shaven. The fact that nobody does a double take when I wear sleeveless dresses is just a bonus.

  34. I used to shave because I found having body hair itchy and uncomfortable. It seemed like every time I shaved my legs, I’d pull a muscle or throw my back out, and after a certain point I decided that “looking pretty” wasn’t a good enough reason to keep hurting myself, so I stopped shaving over a year ago.

    The first couple months were uncomfortable and itchy, but I’ve gotten used to it. At this point, not shaving is just a matter of not even thinking about it.

    Sometimes, I still get the urge to shave, because I don’t like how my body hair looks on me (my body hair is fine, blonde, and sparse; not full and luxurious like other girls). I actively choose not to, because I don’t want to hold myself to patriarchal beauty ideals, especially when 80% of the time it leaves me injured.

    I’m not opposed to shaving again in the future, but I want it to be because I want to, not because I want to be “more attractive.”

  35. I mostly don’t shave my pits because I can’t be bothered, although I will occasionally want to switch up the texture and swipe my partner’s razor in the shower on impulse. Originally I stopped shaving as a baby feminist to be more Queer and more Feminist but as my understanding grew more nuanced I stopped seeing it as a statement and more just as a convenience. I first completely shave and subsequently keep my armpits and bush trimmed short on long backpacking trips for hygiene and comfort reasons – having no hair there makes streamside spongebaths easier and feels cooler in hot weather. My leg hair is very soft, blonde and sparse, its never been noticeable if I don’t shave so I never regularly have.

  36. My fiancée and I talk all the time about how weird we think shaved pits look now that we’ve stopped shaving. I think natural body hair is attractive, and it’s not unhygienic like some people on this thread seem to suggest. Once you get past the stubble stage, the hair helps wick moisture and bacteria away. But of course everyone should do whatever makes them feel most at home in their body.

  37. I’m a bi cis woman. I stopped shaving in high school because my boyfriend at the time asked me to, and every long-term partner I’ve had in the decade since then has strongly preferred body hair (especially armpit hair) so I just kept it that way. It feels like the least feminist reason possible to choose to have body hair!

  38. Oh, I love this topic and have so much to say! Being Jewish and Italian, I have very thick, dark, curly body hair (facial, armpits, arms, etc). I remember being teased in elementary school (being called a gorilla) and the first time I shaved my legs as a young girl. I remember sitting on the toilet and dry-shaving one leg with a razor and how painful it was. In middle school, my friends and I would nair/wax/anything we could to get rid of our ugly body hair but it just took so much time and money and while I’m sure I was glad back then to be rid of it, I just think about how embarrassed I was to go to the salon and walk out with red splotches all over my face and body from where they waxed me.
    In high school I decided to stop shaving, although I don’t exactly know why, and I would wear multi-colored tights every single day, year round, so that people wouldn’t see my leg hair and it was HOT! My mom always thought I was hiding something because I wouldn’t show her my legs and would wear tights during all waking hours.
    In college I definitely stopped shaving my legs and armpits and it felt so good! I was surrounded by lots of other women who didn’t shave and it felt so safe to just start wearing shorts and bathing suits and skirts without fear of someone yelling at me or pointing and staring. I could finally feel the breeze! Without fail though, I would go home and my mom would harass me or always point to my upper lip and tell me I needed to get rid of my mustache or that I looked like a man and what would everyone think and people would stare at me if I went outside. Obviously her words are constantly ringing in my ears and I am now hypersensitive when I go out with all of my beautiful body hair. I am always feeling like people on the bus are staring at me, or pointing at me, and I have frequently seen people pull their friends aside and tell them (quite loudly) to “look at that chick’s legs”. I’ve had a TSA agent ask me if I was a man or a woman because she doesn’t see women with hairy legs, only men.

    I love my body hair but it also kind of holds me back in a way. I’m 25 now and haven’t shaved my legs or pits in over 5 years, but sometimes I do wish that I did and didn’t constantly have to be thinking about whether people are staring at me or not.

    I’m glad this thread exists and that I can hear everyone’s perspectives and stories on a topic that seems so ridiculous (everyone is born with hair!) but is so political and polarized.

    love and light!

  39. Well I guess I stopped shaving my underarms because I already didn’t shave my legs (mostly because I couldn’t think of a good enough reason to, and it’s such a pain to do it, and I didn’t like how numb I was when I did!). And once you’re on that road, it’s a pretty easy jump from not shaving your legs to just not shaving period. I stopped shaving my legs in high school I think, and then stopped shaving my underarms in college. I have such light hair that most people don’t even realise that I don’t shave, so I kind of have it easy that way. I still feel self-conscious sometimes, but I can’t imagine “giving in” and starting again! I’d miss my cute hair!

