In Western culture, hairless underarms have become almost synonymous with femininity. Women who choose to go au natural are often ridiculed and mocked. In one Australian school, the Wangaratta District Specialist School in Victoria, a teacher shaved the armpit of a 14-year-old special needs student as part of a “life skills” program. The mother is furious, but according to the school, the teacher was well within her rights.
In a personal care lesson in Australia, a teacher advised her three female special needs students that having underarm hair would cause others to pick on you. She proceeded to give a lesson on how to shave, using 14-year-old Taylah as an example, Gawker reported. According to the young girl’s mother, Melissa Woods, the incident left the teen "extremely upset." Woods claims that in the past her daughter had expressed an apprehension toward shaving and was reluctant to partake.
"She's seen me do it and she's told me before this happened that 'I don't want to do it.' I said to her: 'That's fine. I have no problems with it. You come to me when you're ready,'" Woods told radio station 3AW. The mother was further upset that school officials had only apologized for not asking for parental permission beforehand. The shaving, they insist, was completely in the teacher's rights. "The overview went home in the final week of team one with a note that explained this is what we would be doing," Principal Libby Hosking told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The school teaches children with intellectual and some physical disabilities independent living skills, Sydney Morning Herald explained. In Woods's opinion, the school invaded her daughter's rights as a person to choose “whether she wants to get it done or not.”
Underarm hair actually serves a biological purpose. Hair follicles in the underarms house the apocrine gland. This releases odorless substances that convey an airborne signal to the opposite sex. The hair traps and amplifies these odors. Of course, humans have been removing their body hair throughout history for a wide variety of reasons.
The widespread bald underarms that are popular today are said to have been developed somewhere in the early 1900s and was built more on profit than the idea of beauty or sanitation. Many attribute the popularity of underarm shaving with the advertising campaign of Gillette’s Milady Decollete, which promised “the safest and most sanitary method of acquiring a smooth underarm,” The Chicago Tribune reported.
One hairy underarmed blogger learned just how deep our fascination with shaven pits went when she was approached by a young child who was not even aware that women were capable of growing underarm hair. Luckily, many women today are working to change the idea of shaving one's underarms from a requirement to a choice. Artist Ben Hopper recently made headlines with his portrayal of beautiful women showing off their underarm growths. “I'd like people to just question [beauty standards], the whole thing,” Hopper told The Huffington Post.