The removal of underarm hair began in 1915. What some regard as the "Great Underarm Campaign" consisted of a series of marketing campaigns that told women that to be beautiful, they had to shave their armpits. In Harper's Bazaar, a beautiful young woman was depicted holding her arms over her heads while wearing a sundress. Her armpits were shaven, and the caption read: "Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair." There suddenly became a pertinent need for women to shave, and the new fashion trend was simply a sleek, clean armpit As skirts started to get shorter and society felt a need to see a woman's legs, corporations began to ran advertisements that cited the hairless Greek statues of women, trying to embed the idea that a hairless woman was a tradition set in place since the blooming of art itself. So, in a sense, we have been brainwashed. Little girls and boys grow up to watch advertisements and movies and television shows and their mothers and their friends and their role models with their bare legs and bare armpits and clean eyebrows and shaven upper lips. They grow up to hear these individuals speak about the troubles of shaving, while still relaying a sense that it is something that they need to do.
(Emer O'Toole on This Morning)
The reason why shaving is held with such value isn't only due to societal pressures, though. It also has to do with the potential backlash. In May of 2012, a woman named Emer O'Toole went on a show called "This Morning," and exhibited her hairy armpits and legs. Naturally, there was a large outcry. One blog post in particular stated, "Watching her I nearly parted with my breakfast." The post went on to explain how it was a woman's duty to keep herself free of hair, and that any recent people who decided to do otherwise were just dumb, radical feminists. All of this hateful speech came from a woman. It is appalling to think that even women would think to join in with society and lower themselves to the position of an object of beauty and then, in turn, call a woman 'un-feminine' if she herself does not do so. Shaving is, essentially, a part of beauty, and beauty in our culture can often have damaging effects on women. In a society where women are mainly judged on their appearance, making fun of other women who do not try to look what is considered "the best" doesn't help anyone, it only adds to the problem. Now, there's nothing wrong with shaving. If it's what a woman or man feels they have to do, then they should be allowed to do it without being mocked or criticized. But this should go across the board. If a woman or man also does not feel like shaving at all, then they too should be free of criticism.
One body-positive article states that a woman's road to women's rights usually begins with looking in the mirror and recognizing how deeply these imaginary ideals have been internalized. Once people start recognize that these ideals have merely been created in order to be used as weapons to create a horde of buyers who will buy whatever they can to erase any insecurity created by corporations, they might begin to cease judging those who choose not to conform to that standard. A person is still a person whether or not they don't look a certain way, and a woman is still a woman whether or not she shaves.
Cecil, Adams. "Who Decided Women Should Shave Their Legs and Underarms?" The Straight Dope. The Straight Dope, 6 Feb. 1991. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Erikson, Jenny. "Arm Shaving Is One More Way Women Torture Themselves in the Name of Beauty." The Stir. CMI, 12 Mar. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Platell, Amanda. "A Feminist Statement? No, Untamed Body Hair Is the Pits!" Mail Online. Daily Mail, 9 May 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
Skerman-Grey, Tasha. "Feminism, Body-Hair Activism and Anti-Capitalism." The Occupied Times RSS. The Occupied Times, 31 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.