  40. Like many of the comments I don’t think it ever occurred to me as a teen and in college that not shaving was an option. I was never a shave-every-day person because I have very sensitive skin, and during the winter I would get super lazy about it, but I would always go back to shaving in the summer because I was so self conscious about having body hair when it might be seen. Also if I was lazy and didn’t shave I would just not wear shorts or tanks and that is insane because summer is hot and shorts are great.

    I’ve pretty much stopped shaving everything in the last few years and I’m a fan of my armpit hair, though I will still occasionally shave it if I’m wearing a fancy dress at a fancy event… I’m still kind of working out if I do that because I actually like how it looks/feels and want to do that, or if I just don’t want to deal with potential looks from fellow opera goers, or what. Also maybe that changes from event to event.
    But being at camp and seeing so much body hair proudly displayed for sure made me more confident about my no-shaving choices.

    I feel like for me it’s 50% lazy, 30% Fuck the Patriarchy, 30% I just like it, 10% I want people to notice and see that I’m queer AF.
    Yes that is more than 100%.

  41. I shave my pits, but I also love the aesthetic of dyed armpit hair so I’m thinking about growing mine out just to try that! (I don’t really want to deal with the stubble during tank-top season though, so that might be a fall project)

  42. I have extremely short, barely noticeable leg hair so after one shaving mishap in the 7th grade I just gave up on it but have on and off shaved my armpits during the summer seasons or special occasions.But I started dating someone who’s nonbinary and only shaves their legs so now i’ve been lulled into not bothering unless what I’m wearing will be very noticible.My sister will always say I should “trim the forest” whenever she sees and to be honest if I were dating someone else I don’t know if I’d reject the social norm of shaving or not, at least in the beginning stages.

  43. I tend to shave my armpits, and only my armpits. I never really felt like shaving my legs or pubic hair, but I’ve been shaving my pits since there was anything to shave about them. I think my mom originally talked me into it.

    A few years back, I did decide to grow out my pit hair for a while as an experiment, but unlike a lot of other commenters here, quickly decided that I hated it. So now it’s back to shaving them — but this time, I’m shaving because I like it that way, NOT because society says so.

  44. I shave if I feel like it, which is a rarity. And sometimes if I do feel like it, I stop wanting to partway through and just quit.

    My body hair isn’t directly tied to my gender identity, but my personal control over it definitely is. (Doing only what *I* want to with it.) But I’ve only felt that way for a few years.

    It is mind boggling to me that my mom equipped me with razors when I was 9. Now the notion of being expected to shave seems so violent to me.

  45. my pit-shaving is super irregular and mostly dependent on the weather — i let it go until i start to feel particularly sweaty and then i shave. so i end up having more hair in the winter and less in the summer, like how dogs shed. but i don’t have any strong feelings about it either way and most of the time i forget it exists.
    my legs i stopped shaving altogether, partially because i am a fundamentally lazy and broke human being and i literally cannot be bothered to shell out money and time to shave and partially because it feels very old-school dykeish. even in the hairy hippie-ish millieu of college, unshaven legs pretty firmly mark me out as very gay in a “mean lesbian with radical politics” way, which i dig.

  46. Thanks and bless your fabulous fellow AFAB femme non-binary trans friend for all the the feelings I didn’t realize had words! I’m going to send this article to every person who asks me why I am so fem if I’m trans from now on.

  47. I’m Turkish and in our culture waxing is a must. Everything must wax away. Armpits, legs and pubic hair (oh, and there’s no style to choose, you need to go completely bare). It’s mostly about gender expectations but pubic hair is about personal hygiene, even though there’s no real medical reason. My American friends found it hilarious when I told them my grandmother is going to a salon because she can’t do it herself anymore (for the record, she’s 77 and my step grandfather has passed away).

    My mom gave me my first waxing when I was 12 years old and she was very disappointed when I decided to shave 3 weeks later. However, I went back to waxing because I just love the silky smooth feeling.

    More and more women choose not to shave/wax now, although it’s nowhere near to 23%. I’m all for it and I like to see when women display their body hair in tank tops or sleeveless dresses. Nobody should wax/shave if they don’t want to. I don’t think my preference is anyway related to culture or gender expectations, I just love my skin hairless and smooth 🙂

  48. YES thank you for this article I find this so interesting!!! I usually love hair or feel neutral. I literally just yesterday posted this pic of my pits to instagram, I haven’t shaved for a few years but sometimes feel shy about it in public or at the gym. I stopped shaving pre-coming out and it’s never been super related to my gayness, but it does feel connected in terms of just how i exist as being unpleasant to others sometimes and I’ve had a couple friends express their disgust about it, so I feel like it’s a practise in giving less fucks about what other people think although thats not why I don’t shave. I just like my natural body.

  49. I don’t think I’ve shaved my legs or armpits for a decade or more. I stopped shaving my legs sometime in high school from practicality – why do all that work (and frequently nick my skin, ugh) for the little amount of hair on my legs? Once it grew out I enjoyed the feeling of my leg hair waving in the wind. But I still miss how sexy my silky smooth legs felt!

