Is this image really so horrifying?

Emer O’Toole.

Take a look at this picture.

The woman is 28-year-old Irish student Emer O’Toole. As part of a social experiment, she quit waxing and shaving for an 18-month period and then debuted the results on national TV last week.

It was a daring move and the reaction was huge – but not all positive.

Disgusting, horrible and revolting were some of the words being thrown around in the days following the show.

An online “hairfree or carefree?” poll showed 80 per cent of viewers were appalled by Emer’s body hair. And columnist, Amanda Platell,  from the Daily Mail who believes “the only hair that belongs on a woman is on her head” wrote, “watching her I nearly parted company with my breakfast”.

“And we’re not talking a bit of fluff here — she revealed underarm beards that would have made Osama bin Laden proud,” she wrote.


Here’s the clip from the show:

Admittedly, the clip is slightly shocking. But not necessarily in a bad way. And not because Emer dared to “get her pits out for the lads”. It’s shocking because seeing a woman with body hair is about as common as a romantic comedy that ends in divorce.

Why then did she do it?

Emer said she believed shaving or waxing was anti-feminist;  that there is too much pressure on women to “conform to artificial gender norms”.

“All around me my friends were getting laser hair removal, Brazilians, some of them were getting Botox … I just thought where does this end?

“I thought back to when I started shaving and I realised that when I was 14, you know, the hair started sprouting and I didn’t think, ‘Will I keep these or will I shave them off’. I knew I had to shave them off or everyone would think I was disgusting.”

WARNING WARNING DANGER DANGER. The words: “hairy armpits” and “feminism” in the same conversation. Jeez, aren’t we past that?

Self-described “strident feminist” and bloody brilliant author of bloody brilliant book How To Be A Woman, Caitlin Moran thinks hair on parts of your body other than your pubic area, have nothing to do with feminism. Like many women, she eschews the Brazilian but shaves her legs and underarms.

She writes:

Caitlin Moran

“‘But what about underarm hair?’ people will say – usually 40-somthing men, who look uncomfortable when you use phases such as ‘lovely big Hair Bear Bunch-style minge’, and then downright alarmed when you bring pornography unto it.

‘If you don’t believe in Brazilians, do you shave your armpits? Do you shave your legs? And your eyebrows? You look like you pluck to me. What about your lady moustache?

And then they sit back, a little smug – as if they have just put a sausage roll in the bottom of a trapping pit, and are fairly confident you’re about to go in after it and be captured.

But the crotch, the upper lip and the armpit are miles apart – well, on average, 43cm apart. What happens to them, and why, is wholly different – primarily because armpits aren’t intimately associated with sexual maturity or, indeed, sexuality at all, unless you’re on some seriously specialist websites.

So what you do with your armpits is just an aesthetic concern – and not really part of The Struggle. Given this, I have, over the years, experimented with different looks for my armpit. Some days, a shaved armpit just looks a bit … boring. If I’m wearing jeans and a vest top, and I’m hanging with my homies, it’s quite nice to go a bit ‘Faith’, with a flash of four-day fuzz. There’s something pleasingly musky about it – like you’ve been too busy living the bohemian dream, and souping up your hot-rod, to do something as mimsy as shave.” 

When it comes to hair – legs, upper lip, eyebrows, chin, nipple, pubic – the desirable outcome would be an expanding of the aesthetic lexicon: like when Eddie Izzard explains his transvestism as ‘equal clothing rights for all’. He doesn’t want to wear a dress every day – he might not wear stilettos for a year. But whenever the mood takes a man to wear a dress, or a woman to go furry, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be part of the range. There are some women out there who are just going to look better with a moustache: that’s statistics. There are a lot of armpits that will look better with a silky curl of fur than they do stripped, or plucked, depending on what outfit is being rocked at the time. A monobrow can be magnificent: my six-year-old – raised on pictures of Frida Kahlo – is militant about hers. ‘I do love it, because it never ends.’

On ‘dress like a character from history’ day, at school, she dresses as Kahlo, and applies mascara to the centre, ‘To make it even better.’

She is so much saner than I was at her age.”

So body hair. Your thoughts?

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