"Aren't hairy armpits meant to be trendy for you ladies right now?" the hottie Doctor asked me before dissecting what looked like lymph nodes from under my armpits. Not the most attractive start to a post, but welcome to the ugly face of beauty.
I attended the (Shoreditch) House of Cards event organised by Guardian Women in Leadership over the summer, and was taken by how different my concept of feminism was - as a first generation migrant, working/middle class individual - from the rest of the speakers on the panel - mainly caucasian middle class. The non-feminist friend I brought in tow aptly pointed out also, that it seemed the biggest & only iceberg in the way of the feminist movement was motherhood. Or so it seemed from the advice and social critique being spewed time and again from the panel. That was all until a seemingly comical comment - made by the formidable feminist who championed for female figures to be included on the British bank note - about being a bad feminist because she still shaved her leg hairs for summer. I was stunned. I looked around to garner support in the chuckles that was soon to erupt from my chest to join in a chorus, but it seemed I was gearing for a solo as my fellow audience members seemed to be judging her by the same yard stick.
What I once viewed as a woman's rite of passage now posed as a threat to my view on equality. I, like many other teens, had begun my battle against body hair by experimental shaving (without my mother's knowledge) and later dabbled in creams, wax, and briefly epilating. In my early 20's, my peers had spoken of laser treatments they'd undergone, but I'd always felt the procedure too dangerous having read bad experiences about burns and scars as a result of the machines not recognising the difference between dark skin and the hair follicles, so I ruled it out. Now in my mid-twenties with the sunlight beaming on my strawberry legs, I sought a more permanent means of eradicating bodily hair, and soon found myself filling out medical information at Pulse Light Clinic in London (Facebook & Twitter contact details for any interested) ready for my initial consultation. All the while the Guardian event had planted the seed of doubt and the question burned; why did I feel the need to go to such great lengths to remove a part of my body?
Pulse Light Clinic, LondonWas I socially conditioned to deem hairlessness as more aesthetically appealing? Was my view on hair removal a subconscious attempt by patriarchic society to oppress women? My answer to all of the above is, I don't know, but I don't think so. Brandishing one's bodily hair and burning one's bra were radical stunts pulled by the suffragettes to get the public's attention in order to raise awareness of gender inequality back in the early 20th century. Dying, cornrowing or curling armpits hairs a la the #PitAngels is on trend now, and there's a wave of female celebrities embracing this trend; Miley Cyrus shaving her already dyed armpit hairs and adorning a hairband with it as an accessory *quivers*. This is the movement the Doctor referred to when I'd developed an allergic reaction to my first full laser treatment a fortnight later, and needed to have fluid extracted and was later prescribed medication to ensure no infection ensued. This is the movement I, as a feminist, find demeaning and comical to its overall impact.
Watch : Michael Kors
Modern feminism has been redefined thanks to HeForShe or activists such as Chimamanda Adichie. Gone are the days of caricatured activism for the sake of tabloid coverage. Celebrities and highly acclaimed feminists alike belittling the cause by discussing pedantic matters such as hair removal dates what feminism has and can achieve for gender equality. With the rise in metrosexuality, men are just as involved in the hair removal industry as females. Creams, foams, quadripple blades, you name it, they now experiment just as much as we do. If its not oppressive for a man to remove his bodily hair, then why is it viewed as such when his female counterpart does so? Just as the skincare industry capitalise on makeup shaming, I wonder what a feminist profits by pit shaming? Ruling women out as not being 'feminist enough' because of the aesthetic decisions they make is divisive and just as discriminatory as the inequality feminists fight to eradicate. Hair removal is a choice. Now, lets turn our attention to far more pressing matters.
"We are here not because we are law-breakers, we are here in our efforts to become law-makers" Emmeline Pankhurst