    I let my armpit hair grow out after meeting a fellow bi woman who had thick hair under her arms. It felt REALLY transgressive somehow when I went out in public with my underarms visible and I’d get embarrassed, but my partner was very encouraging and that helped. Soon I found that it made me feel empowered and sexy, radical even, and I was glad to help normalize body hair on women. My armpits became more sensitive to touch in a nice way. I love my armpit hair now.

    I think armpit hair on other women is super cute! I hope that people will feel more free to shave or not shave as their hearts’ desire.

  50. I shave maybe every 6 months because my skin is sensitive and shaving leads to bumps and scratches that make sweating/living/anything super uncomfortable and burn-ey. Also I am a Very Tall Person so shaving my legs takes forever.

    When I do shave, it’s usually to feel put together in the context of a date I’m excited about or a big life event like graduation. Which is kinda fucked, because that’s totally based on what I’ve been told women are meant to look like for dates or graduations. UGH SOCIETY YOU’RE SO BAD.

  51. I haven’t shaved since my early 20s and it started off being a feminist statement but as I became more comfortable presenting as a butch woman it also made me feel more masculine.

    I love my long messy armpit hair and happily so does my partner. I love her body hair too.

  52. Can we expand this conversation into all kinds of body hair? Loving the thoughts but also always wondering what other masculine of center folks are doing with their bush? Butch bush? I know the answer is you do you but like what are YOU doing?

  53. Thank you for this!
    Lately, I’ve been thinking about my choices regarding my body hair, and how freely I have made them or not. When I was twelve my mom started telling me to shave my legs and my arm pits, and so I did and I have been trimming it for the summer since that day. But I was always annoyed by having to do that, I couldn’t care less and I kinda liked my body hair, I understood early on that these were social norms imposed on me that I should not be obligated to follow. But since my mom said not shaving was “looking unclean” I internalized a lot of shame regarding my body hair. Recently I have started to come into my identity as a nonbinary/agender person. I realize that me shaving and trimming my body hair has a lot to do with internalized sexism, and not shaving it would also be a good way to express a more “masculine” presentation I desire to express my gender-nonconformity. Today, at 20 years old, is actually the first day in a long time that I’m wearing shorts without having shaved my legs. I also wanted to wear a short-sleeved shirt, but I still feel the internalized need to trim my armpit hair for that, although I love it and would like to let it grow or at least just put on what I’d like to wear without worrying about hair.

  54. also, what Nadia said!! Like, I also have a mustache that I wax and there are just some people who have thicker, darker body hair than others and some cultures are really aware of that (my family is Latinx from Uruguay) and where body hair policing is much more common, where everyone just has naturally lots of hair and therefore waxing or shaving for the first time is kind of an expression of femininity, “you’re becoming a woman!”, and not doing so is much more transgressive than in most European families I suppose, especially as a feminine-presenting person or a person read as a woman. Like, I live in Germany and most German women I know don’t shave nearly as much as my mother and other Latinx or Spanish, Italian women I know. The most pressure I feel to conform to this is not from German society, but rather from my mother and other women from my family, who still consider themselves feminists. It’s hard to escape that.

  55. I rarely comment but I had to on this one.

    I am a hairy femme. And I think about my hair a lot! It’s been 8 years and I still have hang ups about my pits, particularly when I’m on stage. My hair is fairly light and sparse, particularly on my legs. The last time I got an unsolicited comment about my hair was a month ago at the pool when my sister pointed out that my pubes were poking out of my bathing suit. My response was a resounding “meh?”

    I shaved all through high school and then in sophomore year of college when I finally found my aggressively feminist/queer squad I noticed some of them didn’t shave (including the straight women) and I was in! Part of it was about showing my belonging to that group since I was the youngest. It was also financially convenient because I was very cash poor at the time (would later turn to sex work for supplemental income, body hair and all). And part of it was a way to ward off the toxic masculinity that crowded us whenever we stepped off our women’s college campus.

    My friends are getting married in September and I was asked to be a bridesmaid. Even though it’s a lesbian wedding and my friend is nonjudgmental, we had been discussing the big day since I was a shaved teen in the suburbs so I offered to shave my pits for the ceremony/reception. She told me it is totally unnecessary and that I can have my pits, scars, and tattoos out as much as I please… as long as the dress I choose isn’t “too sexy” ?

