Lucy Brisbane McKay on the politics of pits. Photographs by Joanna Kiely.
Not shaving downstairs has been a hot topic lately. Cameron Diaz declared the bush was back in her new book. American Apparel New York displayed mannequins with added crotch fur. Elle magazine attempted to rebrand feminism with Project Bush. All this has led to excited feminist commentators declaring that 2014 is the year of the bush. But bushy or not, we are still not talking about the most widespread kind of female hair removal. If our pubes are political then so are our pits.
Caitlin Moran, the comedy queen of mainstream feminism, stated that the ‘fuzzy triangle’ is politically charged because it is related to sex, while hair removal over the rest of the body is not because it’s just ‘aesthetic’. But isn’t it all about aesthetics? Over the last few decades, hair removal trends have spread further and further across the female body, from legs, to pits, to pubes. Moran grew up when shaving pits and legs was already a norm, but shaving pubic hair is relatively new. As feminists fight to save young girls from the potentially unhealthy shaven V trend, many are forgetting that women shave the rest of their bodies for the same reasons.
We have all grown up in a society where women are required to remove all visible body hair. Certainly, men have begun to ‘man-scape’ too, but this is a choice. A number of surveys in the UK, USA and Australia have found that somewhere between 90 and 99% of women surveyed regularly remove their body hair, so how much of a choice do we have? Most of us probably don’t even know what our bodies would look like in their natural state because we excitedly picked up razors in our early teens when we barely even had hair anyway. We believe shaving is simply part of being a woman, but why?
The belief that women should be hairless comes from the dominant idea of feminine beauty, which is tied to an image of a child-like body: skinny, smooth and hairless. All women are expected to strive for this. There is also research that suggests that we associate hairy bodies with strength, and that strength is unfortunately not something we associate with looking feminine. Plus, decades of adverts have convinced us that hair is dirty and that men won’t like it. In fact our bodies have hair for a reason and if we already have a routine of cleanliness then body hair shouldn’t affect it. As for men and other sexual partners, having hairy pits is probably a good way of scaring off controlling arseholes before you get attached.
Since the majority of people, including feminists, continue to pretend that being hairless is just part of being a woman, we maintain the idea that the female body is not actually feminine in its natural state. This highlights the instability and falseness of femininity as a whole. Some may feel empowered by their bush but real empowerment will come when both women and men actually have the choice to be hairy or not. Sadly choosing nature over razors is a bold and shocking statement in the mainstream, but as soon as we politicize our pits women can unite and show off our real bodies – instead of pretending to be something we are not.