When I was in the 7th grade I stopped shaving my legs. I had only been shaving for about 18 months at that point, after approximately a solid 6 months of begging my mom incessantly to buy me a razor because “all of my friends are shaving.” Then, after all that, I abruptly stopped. I had come to the conclusion that I didn’t need clean-shaven legs in order to be beautiful. I’m not saying I was wise beyond my years, but…… However, I clearly remember stretching before a cross country meet (that’s right, I did cross country), and the girl next to me was thoroughly repulsed. After explaining myself she said something along the lines of, “Yeah, I don’t think you need to shave your legs to be pretty. But still.” But still. That was enough to question my choice, and I couldn’t think of a single counter argument. As soon as I got home I shaved my legs.
From that point on I shaved my legs nearly every single day until I was 24.
About two years into the relationship, my last boyfriend mentioned not caring whether my legs were shaved or not, and he asked my why I did. I had to think about it, and I didn’t have an answer. I was in the 7th grade all over again.
So I’ve spend the last 6 months or so trying to figure it out; do I shave because it matters to me, or because it’s what I’m supposed to do as a woman. There’s a long list of things we do to our bodies as women largely because it’s what’s expected of us. Pluck our eyebrows, wax our labia, wear bras (but let’s not get into the sexualization of the female nipple), spend endless amounts of money on makeup at Sephora, and on and on. I’m not saying that by doing any of these things you’re anti-feminist, and I’m certainly not saying I’m not guilty of all of them and more. I am all for doing whatever you need to do to feel beautiful. But I’m finding out there are a lot of things I do out of duty, that don’t necessarily affect my self confidence.
Shaving my legs and armpits and other regions is a big one. In the past few months I discovered that I do in fact personally need to shave my legs, (I have a very hard time sleeping with prickly, touching legs). I did stop shaving them every day, which has saved me a ton of money on Aveeno. However, I realized that I don’t care at all whether or not my armpits are shaved. And why should I? It doesn’t affect my sleeping and it doesn’t change how I feel about myself.
There’s a lot of grey area between what makes you happy and the expectations of others. The idea of beauty “norms” is pretty toxic, and I think the best way to combat it is to take a step back and weed out all of the things that don’t affect your self concept or personal wellbeing. This eliminates the singularity of societal standards and broadens the spectrum of what we consider beautiful.
Which brings me to bleaching and dying my armpits cotton candy pink (there’s a brief how-to at the end of this post). First and foremost I did it to make a statement. It draws attention to the fact that I have body hair and starts a conversation about why we view body hair as gross; its natural! My point is not that women should grow out body hair, throw away their bras and sport an Alicia Keys-style nude face. Wear makeup or don’t. Beauty is about being completely comfortable in your own skin and loving yourself inside and out. My point is that there isn’t one single definition of beauty, and in recognizing that, we can all lead happier lives. Happiness and confidence is a regimen that makes a woman the most beautiful across the board. These are the only beauty standards we should hold ourselves to. Dying my armpits is more an act of rebellion against cultural constructs than a projection of my truest self (ew, how pretentious do I sound?), but it also makes a statement, and that makes me happy.
How To Die Your Lady Pits:
- Bleaching: Mix powdered bleach with a liquid developer (follow developer instructions for mixture) and apply with a professional brush. Let the bleach set for 20 minutes (The time will vary based on thickness and color of hair. Also note that some people experience a burning sensation from bleach, proceed with caution.) Thoroughly rinse bleach out of the hair and dry.
- Coloring: Make sure the hair is totally dry before applying color with a brush. You’ll want to be careful when applying as to not dye your skin. Let the color sit between 40 and 60 minutes. While you wait, you’ll want to keep your arms up to avoid smearing the dye onto skin (this gets super tiresome and also a little painful, but if you made it through the bleach you can do anything). Rinse the dye out with shampoo in cold water and you’re done!
- Touching Up: Once the color starts to fade, apply color with your fingertips – I recommend wearing disposable plastic gloves, and allow it to sit for 20 minutes (arms up), and then rinse.