    • *oops, hit post too early

      I do very little to ‘control’ my body hair, which is a decision I made fairly early in my teens. There were a lot of factors that led me to that choice, ranging from the practical (sensory sensitivities made the scratch and itch of regrowing hair a miserable experience, mental health issues and executive dysfunction made it very difficult to maintain a hair removal regime that would keep me hairless enough for society’s approval, especially with how dark my hair is), to the political (I never liked the double standards surrounding the whole thing, and I’m not someone who tends to follow rules I don’t believe in just to avoid trouble), to the personal (I gain no real pleasure or satisfaction from having a hairless body, and experience no discomfort related to having hair on my body (disregarding occasional spikes of anxiety about other people’s potential judgment), so why would all the time and effort and expense and discomfort be worth it for me?).

      I occasionally trim some hair that’s getting particularly long, but for the most part I ignore it all.

      I’m still working on building confidence when it comes to not hiding my body hair in public, but swimming frequently in a public pool is proving to be valuable practice there. I still try to leave those areas covered in public, for the most part though.

      I encounter frequent opposition from my mom, who I still live with. When I was younger she said a lot of stuff about it being my choice to make, but since then has changed her tune and regularly tries to talk/bribe me into changing my mind. She’s constantly offering to pay for me to get laser hair removal treatments, but I’m not interested. Even if I could wave a magic wand and instantly and painlessly remove it all forever, I wouldn’t do it, not because I’m particularly attached to it personally, but because I see a value in the potential of my personal choices to help give other people more confidence to make the choices that they want to make.

      (And for the sake of idk, statistics or whatever, I’m queer, but not trans or non-binary or anything. I’ve previously described my gender presentation as ‘less feminine than I’m willing to admit’, if that makes any sense.

  56. I naturally have very little body hair, especially armpit hair. I didn’t even start growing any until I was like 17. As a result, I can go a couple months with it being only barely noticeable. So I don’t really bother shaving much, but every once and a while I will for no particular reason.

    As for leg hair, I’m also not that hairy. In the summer I shave sporadically because I just like the feeling of smooth legs under my skirts.

  57. I spent months and months not shaving my legs or armpits ‘just to see’ before finally stopping for good after a-camp 2016. Basically i was inspired by the people around me that this was a choice i could make permanently. But i don’t feel like 23% of people my ages are making that choice. I am the only one on a rugby team of about 35 people who doesnt shave their armpits for example. Also the amount of times that carers/nurses make hair removal a joint conversation that i just cant join in with is astounding.
    Also when i do talk about not shaving everyone’s first response is ‘oh but you don’t have much hair’ which isnt the point. I suppose thats how i know my body hair is tied up with my identity.

  58. First shaved in 7th grade when I heard other girls making fun of a girl who didn’t shave her legs in gym class and didn’t want to know what they were also saying about me. Was too dysfunctional to actually talk to parents (well, my mom. I would not have asked my dad) about it so I took one of my mom’s disposable bic razors without informing her.

    Stopped a few years ago while I was on a health leave from uni and was basically at home all the time and had no one to judge me. Seems that whatever I do, I can’t avoid the absolutely awful itchy feeling that comes with hair growing back in, whichever way I shaved, however nice the razor was. It doesn’t matter because I don’t want to shave again.

  59. CLEARLY there need to be questions about body hair on the next round of AS reader surveys! So many feelings to bask in~

    (I frequently feel like an Inconsistent Feminist because as a cis femme PCOS-haver, I shave my face daily, and keep the belly/twixt-legs trimmed short, but not my pits?? Meh?)

  60. Dang what an awesome bunch of comments!! I love everyone’s varied and deeply felt shaving stories and convictions. ❤️

    Does anyone else remember shaving arms in middle school? This trend definitely had a moment at my school– girls shaving their forearms BC they thought they were too hairy. Also I remember ppl commenting on my hairy toes, after I had just mastered shaving my legs and was feeling like “Ok I think I’ve got this being a girl thing down..” I don’t know any present-day middle school kids but I would be so interested to hear if shaving legs is still a huge rite of passage, and/or arm hair/toe hair is still something students harass each other abt??

    • Yes, I definitely went through a shaving my arms phase and also shaving toe hair. I probably would have tried shaving my baby mustache if I wasn’t afraid of it growing back like a man’s.

  61. I’m femme of center, but I do. Though I don’t freak out if it’s been a while. I’ve got hairy legs right now. I do it for a variety of reasons and it does make me feel more physically comfortable, especially in the heat. Safety/survival is definitely a thing, as Mey said.

  62. I think I’m the only one of my queer friends who shaves at all. I shave nearly every day and I haven’t really given it much thought. It’s just part of my morning routine. However, I do have bad memories of my mom teaching me to shave the summer before 5th grade-I was 10 and why on earth did it matter if I had body hair? My friend’s daughters are 10 and 12 and they shave, get their eyebrows waxed and all that and it hurts my heart because that’s an extreme amount of pressure to put on a child.

