My British Asian Armpits4August experience


12:24 pm - August 31st 2013

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by Taran Bassi

For those of you who are unaware this past month has seen a campaign called ‘Armpits4August’ take place.

Confused? Well think of it like this – Movember for women, but for our armpits. Organised to raise awareness of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) that affects many women it is urging others to explore a main side effect; excessive hair growth.

Although being Asian guarantees me to have an eternal golden tan there is another consequence that is kept a closely guarded shameful secret by fellow Asian females. We are hairy. There I said it and I have exposed my fellow sisters!

The majority of Asian females are hairy and those who insist they are not are either one in a million or simply lying. As if being hairy and living in a society obsessed with strict hair free ideas of beauty was not bad enough – our hair is dark and therefore so much more visible.

The focus placed on British Asian females to be hair free is more complex than the narrow ideals of beauty within Western society and the fear of being viewed as ‘masculine’.

Instead, to be hairy and to embrace this is seen as a hesitation and challenge to fitting into a Western way of life. Within British Asian beauty guides and advice columns the obsession with hair removal is on par with the obsession to be light skinned.

Now – I have long battled with this and found myself trying to justify my hair removal regime to be necessary as my dark hair is more noticeable than that of my blonde-haired acquaintances. But I decided to stop feeling shameful about my body hair and I have spent the past month participating in Armpits4August.

My experience? Well it seems that many people felt compelled to be offended on my behalf for my own body hair. I had no issue in wearing sleeveless tops, but I was surprised by the reactions of others.

They ranged from being asked simply if I was a lesbian? To being branded ‘disgusting’ and even being told that luckily for me my face was pretty enough to pull off hairy armpits – erm thanks? What I have learnt is that body hair scares many. Especially dark visible hair.

My physical challenge to beauty norms allowed others to consider me to be vile, unhygienic (I actually smell really nice) and strange. But what I think is really strange is how the idea of a hairless woman is now accepted as a norm, even though all humans have body hair.

I have the option to remove the hair that I have grown for the last month and escape this criticism, but for those with PCOS the solution is not as simple as that.

So before judging a female for being ‘hairy’ and labelling her as ‘weird/dirty/gross’ just remember it is just hair – and the only thing strange is not its presence, but your own narrow minded reaction.


Taran Bassi blogs here and tweets from here.

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Reader comments


I know well the feeling of being judged for not being hair-free.
I am going on holiday next month, as a consequence I am unshaven as I have been for a month or so, so i cam epilate it out before i go and I am acutely aware of the second glances my legs and armpits have garnered in that time.
Each time I’ve thought how ridiculous it is that I am expected to remove what nature left there.

Isn’t it ridiculous that we remove for vanity and to comply with social regulations that which we have to protect us.
Hair is there to protect you, eyelashes and brows keep dander and insects out of eyes, they’re our safety nets.
Public and armpit hair protect sensitive skin in a sweaty area from friction, rubbing and blistering. Pubic hair traps dust and dirt to prevent it from making you poorly. It keeps bacteria out.
Leg and arm hairs trap air and keep you warm.
It’s ludicrous that we remove all out safety nets for fashion and that we are socially obligated to do it.
Men, meanwhile, who do not feel the cold as much as us anyway are free keep all their leg and arm hair, whilst we who are already colder, shiver away with bald limbs.
Mother Nature is probably frowning at us all with a big bushy monobrow.

I find I am actually considerably less sweaty when my armpits are unshaven. I think the hair or stubble gives the deodorant something to cling to.

“Although being Asian guarantees me to have an eternal golden tan there is another consequence that is kept a closely guarded shameful secret by fellow Asian females. We are hairy. There I said it and I have exposed my fellow sisters!”

I hate to break it to you, but that’s not a secret!

Isn’t it ridiculous that we remove for vanity and to comply with social regulations that which we have to protect us.

I don’t know. But if you think it is ridiculous why do you shave? Choose whether you want to remove body hair or not just don’t bleat on about society, or the patriarch, compelling you to do it.

Freedom requires you to have a will of your own and to exercise it.

I am a woman with PCOS, and have the worst of the deal as I have very white pale skin and very dark hair. After feeling like I needed to remove my arm hair for many years, I have recently decided to stop (or as I call it ‘embrace my inner gorilla’). The looks and comments I get for having hairy arms is really disconcerting, and indicative of the prejudice of hairy women in our society.

It seems bizarre to me that hairy arms on a woman seems to be on a par with having a disfiguring scar in the ‘make people stare’ stakes.

@5. pagar: “Freedom requires you to have a will of your own and to exercise it.”

I disagree with ‘requirement’. Freedom permits an individual to succumb to the rules of a cult; of course, true freedom requires that if an individual changes his/her mind, that change should be respected. But if somebody is in a cult, for them, working out that every cult thing is utter shit is hard to do.

Marxists have an argument about ‘cultural hegemony’. It fits with a dominant culture of blonde/bleached fair skinned women, in which hairy brunettes feel forced to conform. To escape conformity, to be oneself, demands a lot of self confidence.

[99% of female porn performers have hairless pubes; natural hairlessness is strange, but it is the norm for performers. In real life hairy men fuck less hairy women.]

I respect your politics, pagar, and acknowledge that you stand up for your values. But other citizens are less confident than you.

7

“[99% of female porn performers have hairless pubes; natural hairlessness is strange, but it is the norm for performers. In real life hairy men fuck less hairy women.]”

On this, try Janeann Garofalo – of West Wing and more
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_62f55O0u0

But what I think is really strange is how the idea of a hairless woman is now accepted as a norm, even though all humans have body hair.

What’s this ‘now’ business? We’ve pretty much been settled on where we generally find hair to be attractive since Before-Christ times. Have a nosey at some Ancient Greek or Roman art if you don’t believe me.

i have dated many british(not muslim) asian females and i have found my sikh and hindu girfreinds less hairy than(white sisters)who seem to be full of stubble rash in the bedroom department,hope i have not offended anybody by my comments here.

@ Charlieman

Freedom permits an individual to succumb to the rules of a cult

Yes, of course it does. And as someone who self-defines as an acolyte of that weird libertarian cult, I’m grateful for that freedom.

To escape conformity, to be oneself, demands a lot of self confidence.

So let’s encourage people to be more self-confident. If they become so by shaving their bodies, or whatever, that is their choice, and, therefore, a “good thing”.

In real life hairy men fuck less hairy women.

And that’s why women tend to wax their bodies and wear lipstick- to make themselves more attractive to potential sexual partners. Some men do similar stuff.

What’s wrong with that?

12. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Freedom no such thing I’m afraid, but feel free to dream on!

John Ruskin (so the story goes) couldn’t consummate his marriage to Effie Gray because he hadn’t realized that women had pubic hair. I suppose that’s what comes from studying the female form via classical art.

I’m a West Wing fan but what initially brought Janeann Garofalo’s comments about pubic hair linked @7 to my attention was the discovery that she is a popular hate figure for the anti-liberal wing in America. Try this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKvfjG18MRY

She sustains an astonishing career as a stand-up comedienne, political commentator and actress. Worth following.

Ahahaha. I am an African woman, and while Africans are generally known for being hairless, I got to be one of the .01% who is far hairier than I can imagine ever being necessary. Seriously, it’s insane. I had an ex who liked my armpits hairy, so I stopped shaving them for him, but damn, I felt itchy and kinda awkward. I started shaving them as soon as we broke up; not because I agree with societal pressure for women to have hairless armpits, but because it made me more comfortable that way. I don’t shave my legs, because I’m more comfortable with that.


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