I recently said to a male friend, “It really riles me up when a man criticizes a woman for having armpit hair.”
To which he said, “Armpit hair is gross.” Then he tacked on a little, “On both men and women.”
He has armpit hair. He used this as an opportunity to brag about shaving his balls, for whatever reason.
I’d just seen a video of a woman [I regarded as rather gorgeous] dancing, appearing to have a grand ol’ time, and just so happening to have visible armpit hair while doing so. Several of my friends were sharing it, but we already know it wasn’t because this lady had some pretty rad dance skills.
Sometimes I actually almost forget so many people are so unnecessarily critical of women. I’ve become good at having tunnel vision and my tunnel excludes an ex-boyfriend who told me I “couldn’t” shave a portion of my head or neglect to shave my underarms or legs. “I will leave you if you ever stop shaving,” he had said. Or an uncle who called 3rd-grade-me a gorilla at the sight of the almost-black curls of hair starting to appear on my legs. A girl on my cheer squad who pointed out my pubic hair in front of all the other girls in the locker room– “ew, you need to shave all that shit.” Our ages ranged from 12 to 15. A year later, a 12th grade boy who told an 8th-grade-me it was weird how I didn’t always shave hairs above my knees. I was “too hairy” for a girl, as it was. A woman I was dating who pointed out the hairs I missed along my bikini line in front of her friends– I should start waxing and stop wearing high-waisted bikinis too, she said.
My male friend went on to say I shouldn’t expect or try to force people to be attracted to women with armpit hair, which was interesting. He might as well have said that by default, her existence and the mere sight of her was as a sexual, consumable object rather than a human-being with autonomy.
For whatever reason, a fair deal of my male friends belittle me when I use phrases like that: a human-being with autonomy.
My male friend told me there are bigger problems in the world than women deciding they need armpit hair now. He went on to brag about the various times he’s been attracted to women who don’t fit the conventional molds of what society deems as attractive.