  63. I was AMAB and have a pretty different experience from a lot of AFAB people because all the social pressure on body hair ran the other direction. Puberty was traumatic for me, and a big part of that was having hair in all these uncomfortable places that marked me as male. You know all those stories where turning into a werewolf is a metaphor for puberty? It’s an apt metaphor for me, because turning into a hairy monster is exactly what puberty was like. I took scissors to some of it because I didn’t know how to do it properly and couldn’t ask, since getting rid of body hair was, I sensed, an unacceptable gender transgression. Likewise, when I started edging farther away from male-conforming gender presentations, shaving my legs and armpits were one of the first things I did.

    Even before starting hormones, objectively, I wasn’t that hairy, but I still hated it. Estrogen made the hair on my arms and the back of my hands blond and much less visible and eliminated my (very limited) chest hair. I’ve felt better about the strip of hair that runs from my navel down since I’ve learned that’s something cis women have too. My armpit and leg hair are brown and visible, though they aren’t too thick so I can get away with a certain amount of not shaving, but I do have to shave eventually. This is particularly true because it’s not as if I need any more male gender cues than I already have :/. My armpits sweat a lot when I get nervous, which is another reason I have them. Shaving is kind of annoying because it’s time-consuming and I always end up with folliculitis if I shave my armpits too close, so no matter what I do, it’s itchy and visible. I’ve thought about doing laser on my armpits so I don’t have to shave them and deal with the folliculitis. At least right now, I don’t mind shaving my legs enough to think they’re worth the money and pain for hair removal.

  64. It’s interesting reading the stories here about shaving before even truly growing adult body hair, since it is so far from my own experience. I just never shaved, even though people around me occasionally expressed disgust. This mostly came from my family, and they sometimes still jokingly give me shit about it. Self-consciousness about my body extended far beyond body hair, although I went to considerable lengths to always wear pants and long sleeves. It wasn’t until college that I felt comfortable enough in my own body to just say fuck it, I’ll wear whatever I want and if you don’t like my hair that’s your problem. It was also in college that I experimented with shaving for the first time, out of curiosity. Mind you, I did this in a dorm bathroom so the entire process was awkward as well as physically uncomfortable. I also somehow managed to cut myself with a safety razor and had a big gross scab on my ankle for a month. It actually scarred and I made up this ridiculous story about, I don’t know, getting caught in barbed wire while scaling a fence. Something vaguely badass to assuage the embarrassment of nicking myself with a safety razor. Once it was all shaved, it was nice for like, the ten hours that I was smooth. And then it was itchy and bumpy for three weeks while it grew back. Yeah, never again. I love my fucking body hair.

  65. I stopped shaving my legs four years ago because I went overseas and forgot to take a razor and honestly who can be bothered shaving anyway when you’re on a family hiking holiday in South East Asia. When I got home the pit fuzz came off but I’d grown kinda attached to my leg fur. I’ve always been more conscious of my pits because they’re quite hairy and I’m very much a bikini all summer and sport all winter kind of girl. I stopped shaving my pits four months ago because I moved overseas and, again, didn’t take a razor, and it was winter so there was no real reason to. I think the pit hair is here to stay for summer and beyond now, I’m quite femme so I like that it queers up all my strappy floral dresses. A (straight) friend recently told me it was lucky I was in a relationship because she could never be hairy and date and that made me so sad, and also want to rub my pits in the faces of boys who think it’s gross.

    • Also, omg, I just remembered the time I went to a family 21st in winter so hadn’t shaved my pits, and my (drunk) mum pointed it out and I (drunkenly) yelled ‘IT’S MY AESTHETIC, MUM’

  66. This feels surreal to me.

    The fashion for armpit shaving started around 1920 in the US, but nobody was doing it in Europe until the late 1980s. We heard stories about European women who were kicked off US tennis courts because they hadn’t shaved, and found that grotesque 😀

    In the past, I was involved in marketing, and witnessed around 2000 how razor producers pushed aggressively for the European female shaving market because razor blades are one of the most expensive consumer goods with a short life cycle, apart from cigarettes.

    When producers can get women to use a former male product, they immediately double their sales. They did the same thing with female smoking in the 1920-30s.
    After 2005 they were trying to get men to shave their whole body for the same reason.

    When I was young, I was always told that shaving body hair is not a good idea because it can cause skin irritations and has no actual benefits. Once you start it’s hard to stop because the hair becomes itchy. It also desensitises the skin to touch, not very sexy!

    Especially feminist women never shaved in the past, so seeing a younger generation who has completely bought into shaving and behave as if they would die if they don’t do it is beyond mind-boggling.

  67. I have fairly thick and dark armpit hair, which I haven’t shaved regularly since a period between 13 and 17 when I followed the unspoken school rules. I stopped shaving because a girl I had a crush on had done so and I thought it was hot. (People who shave are also hot though, to be clear. We are at our hottest when we do what makes us feel most comfortable etc.) For me it’s not even political, I just like the look and feel.
    When I have shaved in adulthood, always for work, I have noticed that I sweat a lot more and smell worse. I once gave my body months to adjust to being shaven and the sweat problem never improved, so I was relieved to let it grow again. I know that others have had the opposite experience, but the ‘shaving is the most hygienic/least sweaty option’ argument certainly isn’t universal.

