Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
It cannot have escaped your notice that we are a hairy species. Some more than others for sure, but nonetheless we have hair growing in all kinds of places and for all kinds of reasons. A quirk of our evolution and belonging to the Ape family – big up for our cousins the chimps! I do love chimps. Maybe one reason I love chimps so much is because as much as they love hair grooming, they draw the line and shaving and waxing.
Do Humans, the so called Naked Ape, take bodily hair grooming too far? And who has the right to make that judgement?
When I was a young girl, maybe 12, there was a girl roughly my age in school who shaved her forearms. The hair on her arms wasn’t especially thick, but it was dark which made her appear more hirsute than she was. Back then this both confused and saddened me – I felt bad that she felt that way about herself, and couldn’t imagine why she would want to do something like that to herself. That was twenty years ago and I can only imagine the pressure that girls and women, young and old, feel in regards to every aspect of their body size, shape and personal grooming.
It may be the case that this is more prolific in certain industries – modelling, fashion, acting etc. Essentially any industry that involves the display of the human, and more especially female, body. But lets face it, even in everyday life, people feel free to comment on each others appearance, sometimes not very nicely.
The point I do want to make is that I don’t include burlesque in those industries. That is not to say that some performers haven’t found themselves under pressure to groom in a certain way, but that should you want to take advantage of it – we are in an industry that allows people to dictate rather than be dictated to. We can push boundaries, we can reinvent and counter ideas of femininity, beauty and gender roles if we so choose.
Body hair is one of my favourite topics, I even write about it on my own blog (Cycladic MINGE!!). A couple of years ago I wrote one of CoochieCrunch’s still most popular posts about my pubes. Specifically my desire and enactment of growing an ultra bushy minge. Almost two years on and my grooming routine has changed quite a bit. I am still sporting the 70s style lady lady garden, but I reached a point last year where I decided to give up shaving my armpits.
Don’t pity my pits!!
I have shaved my pits for as long as I can remember but I always hated the sometimes too close a shave that left the skin irritable, and often worried about the little skin tag I have near one of my pits. When I stopped shaving, there was no great statement to be made in a way, I was just in the shower one day late last summer and went to grab the razor. As I held it in my hand I just stared at it and thought “what the hell am I doing”. I had a serious back and forth with myself about the pros and cons and even the basic reasoning. And me, myself and I decided it was ludicrous.
I’m not saying I judge anyone else on their armpit grooming, merely that I was struck by the absurdity of it. Why was I really doing this? For whom was I making my armpits bald after mother nature sought to put hair there? And you can bet your ass, hairy or otherwise, she has good reasons to put hair in places!
I do get the occasional odd looks if wearing sleeveless tops/dresses whilst out or at work, but have only ever been asked about it once – I was asked “why don’t you shave your armpits” or “why do you have hairy pits?”, I replied “why would I?”. They didn’t really have an answer to that but I was ready to counter any that came up. The main overriding reason that I would fall back to on any further questioning would have to be “because its my body and my choice”, but most usually, because I don’t like to lecture, I reply – “because that’s where it grows, it would be stupid if it grew in my elbows, duh!”
Performing since my pit hair has grown out has been interesting. At first it was patchy and stubbly and I was a bit self-conscious about it. But soon it was a lovely and bushy and for a Christmas show I even decorated it with confetti glitter – FYI, not actually very comfortable!
I have not had any comments from fellow performers, it just seems to be accepted, because why not? I have not had comments from audience members, but my responses to them would be the same as above should they question it.
I am certainly not alone in my decision to go au naturale, and one performer who has made it clear she doesn’t give a shit about your opinions on her body hair is Rubyyy Jones. It was awesome to meet her at the Bristol Burlesque Festival and it was great to hear comments from other performers. Her style of introduction is based in feminist reasoning and not along the usual (and antiquated lines) of “the more you cheer the more they take off” (see my previous post on that here), and this goes hand in hand with her attitude. These things together had performers commenting to me that they knew she’d do an awesome introduction because she doesn’t shave her armpits. Others told me how inspired they felt by the fact of her hairy ways, even if they didn’t feel comfortable doing it themselves – isn’t it odd that bald pits is considered the norm? And I was glad to meet someone with similar thoughts and feelings on the subject.
In fact I remember reading this excellent post of hers some time ago – one of my favourite lines from which is “I love the ultra feminine blend of sequin dresses, glittering jewels and a full armpit of hair.” And this is something I have enjoyed too – playing with peoples ideas of what it is to be feminine, with my hairy pits whilst wearing a beautiful dress.
What about the rest of your body hair?!!
I’m glad you asked, and I hope people don’t think that I cop out by shaving my legs, because really that is not the case, and I want to explain why.
First of all, I inherited my Mother’s crappy hair growing genes. That is to say, my mother has never in her life shaved her armpits or legs and yet has barely any hair on either. So as with my pubes in my previous adventure, my armpit hair is not as luscious and bushy as I would hope, but it’s not too shabby. My leg hair is another story.
The hair on my legs is so fine and patchy that in reality it only needs to be shaved/waxed quarterly at the most. In fact when performing, especially if wearing tights, I don’t groom it at all, and I doubt anyone has ever even noticed. That said, I do still shave my legs, even if infrequently, and the reason is for my own comfort. When what little hair there is gets to a certain length it does not grown like the lovely downy fluff I wish it would, but sticks out at an almost 90 degree angle and makes it super uncomfortable to wear clothing (leggings, tights, etc) next to my skin. It’s like smoothing a cats hair backwards (why would you do that!).
The point I want to make is that I shave my legs for the same reasons I don’t shave my armpits – because it is my choice and for the sake of my own comfort and well being. We encounter a lot of people in this world who are happy to jump all over something they see as a contradiction, and as humans, as women, we have to remember to stand our ground and remind them that it is our choice.
Removing some, all or no body hair is completely down to the individual, no one else on this planet (or any other for that fact), has the right to tell or impress on someone that their choice is wrong. Regardless of your reasoning for that choice, if it isn’t hurting anyone (including yourself), they you go right ahead and keep doing it. I’m with you, we’re all with you, hairy, bald and everything in between!!