a collage i made for this post
after almost three years of university, i can finally say that i am on the path to really finding out who i am and what i believe in as an individual. i credit this to two things, 1) my education in gender studies and 2) living completely alone, in a city where none of my normal influences are. both of these factors have allowed me to question my values and to place myself in society without the pressure (even if subconscious) of friends or societal expectations.
i guess for many people, being surrounded by your friends is not hard – for me, this was difficult because most of the friends i made in university had little in common with my opinions or values. i don’t think this is abnormal for many people, because in the beginning of university, or any life changing experience, you usually haven’t been outside of your comfort zone, and therefore are making friends based on who you were in high school, while also figuring out where you fit in with the new perspective that is experience. this doesn’t mean i don’t love those friends, it just means that in a time when i began facing my biggest transition (2nd year university, turning 20), i was not surrounded by people who i felt comfortable exploring myself with. perhaps this means that i was weak at the time, because i didn’t have the courage to just say “fuck it” and be who i wanted to be, but this is the way it was for me. my decision to move far away, and alone, was made so that i could gain the confidence to find out who i was, so i could feel comfortable being myself around anyone, no matter their beliefs or values.
this year, which i refer to as my “year of magical thinking” (holla at joan didion), i have been all over the map emotionally and physically. one of the greatest things i’ve learned is that appearances always give off different impressions, but even during different phases of expression, you are still the same; you are no less of a person and you are still made up of all your life’s experiences. this may sound obvious, but i guess my understanding of the appearance/impression binary was skewed in some way. how did i learn this? by changing my appearance. during high school and university, i had really blonde hair, wore extensions, wore pretty standard clothing, stuff that i have heard being referred to as “teenie bopper”, “girly”, “preppy”, “typical”, since making new friends (a judgement i don’t condone). now, i guess i dress a little more carelessly, i buy second hand clothes sometimes, i’m more likely to take “risks”, i don’t own a straightener, and i rarely wear makeup during the day. so for me, this was a big transition. it didn’t happen because of a decision, i just found that as my ideas of beauty and femininity changed, my appearance just kind of naturally followed. i became much more comfortable with myself, and i finally felt freed of expectations that had held me back in my old living situation; i was able to dress for myself and take care of my body for myself, and no one else.
because i looked different, i guess i naturally attracted different kinds of people, different friends. you may all think “awwww she found people that are just like her”, but this is not entirely true. i’ve definitely made friends that have similar values as me, and i have friends who share my interest and hobbies now, which is amazing. but even though i know people who accept me for the person i am now, many of them are quick to judge who i was. i realized that the friends who i’ve made this year look at photos of me in first year university and assume my hobbies didn’t include photography or writing back then, or that i wasn’t a feminist back then, which is completely not the case; my old friends may look at me now and think “wow she really stopped caring about what she looks like” or “oh, she’s totally just trying to be someone else”. i used to be categorized as ditzy and fake, and now it seems, just because i stopped wearing makeup regularly and dress a little differently, that im on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, that i’m now categorized as a feminist (which i am) (as if it’s a bad thing?), and that i must be trying reeeeallllyyy hard to convey that message.
the point being, that no matter how you express yourself, people are always going to tie you to some kind of archetype, which may or may not be who you really are, and that’s why it doesn’t matter how you dress, all that matters is that you feel comfortable; you’re still going to surprise some people once they find out you dress like a “punk”, but write pop songs, while chewing double bubble. personally, i like proving people wrong and i think it’s fun to challenge the assumptions people make.
so how does this all tie into the intriguing title “pit politics”? because one of the best things that have come out of this “year of magical thinking” has been my confidence to reject something i despise, which are female expectations. i’ve never liked being told what to do, but before i learned more about feminism, i didn’t realize that growing up as a girl, you are pretty much ALWAYS told what to do…and you don’t even know it.
about a month ago, i made the decision to stop shaving my armpits. for those of you who are completely grossed out and rolling your eyes, i feel bad for you, so please continue reading. i stopped shaving my armpits. i grew up, as most people do, in what i will refer to as a hairless house. it was just expected that i shave. when i was in grade six, i began growing armpit hair, and i remember BEGGING my mom to buy me a razor, because i couldn’t bare the thought of just how embarrassing it would be if i had to walk around with armpit hair. since then, i have been shaving my armpits on a regular basis, and it wasn’t until this year, that i started asking myself why? why do i shave my armpits? most girls would answer “because armpit hair is gross”, and to that i’d ask, why? to the girls who say that “they don’t feel sexy with it”, i’d ask why? some girls say that they “feel uncomfortable with it”, and to that i’d ask, why? it’s because we have been conditioned to feel uncomfortable with body hair, we are conditioned to associate female hair with uncleanliness and laziness, and for what purpose? for what reason, besides “that’s the way it’s always been”?
there’s a great issue of WORN fashion magazine that i came across the other day whilst wasting time at chapters, and this particular issue is titled “the hair issue”. inside, there is a great quote by alyssa garrison, who two years ago stopped shaving her armpits, where she says:
“i never knew i cared about my right to be hairy until i was told i couldn’t be.”
i absolutely love that quote. it doesn’t mean that you do have to stop shaving, it just means that as females, we SHOULD question why we feel the need to express our bodies in certain ways, why we feel unsexy if we don’t express our bodies in certain ways. as females we SHOULD make sure that nothing we do, whether it be shaving or letting it grow, is because we were told to do it, but because we chose to do it and we know why we chose to do it.
despite the fact that i have made friends who i feel share similar values and interests as me, some of them are still grossed out by the fact that i stopped shaving my armpits, but such is life. a lot of people are going to be grossed out, but if i’m doing something that makes me feel great and at the same time challenges the expectations of femininity, then i’m on board. i don’t feel any less feminine, i don’t feel any less sexy, but do i feel much more myself.
ps –> another perk of having some hair under dem pits: DYING THEM!! i’ve recently come across some tumblr pages that are dedicated to hairy pits, and a lot of the girls are showing off those monster green, pretty pink, or lively lilac shades and i can’t wait to try it!