  68. Another hairy femme here. I don’t shave anything, although I have a razor for thinning purposes.
    I shaved my legs through high school, and my pits until two years ago. I really hate the feeling of razor stubble and when I shaved my pits I’d shower every day which turned into too much of an obsessive and water-wasting chore. Now I don’t feel as chained to a strict shower schedule, which I love, especially because my showers are <5 minutes. I've also stopped using deodorants with aluminum, which is a different but parallel issue…all about natural, happy underarms!
    I love the carefreeness of not shaving, and not gonna lie I appreciate how it upsets some people, especially when I'm wearing a cute sundress.

  69. I’m femme and present mostly in a gender-conforming way but I stopped shaving my armpits a couple of years ago. I do still shave my legs because I like both the feel and the aesthetic — I just don’t love the appearance of leg hair regardless of its gender connotations.

    My mom didn’t shave when I was growing up, only her legs occasionally by the time I was a teenager. I remember being embarrassed about some of it when I realized it wasn’t “normal” — mainly the way her pubic hair was visible outside her bathing suit at the pool. So I didn’t learn to associate body hair with gender. I associate it with don’t-give-a-fuck feminism and also hippies.

    My hair is really visible. It’s dark and long and shows even with my arms down or with cap-sleeved tops. I’m comfortable with it visible in public now but I always keep covered at work. In the summer I bring cardigans with me and put them on over my tank top before I go into the office. I’ve also removed sleeveless tops and dresses from my partner-dancing wardrobe. Sometimes I’m frustrated with feeling like I can’t wear what I want, but then I think how it’s not usually socially acceptable for men to wear tank tops in these places either.

  70. I have almost never shaved any of my body hair. In high school I didn’t shave because I thought it was too much effort and I didn’t care. Some of my friends thought I was really gross but I still didn’t care. I did get some pressure from my Mum and my aunt to shave for my year 10 formal so I would ‘look nice.’ I did cave under that pressure and tried shaving regularly on and off for around a year. After that I only shaved for formal events. I haven’t shaved in so many years now and my armpit hair is so long and luscious. I love my body hair so much and will happily show it off in sleeveless shirts. I’ve done this as a combination of ‘f*ck the patriarchy’ and ‘I really can’t be bothered.’ Definitely as a queer woman of colour, I am aware that I have more body hair and it can be darker but I still love my body hair and wouldn’t change it for anything. 🙂

  71. I still shave armpits & legs, because I like to be smooth there. But I’ve recently started letting other hair go- my happy trail, around my nipples, and only trimming my pubic hair. I’m less concerned now that I’m older (late twenties) and more confident in myself 🙂

  72. I have OCD that manifests most strongly through trichotillomania, so I shave partly to keep myself from picking. I started picking in college, first my eyebrows, then my legs, then my pits, and I’ve really messed up my legs in particular. They’re covered in scars, and I feel more self-conscious about those scars than I do about body hair. I just don’t like the way body hair feels. I like the feeling of smooth, fair-free, blemish-free legs, because otherwise my mind hyperfixates on the way that sensation is interrupted. I really hate how OCD forces me to comply with performative aspects of my gender, and also how that performative gender behavior fed into my OCD when I was little by getting me to start shaving. But for my own good I have to shave if I’m going to stop myself from hurting my body even more.

  73. I shave my armpits, but because I have acanthosis nigricans it probably just makes them look worse (my armpit skin is very very dark). I’ve just been so used to doing it, and associating armpit hair with sweat smell (which I know isn’t true). This post and the comments are quite wonderful for me, as I now feel more confident that I really want to stop shaving. It’s good to be a part of a community where that’s a really valid decision to make, and there are others like me. Thank you Autostraddle <3.

  74. You know what’s weird? I identify as non-binary, relatively masculine-of-center, and I’m super crazy gay. Woman are great, people. But body hair FREAKS. ME. OUT, and I honestly think it’s because traditionally, body hair is viewed as a very masculine trait. When I see a guy raise his arm up or bare a particularly hairy chest, my first reaction is one of utter revulsion. I wish I could turn that off, because sadly I have that same reaction to women’s unshaved pits as well. Maybe I just like hairless people?

  75. For pits and legs, I shave every now and then, but not often these days. I used to be a pretty much every day shaver when I was younger, but now I can’t really be bothered. I do shave my armpits every now and then because when the hair gets too long it pinches when I move certain ways.

