The Great Arm Hair Debate for Desi Women

March 23, 2014 - by Shriya

Co-authored by Nadya and Shriya

The Arm Hair Debate is an internal struggle faced by almost every Desi woman, as it's no big secret that our body hair tends to grow dark and thick. Most women engage in the more and more common practice of shaving their legs, but what about arm hair?

We'll explore the different sides of the Arm Hair Debate by sharing our own views on the ritual. Shriya believes that removing arm hair is beneficial for many reasons, while Nadya finds the practice unnecessary.

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Pros of Shaving/Hair Removal on Arms: (Shriya)

I've been pro-arm hair removal since I was in high school and started wearing those archetypal halter/prom dresses. Waxing/shaving my arms just felt better, and it looked nicer on sleeveless tops and outfits too. I don't think women are required by any means to shave their arms (or any parts of their bodies!), but once you try it - you'll understand why it's a better look when you're showing off your arms!

It's cleaner - there's no denying that having hairless arms simply feels nice! Whether you're wearing a sleeveless blouse in the summer breeze or a cozy sweater, removing the itchiness of arm hair makes the experience much more comfortable.

It's more flattering - if you're shaving your legs every time you bare them in shorts or a skirt, why not treat your arms the same way? Social expectations aside, you would probably personally prefer your arms smooth and hairless rather than hairy - especially at important events where you would shave your legs too! It just looks more natural if your legs and underarms are shaved to have your arms matching and smooth as well.

It's not a big hassle - Arm hair removal is just as easy as removing the hair from your legs. It probably takes an extra minute in the shower if you're shaving and maybe more time if you're waxing (although you'd have to remove the hair less frequently if you wax). It's not any thicker or inconveniently placed than your leg hair, so why not treat it similarly?

I enjoy dressing to the stars whenever I get the opportunity, and if that involves shaving my legs and underarms, I'll always go the extra step and clean up my arm hair too. Hair removal doesn't come with any feminist connotations for me - if I'm plucking my eyebrows, wearing makeup, and generally beautifying myself, why would I not include the simple, easy task of making my arms look better too?

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{via Mohini's Sunny California Mehndi Ceremony}

Cons of Shaving/Hair Removal on Arms: (Nadya)

Let me just say, I'm an incredibly pro arm hair. I am pro all forms of body hair because 1) it's natural so the only problem with it is social and 2) I'm way too busy and important to bother with taking care of my body hair at all times.

I actually didn't know that people waxed/shaved their arm hair until late in high school. It never dawned on me that that might be a thing people would do or that I would need to do.

1) My arm hair is attached to me

Yes, I did realize that the dark hair that grew on my arms was thicker and more obvious than that of my white and non-Desi friends, but I figured it was simply one of the many things that made me biologically Indian - along with my almond eyes, lovely brown skin, thick black hair, etc. It was part and parcel of who I was so I never thought to remove it.

Somehow arm hair in my mind remained separate from leg hair. Leg hair I had not problem cleaving off because I had gym class and I lived in sunny California. My arms are visible all year round whereas my legs only came out in the summer. It felt more appropriate to just let them be, you know? Let my arms grow fields because they were going to do it anyway.

2) Nobody seemed to mind

I didn't notice anyone getting squeamish about my arm hair, and I think if I did I might've been more self-conscious of it in my formative years. But then again, if it did make someone uncomfortable to the point of being mean about it, it still wouldn't have been my problem, it would've been theirs.

BUT maybe it's one of those 'you've never tried it' sorta things

I shave my legs because I like how smooth they feel and I'd like to think I shave them for me because no one else matters in my decisions regarding my own body. Maybe if I shaved my arms I'd like the way they felt too, but I just never did so I'm not about to start.

BUT, Hmm, because it's the first rule of feminism?

I'm sure there's a feminist argument to be made for allowing natural hair to grow, but I'm not going to make it because I don't think getting rid of arm hair has anything to do with being a feminist or not. Instead, I'm going to just say that I sorta like my arm hair - it's soft and fuzzy and is not all that visible to someone who doesn't (because they shouldn't) care.

3) Basically, though, it comes down to me not caring enough

I don't shave my arms and I don't wax them because I honestly don't mind the way they are. I'm a self-conscious person in some degrees, just not here. I had a friend whose step-mom called her a monkey when she didn't deal with her arm hair - and I find that dumb because I really like monkeys and also just letting your arm hair grow doesn't turn you into a different species.

Honestly, it's about time that our natural biological phenomena stop being so politicized or complicated by differing opinions. I don't touch my arm hair because I actually like it and I can't be bothered. That's all.

Which side of The Arm Hair Debate do you stand on? Do you shave, wax, or let them grow?

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