Women Let Body Hair Grow for Armpits4August, Spreading PCOS Awareness

Women Let Body Hair Grow for Armpits4August, Spreading PCOS Awareness
PCOS is a condition that leaves many women infertile, among other symptoms. Facebook

Many years have passed in which women have been conditioned to believe that hairy bodies — on women, not men — are unattractive and unhygienic. However, for some women, body hair is something they must live with, whether they like it or not. That's because these women have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and, among other things, abnormally fast growing hair is part of the condition. This August, hundreds of women in the U.K. will be forgoing the razors and letting their hair grow for Armpits4August, a movement that's part PCOS awareness and part pro-feminism.

PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility, affecting as many as five million women throughout the U.S. Besides infertility, it also comes with higher chances of heart disease and diabetes, and a number of other visible side effects, including obesity, acne, and abnormal hair growth — also known as hirsutism.

The Emotional Effects of PCOS

Many women face scrutiny and judgment growing up since even if they try shaving the hair, the rate at which it grows is so fast that it can sometimes require once or even twice daily shavings. What's more, it appears as coarse, wiry hair on many place more normal for a man, including the chest, stomach, chin, and upper lip.

"Puberty and PCOS triggered hair growth all over my chest and back and, 10 years on, I don't look or feel any better," Amy De Luca told The Guardian. She still takes the time to shave, however, more out of fear of judgment than the condition itself. "I would love to no longer feel the need for constant de-fuzzing, but I am terrified of what others will think of me so I shave anyway."

Cat Gray, another woman with PCOS, told The Guardian that her "mother was the most upset, worrying that she wouldn't get grandchildren. For me, it's the visible side effects that hurt the most." Gray said that during her teens and 20s, she was "fat, spotty, and, worst of all, hairy."

Growing Hair for a Cause

Armpits4August, similar to men's No-Shave November, will bring together, for one month, women who have PCOS, who are hirsute, or who just like being au naturel. They plan on donating any sponsorship money to the PCOS charity, Verity.

"I'm medically classed as a hirsute woman," Sarah Hickmott, a founder of Armpits4August, said. "I used to absolutely hate my body hair because of bullying. I feel better about it since meeting other feminists."

In a blog for the Huffington Post U.K., she also wrote: "Over time we are aiming to have pride in our body hair rather than shame, and to challenge the idea that post-pubescent women with body hair - no matter how much — are disgusting, unhygienic or 'unnatural.'"

Armpit hair, for example, is meant to push sweat and odor-causing bacteria away from the skin, The Guardian says, citing The Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, which says that "bacteria prefer to reside on underarm skin [rather than underarm hair]."

"Until I stopped shaving, I never realized that clammy skin next to clammy skin seems gross ... Just thinking about it makes me uncomfortable," first-time grower Laura Brown said.

Regardless, Hickmott made sure to point out that just as much as pro-hair women wouldn't want to be judged, they're not passing judgment on women who shave.

"It is emphatically not about saying that only what is 'natural' is acceptable or beautiful, but that women should be free to make these choices, consciously and actively, and without fear of provoking disgust, hatred, or being shamed."

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