Today, Madonna committed a crime that apparently is worse than anything, maybe even murder. She posted a selfie exposing a lush bush of underarm hair to Instagram. The Internet, as the Internet does, exploded with vitriol in a way that seems to be reserved only for the bodily hair of celebrities, rather than say, mass genocide or even regular, run of the mill killing. Like, people are MAD.
Many years ago I was at a party with some friends, and one of my girlfriends had accessorized with a full underarm pit of curly black hair. It was summer and she was in a strappy dress, so her little pit tufts were fully exposed for all to see. Sitting on her boyfriend’s lap with her arms around his neck, he cringed away from her.
“He really pissed me off, so I grew my armpit hair out in revenge. I sort of like it though,” she explained, brushing out the little hairs with her fingertips. I was dumbfounded. Here I was thinking that appropriate revenge involved slashing someone’s tires, but no–it was as simple as growing out a few pubes.
I looked at the guy I was seeing with an evil glint in my eye (probably, I can’t actually see my eyes so I can’t be sure, but I was definitely going for evil glint) and I said, “Maybe I’ll top shaving and grow out mine too.” His demeanour, which was drunkenly smug, suddenly darkened.
“If you do, I’m never seeing you again,” he said, in a portentous, House of Lannister-y type of way. I was deeply offended, even though had no intention of actually growing out my armpit hairs. I was offended because something completely naturally occuring on my body was a source of blatant, shameless disgust for the person I was sleeping with. So much so that if I allowed my body to appear in it’s truest form, he would abandon it. Needless to say, this wasn’t a relationship that lasted particularly long time.
It still baffles me that bodily hair is the source of such controversy. I shave my armpits, sure. But if I didn’t, what kind of an issue would that be? What if one day, without warning, all the razors and wax strips just disappeared from the face of the planet forever, and the technology to create hair removal products was, for whatever reason, completely irretrievable? It certainly wouldn’t stop the world from turning or bring on the apocalypse. At least I don’t think it would.
Increasingly, I find myself approaching all matters of feminism and the female body with a simple question, courtesy of the very sage Caitlin Moran: do the boys do it? I think this is the easiest, most straightforward way to resolve the way we respond to women’s actions and their bodies. Following this line of reasoning, we proceed to ask: is it OK for men to have armpit hair? And the answer, squarely, is yes. Ergo, it’s fine for women to have armpit hair, if that’s what they so desire. In the case of Madonna, her pose is one of many a man–nay, it’s the favored pose for men to show off their biceps–and if we’re being real, she’s rocking the hell out of that extra hair.
So while I’m no particular fan of armpit hair myself (is it just me or do you get sweatier and smellier when there’s patches of pube under your arms?), I’m not offended by it on Madonna. And the Internet shouldn’t be either. In fact, it’s time for the Internet to start focusing on things of real substance–like trained otter fishing in Bangladesh, which I just discovered this morning, and while made me feel like the world might be an OK place after all, because OTTERS WORKING TOGETHER WITH HUMANS. That’s worth more of your time than a couple of Madonna’s old pubes.