    I don’t generally wear shorts or sleeveless tops, so nobody really sees my hair but me. Maybe if I were dating, I’d shave more, but I’m not honestly sure about that. My armpit and leg hair is dark but not particularly thick, so it’s not super visible unless you’re up close or it’s gotten pretty long. When I do shave my legs these days, I pretty much only shave up to the knee because the hair above the knee isn’t really visible.

    I used to shave my pubic hair and liked the way it felt, but the last couple times I did it, it was so unbearably itchy afterward that I felt it wasn’t worth it.

    One area that I do have issues with, however, is my face. If I could afford to have that shit lasered, I would in a heartbeat. I tweeze my chin, neck and upper lip. Probably not the best, but I’ve tried shaving as well, and that can be irritating too. This area I feel is more closely related to gender feelings than the other parts of my body, where it’s more laziness and apathy. My last partner was kind of weird about facial hair too. He didn’t particularly care if I didn’t shave my legs very often, but he would shame me if my upper lip hair grew a little. And I tried as much as I could to hide the chin hair from him. So I’ve felt a lot of shame around my facial hair and keep it under control, but I haven’t dated in years because I don’t know how I would broach that subject with future partners.

  76. I experimented with not shaving anything last year since I’ve shaved since I was a teen because of the standard expectations. The result was that I love not shaving my armpits! Nothing about my armpit hair bothers me. I like it. I hated my unshaved legs though. The hair grew in a really strange sparse pattern, so I continue to lazy-shave them (when someone might touch them basically or they start to bug me) Having smooth legs makes me feel sexy.

  77. I stopped shaving my pits senior year of high school on the encouragement of my then-boyfriend, a hippie anarchist. 16 years later I still don’t shave, but have considered it recently after my newborn developed a habit of yanking my hair while nursing. Whenever friends complain about “pitting out” I suggest not shaving. The hair seems to be a nice little built in ventilation system.
    Also, pit hair at least used to be an excellent way to broadcast queerness.

  78. As a baby queer in college, I stopped shaving everything for a while. Then a few years later when I decided to wear shorts to work on a hot day, several coworkers paraded by pointing and laughing. So I started shaving my legs and underarms again for many years, feeling very self-conscious about my body hair. Despite being blonde, I have a lot of it and it’s darker than you might suspect.

    For the last several years, I let my legs get fuzzy in the winter but wax or epilate in the summer because I feel like the hair detracts from the shape of my legs (I bike a lot and I’m pretty proud of my leg muscles). Even then, I’m pretty lazy about it and it’s more a means of thinning out the hair. I have ADHD with a lot of sensitivity to certain sensations and the feeling of stubble is like nails on a chalkboard, so I really dislike shaving. I’m also very prone to ingrown hairs, and after getting an especially painful one in my armpit a couple years ago, I’d had enough and stopped shaving again. Now I just trim my pits and bush a bit. I’m actually a lot more comfortable in the hot weather because it seems to wick the sweat away from my skin for it to evaporate–no more sweat creating that horrible slippery hot feeling. Also, as a queer woman in a relationship with a man (who is also queer), it’s frustrating to be read as straight and I like that my pits could be a marker of queerness, even though I’m still a little shy about baring them. As femme-of-center but working through some internalized misogyny, I’m wearing skirts and dresses more than I used to, but having a bit of fuzz also makes me feel more like myself and less like I’m in girl drag.

  79. I have thick, dark, armpit hair that I haven’t shaved in four years. When I used to shave it, it would grow back immediately, and be itchy, red stubble, no matter what I tried. I started shaving my leg hair again, intermittently, a few months ago, but with the promise to myself that I would never *not* wear shorts or skirts because I hadn’t shaved.

  80. It’s all an ouchie weird tangle of things; my arm pit, leg hair, all of my hairs actually, gender and identity. This going to look like fucking life story when I’m done, the life story of my armpit hair. >_>

    I started shaving when I was 10 with my dad’s disposables that I filched and it was part disgust/horror that puberty (i.e. tits and a bleeding breedable womb) was on the way and part I’m enough of freak already. Puberty was scary because it would cause me become unperson’d, blossom into SOMETHING RIPE for the TAKING.
    I didn’t want to be prey, I didn’t want reminders my body was betraying me and making itself into some thing tasty to be preyed upon.

    But looking back on the fear and loathing of my body taking a “woman’s shape” and just traits of sexual maturity could’ve been a bit of dysphoria too. Still even with the shaving I stopped wearing sleeveless shirts at 11 because I didn’t wanna see the stubble. I was still towheaded then but those hairs were black against my skin.

    Eventually, at what age I can’t really recall, I’d only shave if I knew my pits or legs would be revealed. Which wasn’t very often outside school because I gave up swimming when I was 12, my ugly half formed body in so few clothes in front of people freaked me the fuck out, and stopped wearing shorts at 14 cept for gym.
    But uh it added a layer of stress for family events because feminine formal wear your straight mom approves of and adores seeing you in is usually a sleeveless dress.
    Also she can’t give you any shaving advice other than “just shave everyday” when you ask how to tackle your fully grown out hair with wee lady razors using soap as lubricant.

