True Story: I’m A Lady + I Don’t Shave

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Heather and her decision not to shave. 
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I live in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I’m 32 and a single mom of a 13-year-old. I work at a domestic violence agency. I follow offenders through the court system, run survivor/victim groups, do research, and other community outreach activities. I have an Etsy store and I sell zines! I love to write and do arts and crafts. I love doing research and I love biostats! I am involved with radical leftist and feminist activism, when/if possible. I have a BA in sociology and women’s studies, MA in counseling, and a Master’s in Public Health. 🙂 I love school! haha.
When you were growing up, what were your feelings about feminism/femininity/etc?
I think I rejected femininity, yet I felt I had to be that way. When I was 14, I remember wanting to be a boy if I had a choice when I was conceived (haha) so I wouldn’t have to “deal with being a girl” (whatever that meant).I remember being told to keep my legs closed while wearing a dress and how I looked prettier with long hair. My mom pressed some of the feelings on me, but  also told me she was a “tomboy” growing up and got along better with boys. Yet, she pressed the boy/blue and pink/girl thing. My step-dad had a very rigid view of gender roles. He felt women and men both “have a place in society.”

I don’t ever recall talking to teachers about these things. My sister and I talked a lot about femininity as we grew up and we played with dolls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When my mom remarried, she had two more children and I heard a lot of “he’s a boy … he will do that” or “be a man!” I remember getting really angry about that and teaching my brother that boys and men are completely capable of crying and that it’s okay!

No one talked to me about feminism at all! I learned about feminism when I started going to punk shows at 15. Punk opened me up to new ideas about gender roles. I met a lot of queer and gender non-conformity people at punk shows. The deconstruction of gender roles and sexuality were my first introduction to feminism, too! From there I was able to embrace all sorts of gender ideas and I felt more comfortable with it. I carried that into my parenting, too.
When did you stop shaving? 
I stopped shaving in 2006. I was 23/24. I’ve always HATED shaving. I felt like it was this weird obligation I had to do because I’m a woman. I started shaving when I was 13. I had a friend who stopped shaving and was super cool and supportive about it and she was like, “f*ck it, who cares?” So I stopped shaving and I felt so amazing! Seriously. It was like I needed someone to say what she said.
When you first stopped shaving did you find you were more or less likely to wear tank tops, skirts, etc?
No, but I did feel more self conscious at work and/or in professional settings. But honestly there were times where I wanted to show off my hairy pits! 🙂 In a way, it kind of feels empowering.
How have people reacted to your decision?
Most of my friends did not care. When I was sleeping around, people did not care. The worst reactions I’ve had from people has been when I’ve been on walks with my daughter and I’m stretching my arms up with a tank top on or at the gym. I will hear some college boys yell, “SHAVE YOUR PITS!” and I usually tell them to f*ck themselves and flip them off. Honestly. Don’t tell me what to do with my body, assholes.Overall, no one has showed any weirdness toward me besides the college boys I mentioned. I’ve had weird looks from people that I don’t know well, but that’s about it. Luckily, I’ve never been addressed about it at a job. If I did, I would complain and not shave.

Have you ever shaved for a one-off occasion? Someone’s wedding? Swimsuit season?
Have any of your friends been inspired to stop shaving?
Not that I know of. But I do teach my daughter that she has choices and she can decide for herself when she’s ready.
Do you have any opinions about women who shave?
My opinion is that if you want to shave, shave. It’s completely your choice. For me, part of feminism is about choice and I would rather not judge someone for doing something I don’t do.I would rather want they to do what they want rather than try to fit into some weird idea of feminism or patriarchy or whatever (like I felt when I did shave!). Also, who am I to tell someone what they can/can’t do?

What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily life? 
When I first stopped shaving, I was a bit judgey towards women who DID shave. This whole process has made me take a step back and make fewer personal judgement about others’ choices. Things don’t have to be so black/white. Women don’t have to shave but if they want to, they can. This also applies to men and other gender-identified people.I totally get the argument of patriarchal standards and on some level I agree but I want women to be able to make their own choices and not feel pressured either way.

Thanks for sharing, Heather! Do any of you guys not shave? Have you ever tried not shaving? 

