Body Hair: Who’s Looking?

By Susan Tarshis

For those of you who know me or those of you who may follow the fact it’s me, Susan, who usually fills this first Friday of the Month space, it’s pretty obvious that what you have been getting here for the last number of months is Susan-processes-her-break-up-of-long-time-relationship-via-writing. I know that I could write about things that have distracted me or enraged me generally, there is certainly enough to go around. I have processed a few possibilities, but nothing seems as relevant as these things right in front of my face, or in this case, on my legs, in my arm pits and other places that I have spent time grooming the past.

To be frank, I’m on strike in the body hair department. What started out as, what I believed to be, depressive neglect, has morphed into something entirely surprising. I have not picked up a razor in about 4 months and you know what? I DON’T CARE.

I tried this experiment once before in my 20’s. I was in law school. My friends were lesbians and other sorts of radical feminists. I lasted about 2 months and then shaved it all off. What I remember most from those times was my own disgust at my body hair and I figured that if I was grossed out, then that was enough reason for me to choose to shave it. I still believe that, it’s my choice.

There is something different about this time though. Something about the quality of my disregard for my own previously held conventions. This time, the gaze of a particular other was removed and what was left was my own gaze. Let me be clear about this. What was left was My. Gaze. It was not a shadow of a longed for gaze or the shame of a lost gaze or the hope of a future gaze. It was just mine. Me. And I am indifferent to my body hair.

I am also indifferent to the folds of my belly and the sagging skin of my neck. I am indifferent to my aging hands and my drooping eyelids. I don’t mean not appreciative of. I just mean that I have only just recently become profoundly aware in a felt body sense that I no longer need to be looked upon approvingly according to a standard I didn’t set to feel like I am acceptable. I thought this was old news for me but apparently, it is brand new news, because I have been shaving my legs for 35 years give or take a few months here and there and always thought I was doing it for me. BUT I WASN’T. I was doing it for lovers, real and imagined, for others whose desire I understood was somehow hinged on my smooth skin. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the political statement of hairy arm pits is a turn off. There is no question of its impact. Just think about the Williams sisters. What if they stopped shaving? I shudder at the sexist and racist upheaval of internet vomit that would ensue.

Perhaps I have stumbled upon another gift of my 50.5 years on this planet, an achievement unlocked. The rumour was, this sort of thing was linked to “letting one’s self go”. But what if that’s just what they tell you? What if, in fact, it is about “getting an actual hold of ONE’S SELF?” This is my body and I don’t want to shave it. I want to clean it, feed it, move it, love it. I even want it to be loved. But if the price of ever getting laid again is having to shave my legs, then forget it.


Just kidding, that’s ridiculous, I would never have to make that choice. Plenty of other people don’t link my leg hair to my sexiness.

I am not advocating for some kind of razor tossing hair growing revolution. I’m not telling you not to shave what ever part of you that you want to shave, or wax or thread or otherwise depilate. We are the agents and authors of our personal expression, as my recent asymmetrical pixie hair cut attests. Our outer presentation is one of the best ways for us to signal our identities and who we want to draw in around us. Maybe all I’m calling out for here is for us to really look at who is looking. What they are looking at and why? Are we showing them what they want for their sake or ours? Even if it is for some combination of our eyeballs and someone else’s eyeballs, let’s at least be mindful of it.

For now, I’m enjoying seeing what I’m growing into. I’m also aware it’s still winter in Canada so perhaps I’m all talk and no shorts and a tank top. I’ll report back in June.

Yup, it’s 55 year old Madonna (2015) rocking her pit hair. Also striking is the fact this picture is not airbrushed. This picture was originally from her public social media.

2 thoughts on “Body Hair: Who’s Looking?

  1. I hear ya. I’m suddenly single after 25 years and my legs are furry!
    I do shave the pits as I teach yoga and so I think about it.
    Legs? I never gave it a thought!
    I will probably shave in summer. Dresses, etc. But now? Nope.

    My body is mine. Liberating

Comments are closed.