    So I gave those pretty dresses up, even if sometimes I felt good in some of them and not a dysphoric mess(not that I knew that word then). The stress and the self loathing I’d feel readying my body for gathering of people who I eventually realised were never going to be more than just passing civil to me. Or the feeling disgust that the polish fake femininity is what got me compliments and positive attention. Like real me was worthless also who the fuck was that even? I didn’t know and trying to girl in full or half measures wasn’t working. Much angst and confusion that took awhile to sort out.

    This is where things get weird, maybe tangled
    It wasn’t just stress of trying to remove fully grown in hair with wimpy tools that I felt or the self loathing of caving to a stupid social norm, it was loss that I felt.
    I felt a feeling of loss, of some part of me missing when I removed hair, any hair.
    All of the hair from crown to those silly hairs on my big toes.

    So I don’t really feel like what I do with my pits has anything to do with my gender presentation non binary-ness or bisexuality.

    This is the tangly part I guess:
    I don’t hate my body, haven’t for a long time, and view my shoulders as one my best assets but am too much of coward and too used to dressing to hide my arm pit hair(or leg hair) to wear what ever I want when ever I want to in public or even consider it unless I’m in an explicitly queer space. Then it’s likely you may find me dancing myself breathless in sports bra.
    But that’s rare.

  81. I stopped shaving a few years ago because shaving is a) expensive b) time/resource consuming c) painful and annoying AS FUCK. literally, we only started shaving because of capitalism and there’s approximately no objective or medical reason to do so. I might still shave my shins or cover up my hair when I absolutely need to be “professional” but other than that I will only ever trim with scissors. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself and I love both my hair and how much I feel in charge of my body by making that conscious choice. Plus, showing off your hairy pits is a very easy way to weed out the people I don’t want to be around.

  82. I grew up with 5 cisgender sisters in a heteronormative household. I started growing body hair when I was around 11 years old, and thought nothing of it until my younger sisters started making fun of it. My older sisters bought me a razor and initiated me into the western, womanly ritual of shaving. While on one hand I thought it was cool because I desperately wanted to be seen as mature and adult-like and escape the childhood I was stuck in, I felt a lot of shame for having hair and having thought nothing of it. Later in middle school I would get called “werewolf” so I started shaving all my body hair.

    I went to a fairly liberal college, and with the freedom to explore my own identity I stopped shaving. Partially out of laziness, mostly as a “fuck you” to the hetero and cisnormative culture I grew up in. I was super self conscious being around family for a while, but no one has ever said anything or made me feel shitty. ?
    After college I discovered the wonderful world of artificial color, and am amused by the looks I get when sporting pink pubes. The nurses in Thailand thought it great and funny, and the old artists I model for were quite beside themselves, and at times like that I am able to love my hair a bit more.

  83. I love this! I stopped shaving my legs and pits when I was 19, after years of struggling with an eating disorder. I did it mostly as an experiment, just to see how I would feel and how people would react if I stopped shaving. Reactions were mixed (my aunt was, and still is, horrified), but consciously rejecting one of the main expectations of feminine beauty was a HUGE part of learning to accept my body and recovering from my eating disorder. It helped me to figure out that beauty is a bullshit construct, and that I am the one who gets to define what I want to look like.

    Even though it’s been nearly 10 year since I stopped shaving, I still sometimes feel weird wearing shorts or tank tops in public. I teach women’s studies,and am sometimes afraid of scaring off my students by embodying the “angry, hairy feminist” stereotype, but they rarely seem to notice. These days, I don’t think about my body hair most of the time, and every once in a while I feel my pit or leg hairs blowing in the breeze and it makes me feel awesome.

  84. I first started shaving when I was about 11 (and yes I also shaved my forearms which??? I’m still a little confused why I thought that was a good idea) and definitely remember many (negative) conversations about body hair in my “all girls” school. I stopped a few years ago because of depression (I just couldn’t be bothered + the whole razors thing…), but I got quite a lot of those “well meaning criticisms” from my sister and mother. At that time I was finding a more explicitly queer and feminist community, which I do think have me the confidence to keep not shaving once I was technically better. I do still feel slightly uncomfortable in my pretty sleeveless summer dresses, but I also know it’s just internalised misogyny so it’s something I’m working on. The one thing I do find annoying is how every time I see a new person about my mental health they feel like it’s super important to comment on my body hair…

    Weirdly, the thing my mother is most negative towards is my facial hair. I’ve recently dyed my Hair hair white, so my dark brown moustache and under jaw hair is a lot more noticeable, and I’m super in love with it! Especially since I’m currently questioning the whole gender thing, and as I’m very high femme otherwise it’s just… nice.

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