P.S. What’s the point of pretty? and That time I went to a magazine photo shoot.

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  1. TheDameIntl

    In the winter I dont shave my armpits, what's the point, nobody gonna see under your arms. And honestly, I quite like it. I often ponder the reasoning on why we socially think it's disgusting on women but ok on men. Its not dirty, its completely natural. I actually love having smooth legs and bikini line, so I like to wax but my underarms, I dont shave/wax that often. I really wish it was more socially acceptable to grow hair if youre a woman.

  2. big mamabird

    I am just so glad I have light body hair (being a redhead) because the two or three times I tried shaving as a teen were bloody disasters! My mom didn't shave, (she is from Germany) so I had no pressure to do so from home. I did have a very biased friend who thought my life would truly be a better one if only I shaved! I wouldn't say she pressured me, but well, I think it was close. I have found that most people don't care and the ones who do are the ones who are always on the lookout for something to react to.

  3. Jeneric Generation

    I think it is so interesting that this is such a cultural thing. NOT shaving is "weird" only because the majority of women do shave in the U.S. I do shave, and can't imagine not shaving, but only because I feel more attractive that way. If I had grown up in a different country where it was encouraged to not shave, well, then I might have a different story. Going against the grain is a matter of personal choice, as Heather points out.

  4. Samarkand

    Interestingly my boyfriend shaves his pits, he started doing it a year ago and likes it a lot better than having hairy pits. I don't care either way, but I just found it interesting that as a guy he preferred shaving.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I've known a few guys who trim their armpit hair down to about a quarter of an inch because they don't like it poking out when they're wearing tank tops – which I can totally understand!

    • Anonymous

      When my husband and I started dating, he shaved his armpits. He said hair felt "too scratchy." That was 9 years ago. Now he doesn't do it.

  5. Laura

    Hell yeah. I have no shaved once since the day before my senior year of high school in 2004. A decade of saving time and money! I've also never once had anyone comment on it.

  6. Christy@SweetandSavoring

    Thank you so much for this feature! I hate how much of a cultural taboo it is for women to let their hair grow. I would love to not feel so much pressure to shave (underarms in particular)! I still shave my legs in the summer but stop once bathing suit season is over.

  7. Audrey Lin

    Us swimmers like to think that we are adding to the quality of our training by NOT shaving to create drag. Then before a big meet, we shave and feel like we're flying through the water. LOL. It's probably mostly a placebo effect 😛 -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

  8. Rachel Ann

    I stopped shaving my freshmen year of college because it was winter and it seemed like a waste of time. I just never felt like starting again. It didn't really become a thing (besides laziness) until the next spring when a (male) aquaintance complemented me on the fact that I wasn't shaving.

    Now the people I get the most slack about it from is my immediate family, but outside of them I bring it up more often than other people do. I think most people are a little uncomfortable with it and don't know how to address it, which I find mildly hysterical. I kind of love it though. The only thing I sort of miss is climbing into bed right after shaving and feeling the smooth sheets on my legs.

  9. Kate

    This is a great story — thanks for sharing!

    I do shave on occasion but not religiously — usually only when I want to wear a dress with bare legs or a sleeveless shirt. Sadly, I do get some flack from my partner if my pits get too hairy. (Meanwhile, he is very hairy, and has thick, dark hair.) I get razor burn if I shave my arm pits too much, so I usually let it go until I want to wear something revealing.

    I remember in high school I would often shave one leg at a time because it takes so much time in the shower. I definitely got some weird looks at sports practices, if they noticed I had a hairy leg and a smooth one. Haha.

  10. Sky

    Very interesting! I can't say I've ever given shaving that much thought…I don't shave my legs a ton in the winter and I sure as hell don't shave daily in the summer but otherwise I'm pretty neutral about the entire thing. Shave if you want, don't shave if you don't wanna.

    Thank you for sharing!

  11. Erika

    I think this is a great read. It definitely should be a woman's choice and not so much based on what society says women "should" do. I mean, the hair grows there, it's natural, so why should we have to shave it when men don't?

    That being said, I can't stand having hairy armpits so I do shave. It just feels weird to me otherwise. But maybe that's because society made me feel that way.


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