Opinion: I’m a Woman with Body Hair and I Absolutely Do Not Care


Lizette Nolasco

Staff Writer Eri Leong proudly displays her armpit hair to promote body positivity and body autonomy among women.

Out of all the things I thought I’d be mistreated over, I never in a million years would’ve imagined that having armpit hair was going to be the driving impetus or the justification behind people, especially men, being disrespectful to me. Yet, people continue to appall me, sometimes in the most abysmal ways. 

A couple months ago, I had to submit a headshot for a project. I was wearing a sleeveless shirt, so my armpit hair was poking out from my underarms. As my acquaintance agreed to take my picture, he raised the camera to his face to frame the shot. Abruptly, he put it back down and somewhat narrowed his eyes at me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, nervously smoothing my ponytail thinking that I had a flyaway or something of that nature. He pointed at my armpits and said, “You need to shave that sh*t.”

“Why does my armpit hair bother you?” I asked, internally reeling at the fact that he actually just made such a bold demand to me. 

“It doesn’t,” he softly responded, but I was unconvinced. It clearly was on his mind to where he felt the need and entitlement to vocalize how my body is “supposed” to look. 

Body hair on women should be normalized. It’s completely natural. If something like that obstructs your ability to look beyond the surface and view someone for who that person is, you’re either tragically brainwashed by beauty standards or straight-up shallow. 

I’m genuinely unable to remember the last time I shaved my armpit hair. This wasn’t a conscious decision of, “Yeah, I’m going to grow out my armpits.” This unintentional occurrence began during the pandemic. I was quarantined from seeing anyone, so out of laziness and lack of the need to impress others, I never cared enough to shave my legs or my arms. Eventually it was long enough to where I was kind of fascinated by how long I could actually grow it out, and I grew somewhat proud of it. 

Ever since this past summer came about and I was fully vaccinated, I began to go out and see friends. In the 100-degree-plus weather of my hometown of Las Vegas, wearing tank tops and sleeveless shirts is almost expected, and the same type of fashion is common here in Hawaiʻi. Thus, my pandemic-grown underarm hair became visible to those around me. 

I paid little attention to it. I’ve witnessed a couple of people’s eyes divert from my eyes to my armpits during conversation, which I always found humorous, but the general reactions were lukewarm. Of course there were fleeting moments where I felt self-conscious or ashamed, but I always told myself that those feelings were only temporary. It’s understandable to feel out of place when doing something considered abnormal, but countercultural and wrong are two separate characteristics from one another. 

Other people fail to keep this acknowledgement in mind. While most of my friends and loved ones casually accept the fact that I’m just eccentric enough to have armpit hair, I’ve encountered a couple people who were so off put or unfamiliar with it that it altered their behavior toward me. 

I went on a couple dates with a guy over the summer. We were on FaceTime talking about random things, and I was wearing a sports bra so my armpit hair was peeking out. He eventually asked me, “Do you have armpit hair?” to which I lightheartedly replied, “Yeah, do you?” He asked if “we” could wax it together, and I hesitantly agreed if he wanted to, because I was kind of shocked he asked in the first place. It never ended up happening, but I was still a touch offended. I despise the idea of changing my body to appease someone else, and his suggestion felt like he cared to have me look a certain way more than I did.

He ghosted me shortly after, and I was relatively indifferent about it. It’s uncertain whether my armpit hair was what directly motivated him to ghost me, and I think it’s silly to accuse that. Correlation does not always equal causation. Regardless, I have no intention of starting a relationship with someone who falls short in accepting or loving me as I am.

I completely understand that armpit hair is probably a turn-off for most people, and my armpit hair disqualifies me from being the poster child for America’s Next Top Model. However, my body and my looks define nothing when it comes to the content of my character. Whether it be body hair, piercings, tattoos, fashion sense, etc., physical factors have zero indication of a person’s internal qualities, and it’s time society started aligning more with that understanding and stopped being so superficial.

I’ve always been an advocate of challenging and deconstructing beauty standards. They generate harm and create unnecessary weight on aesthetics when the content of character should be what is prioritized. Beauty standards also encourage inequitable conduct as proven by the halo effect, which is a psychological phenomenon in which people are more likely to discern positive sentiment and treatment to those they find attractive as opposed to those they do not. 

I can make my peace if someone finds me unattractive because I have armpit hair. I think it’s insignificant, but to each their own. What I refuse to have tolerance for is being disrespected by men who think their opinion on how they prefer I look takes precedence over my own bodily autonomy. I exist for far more important purposes than looking pleasing to the eyes of men. 

Since my armpit hair has grown to be somewhat of a conversation starter, I had a chat with one of my male friends who was curious about why I was so adamant about keeping my armpit hair. He made a statement that I heavily appreciated: it’s okay to be uncomfortable since it strays from the norm, but it’s absurd for it to change the entire way a person deserves to be treated.

Another misconception that has risen from me having armpit hair is that I’m completely against shaving and I never do it, which is false. I’ll shave if I feel like it, but I’ve overcome the immediate shame or self-consciousness of being prickly or past due for a shave because it’s no longer a priority to me anymore. Part of my deliberate decision in letting my armpit hair grow out is emphasizing the notion that I’m exercising the right to do whatever I please with my body since it is my body and no one else’s. 

What started out of just laziness and pandemic isolation has evolved into a personal protest against patriarchal expectations of how I should exist as a woman. Society loves to make people, especially women, feel bad or ashamed about themselves for naturally occurring features like menstruation, acne, body hair or weight, and it makes no sense to me. If having armpit hair and being vocally unashamed about it helps women around me feel even slightly less ashamed about themselves too, then I’m all for it. 

As my armpit hair has grown, so have I. I feel less pressure to confine myself to societal ideologies of beauty and am completely at peace with my fuzzy arms and legs. I joke with my friends that having armpit hair is built-in icky men repellent, because it reveals to me who cares about looks more than who I am as a person. I have full confidence in my beauty and value as a woman regardless of what’s naturally occurring on my body, because I know my true value has little to nothing to do with that. Having a pretty heart, mind, and soul is way more substantial and fulfilling than worrying about something as trivial as aesthetics.